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Faces in Places Traveling as the Uni of Life

Yesterday is sooo 2008!

SIERRA LEONE | Thursday, 1 January 2009 | Views [1143] | Comments [1]

Hi all,

From beautiful and tropical Sierra Leone I send you all the best wishes for a lovely and happy new year!  At the moment I’m recovering from a blast of a night out in Freetown during New Years eve, but let me try to capture my trip from the start.

Last week I began for the 3rd time the long and tiring journey to the West-African country of Sierra Leone, together with my mom, dad and my friends Huub and Philip. For those who don’t know; since I first came here in 2006 I’ve started supporting a local initiative to improve education in a small beach village called Lakka. Together with my mom, we do fund raising in Holland and use that money to initiate projects like building a new school and supporting another. This year the Nursery School is almost finished and after Christmas Holiday on the 5th, we will officially present to school to the village and the kids.

To get to Lakka from Holland is quite a trip and our transport of choice consisted this year of a taxi to the train station in our home town, followed by a couple of trains to Brussels Airport, then a flight to Dakar in Senegal, flight to Lungi in Sierra Leone, car to ferry, ferry to Freetown, car to Lakka, all in all taking about 20 hours. Especially the ride from Lungi to Lakka is always pretty interesting and is a plunge into

Africa. Next morning in Lakka we woke up to the sound of the birds and the waves crashing on the golden beach.

In Lakka we stay at the guesthouse of an NGO (Environmental Foundation for Africa), of which I’ve been working in the past and this place is a true oasis. It is a great place to leave the intense daily African life behind and talk, discuss and reflect. On the compound we’ve got some Range Rovers to use, a meditation room, a kitchen, a guitar, 24hrs solar energy and whenever it’s operational we can use the GPRS internet of a Canadian guy who works here... 

It’s absolutely fantastic to see all my friends again and it has been 21 months ago since I last was here. Every once in a while a kid comes running at me, yelling “Dan, Dan!” and doesn’t let go of my legs, others need some time before they recognize me. My first impression of Lakka and Freetown after this time is that it definitely has made some progress, although small small and slow slow. Freetown for example has way more street lights and less garbage piles burning aside the street. Also they finally started working on the roads in and around town and Lakka even has a solar powered street light... Most local fishermen, who started a small restaurant along the beach, now have a little concrete building instead of a rusty metal roof on sticks and some of them even offer accommodation. I’m really happy to see that, although life remains to be tough up here.

On our first day, when Philip, Huub and I were in town for groceries and to meet up with friends, my mom and dad went to the beach to relax. After a couple of hours their tranquility got brutally interrupted when a young boy snatched their bag and disappeared into the forest. In the moment, my father started running after him but fell down in the sand. And talking about Bad Luck, he hurt his leg that he had broken just 8 months before on a beach in New Zealand.

In all the years that I’ve been here nothing has ever happened and theft is a huge crime up here. For that matter, the Lakka community responded very well and captured the thief soon after. We were of course especially in shock about what happened to my dad’s leg and realized this could ruin our entire holiday.

Next day I went with a couple of people and my dad to the emergency hospital to make x-rays. We arrived at 8 in the morning and spend the entire day waiting. This was a pretty intense experience with crying woman over their dead children and people coming in with mayor bleeding head wounds of which one died just half an hour after arrival. In the meantime I went to the police station to make a statement about the theft and to bribe back the bag that had been stolen. At 4 in the afternoon we left the hospital knowing that my dad had fractured his bone. Luckily the metal pins in his upper leg from his accident in New Zealand were not damaged at all, but he is not allowed to stand on it for about a month. On potholed roads this means it’s pretty much impossible to go anywhere and so since then he is doomed to stay inside of the compound in Lakka. Merry Christmas! :(

So, instead of spending our Christmas eve -diner on the beach we were forced to cook ourselves an improvised but lovely meal of pasta and canned tuna at the compound. We burned candles, sang tunes and were together, which was all that mattered.


During Christmas the beach here in Lakka was packed with locals from Freetown and the atmosphere was great; people dancing to reaggeton, playing soccer and swimming in the warm West African waters. I’ve never seen the beach this crowded and filled with so much joy, which was an awesome sight. We mingled nicely with the crowds and swam, drank and swam and drank some more.

The project that we’re doing is progressing fantastically! The school is nearly finished and last days the roofing has been completed. It looks really beautiful and everybody in the village is really proud on what our guys, Samuel, Abdul and Ibrahim, are accomplishing. Most of the labor was done by the villagers themselves and the teachers can’t wait to start working in their new environment. I’m really glad that the people in whom we’ve invested have proven themselves to be real honest and serious people, since so many other initiatives here in Africa fail of whatever reason constantly.

The days in between of Christmas and New Year consisted mostly of meetings with our project managers and a swim in the sea at the once more deserted beaches of Lakka. Philip and I are having a good time with Wing from the UK and April from the US who are here on holiday from their bush research centers upcountry. With cheap rum and fruit juices we make hell of a mixes and play drinking games ‘till early morning.

Yesterday during the 2008 – 2009 transition Philip, Wing and I went to Paddy’s in Aberdeen. Unfortunately April had to stay home, since she got malaria just the other day. Paddy’s is the kind of place where white’s, Chinese, Lebanese and locals mix nicely together into a sweating crowd dancing to groovy tunes. We basically met heaps of nice people, danced a lot and lit sparkles we brought from home at 0:00.

Now I’m pretty hangover and in the back I can hear that the party on the beach has started once more. Yes, today is gonna be a hammock day.

Again, all the best wishes and lots of love.


Tags: africa, freetown, lakka, sierra leone




Hey Daantje Flip en ouders!

Wat een verhaal! jeetje wat vervelend voor je paps wens hem maar sterkte hopen dat het na die maand dan ook helemaal over is!

Jullie zijn en blijven een stelletje zuiplappen ;) Geniet er van!

Dikke kus Sabine

  Sabine Jan 7, 2009 10:40 PM

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