Boo boo in select company

Boo boo in select company
Something to say?

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Sierra Leone and Ebola

Today (21st October) on Channel 4, the journalist in Freetown spoke about the utter devastation caused by Ebola. Yesterday he was in Waterloo,but his videos couldn't get through. I was looking at a landscape I had lived in for five years. When I reached Waterloo, travelling from Makeni, I knew I was within touching distance of Freetown. I could almost smell the sea in between the transport that careened into the crowds, barely missing them.

   In my time there was no e mail, and in Makeni where I lived, there was no postal delivery.  The British Council, my employers, in their infinite mercy, would send a driver down with my mail every month. If I needed to phone my family, I would have to travel to Freetown, a good 5 hours away on the horrible broken-up road, and wait in a queue at the Telecom office. Diesel was not available in the garages, so that was something you didn't do for a phone call. The waiting room at the Telecom would be crowded with expatriates trying to ring home, and could become a whole afternoon's business.

   Things must be much better, I think, after thirty years. And it is. Or so I am told. There is the ubiquitous mobile phone after all. 

   So I am surprised that the conditions in the poorer areas of Freetown are not that better. There is no working water supply to the slum areas. How do you keep a virus that spreads through bodily fluids out without water? The toilets that cannot be flushed must be lethal.
   In the Primary schools I visited in 1983-'88 as part of my Primary Maths Project, I became aware that Sierra Leone, including Freetown, was suffering from unimaginable deprivations -there were no resources in the schools. They did this penance quietly without talking about it. It was a miracle that teachers and students were still amazingly eager to learn new methods of teaching, to practise them. The trainees turned out for workshops immaculately dressed - clothes starched and ironed to perfection. Hair in neat corn rows or combed out. How did they do that? The spirit of that country was unbelievable.

   Today, I wonder whether the outside world knows how Kono or Kabale or Port Loko - and all the places in between - are, in terms of light and water. Tending the sick, keeping yourself disinfected, become gargantuan tasks when the basics are missing. What is amazing is how life goes on as best as it can in spite of the death and devastation. That is so Sierra Leone.

   So I think they will get past this somehow. They will start again without fuss. I hope we SL lovers will all help.