We’re here! We had a beautiful flight over the snow-dusted mountains of Spain, the desert coast of Morocco, the endless Sahara, and finally a thick tropical haze that hid everything. The descent was surreal. At first the only thing we could see was the muted red sun glancing off occasional water, then hints of land: a dirt road, the vague contour of a coastline. The world materialized into narrow rivers winding through jungle, alternating with open brown water. Finally, details: a few colorful houses, long wooden boats, kids playing soccer in the dust. We touched down on a palm tree-lined runway near an ancient abandoned plane, and walked out into the dense, hot air.
Immigration and customs went smoothly and we met a local guide, Ibrahim, who told us Don, our trip’s organizer, was waiting for us outside. We made it out of the airport after luggage master Jeremy accounted for all 15 checked bags, numbered and marked with colorful ribbons. We were glad to meet Don, partly because he was the only way we knew where to go. We got into a van and went down a bumpy road to a long pier and a half-hour motorboat ride from Lungi Island to Freetown as the sun set. And the last leg, an hour’s car ride through the chaos and traffic of Freetown: constant horns, mopeds, streets dense with people selling food, standing at storefronts to watch movies playing on big screens, carrying anything and everything on their heads. And fascinating cultural details of an unfamiliar world, some of them painful to see: posters about AIDS and Ebola and sexual violence, patriotic murals, hand-painted ads for car parts. And at last to our destination, the Hotel 5-10, where we dropped our bags after (in my case) 26 hours of traveling, and for most of us an even longer trip than that. We had a late spaghetti dinner thanks to the hotel staff, met our teammate John, briefly discussed the upcoming work at Kissy Hospital and Ginger Hall, and then fell into bed. This morning we met Don’s wife Marilyn at breakfast, and are about to head into town to do some shopping before a visit to the hospital. Pictures are very slow to upload so I’m only including one for now. Until next time!