Monday, September 5, 2011

Wednesday, Thursday, August 31-September 1, 2011, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Dear Family & Friends,

Don’t bother making plans because they will change when you are in Africa.  We packed our bags and before heading out of town, dropped off the modem we borrowed for the Internet service to Amarachi, and of course to say goodbye to the family.  The little girls were very sad to see us go, and the youngest one cried because she wanted to get in the car with us. 

We needed more petrol so we had to get in a queue, but this time only several cars were in front of us.  At one point a big fight broke out over the fuel.  They jack up the prices after a major holiday so people get a little bit mad.  We thought we’d never get filled up till Jim finally took out a wad of cash for the gas—the guy stopped fighting with his other customers, who were just there for 5 gallons or less for their motorbikes, and immediately filled up the car. 

We picked up Turay and drove the one hour trip to Bo to pick up his car where it was being repaired.  This is where TIA (this is Africa) happens.  The car wasn’t quite fixed yet and we had to wait for this and that but then the car still wouldn’t start and they fiddled some more.  After about an hour and a half they realized that the diesel had been stolen and that is at least one of the reasons why the car wouldn’t start.  Turay was extremely angry about this, knowing he had enough fuel in his car when he left it and knew it had been stolen in the night --it was taken by the two young mechanics that stayed the night to ‘watch the cars’.  Everyone acted ‘dumb’ about how this happened.  Turay was having a fit.  He said emphatically as he often does, “These Africans are always trying to cheat you!”  After two hours he told us to go on ahead and just leave him.  He left a half hour after we did, only to have to turn back again to have it worked on some more—when they stole the gas they had gotten the tubes mixed up--he arrived home about 9:30 PM.

It rained part of our trip back, sometimes really hard; and coming back over the awful
Grafton Road
we slogged through the huge potholes filled with water and mud was everywhere.  We jostled our way through and finally got to our hotel feeling exhausted from the beating we take on this road—back to the Country Lodge.

There was one dicey moment as we traveled through the Grafton area.  We came upon a very large group of people blocking the road.  One car was creeping along ahead of us and the people were putting their arms through the driver’s window and banging on his car.  They were mostly young adults and some appeared to be drunk.  A small group at the front was playing musical instruments and dancing like pied pipers.  This would not bother us if we could lock our car.  I think I forgot to mention that even though the front side door can’t be opened from the outside, none of the other doors can be locked at all.  We were therefore glad that no one tried to open our doors.

We are happily lodged in our room and it is one of the better regular rooms (they’re fixing them up these days) and we don’t have to move again till we leave for Accra, where we will stay only one night, then home again.  We’re happy to be able to unpack a little.

Thursday: What I love about coming to Africa is that it is always interesting. We picked up Turay and drove back down the
Grafton Road
in the rain to see what we could give away.  We’d seen a sign pointing to an orphanage so we drove back there and the Chief in the area had his son lead the way.  We got to the point where we had to park the car and walk; by this time it had really begun to rain pretty hard.  Turay and Jim put the two bags with the goodies on their heads and I had an umbrella.  This worked fine for awhile till the path got so narrow and the tall bushes soaked our legs (my skirt, their pants) as we walked along.  Finally Turay began to ask where he was taking us and sure enough, he was taking us to a ‘pipe dream’.  There was no orphanage or children, just some place where they decided they wanted one!  We had walked and gotten soaked for nothing!  We giggled all the way back to the car.
We went back to the highway and found a ‘real’ orphanage where they had several girls and boys.  We passed out dresses and the few dolls and cars we had left.  Then we drove onto the polio camp further down the road.  It was raining harder by this time.  We walked down a hall, trying not to step on the children as they sat there with a bowl eating their lunch.  Some were not so coordinated so some of the food was spilled on the tiled floor. One happy, cute-faced boy crawled right up to me and grabbed at my skirt with a big smile.  I lifted him up and helped him to walk to a chair that he could hold onto.  Turay pointed out that he had left his lunch on my skirt—it had yellowish stains all over here and there—but it was worth it to see his adorable, smiling face. 

We handed out more dresses but did not put them on any children except for one who was walking just fine.  The rest will get them later.  All the caretakers also have had polio and the director lady that we did not meet is in a wheelchair.  I took a picture of a gal on the floor which was holding a tiny boy who had both legs in casts up to the top of his thighs.  As I took his picture the young man told me that they had had this boy for only two weeks—his parents had ‘thrown him away.’  I wanted to cry. 
As we drove back up the
Grafton Road
the larger puddles had become small swimming pools and the ditches were now rivers.  It rains a lot more here than anywhere else we traveled. 

As we drove Turay told us this story: A rich man hired a contractor to build him a fine house on the hill above the
Grafton Road
.  Apparently the contractor cheated the man in the materials he built the house with.  One day after a few floors had been added and he was visiting with a lady who sold peanuts, the entire house collapsed on him, killing him instantly.  Unfortunately the lady was also killed, who had nothing to do with this dishonest contractor.

We went to visit Turay’s family at home and found that more buildings had been completed.  He now has another building just for business for him and his wife Dorien.  He used to have others take care of his water business where the machine seals the bag with clean water that they sell all over the streets.  He had his wife do this business because he discovered that the amount of bags that came out of one bunch of plastic would go twice as far when his wife sealed them—they were stealing one half of the profits.

Speaking of businesses, this is the latest update on Turay: the water business; working for the Church as a Water Project Manager; works for the Embassy; has a fish business where he has a very large pond, buys fingerlings, raises and sells them; a couple of young men run his DJ music business where they do weddings or dances; his big farm that he does in his home town.  Other than that, he doesn’t do anything at all--well, other than he is now in the District Presidency…

Bush or grass cutters: as you drive along the highway you’ll see a guy holding by its legs a dead grass cutter.  It looks like a very large rat, which is usually about the size of a small or extra large rabbit, depending on its age.  Turay always buys these and we are grossed out but he assures us that the meat is ‘very sweet’.  We are skeptical.  Today while we met with the family Dorien served us grass cutter meat and plantains.  It looked like regular meat.  We got brave, tasted it, and were pleasantly surprised.  It tasted just like a wonderful beef roast, and the plantains, usually not my favorite, were tasty too. 

Back to our paperwork…tonight we give up our rental car.

Love, mom & dad, E/S Greding, Jim & Karen

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