Most people were happy to see us. One or two of the ladies would shout at me to not take photos but most wanted to pose and see the results in the viewfinder. One or two people wanted to shake my hands but as soon as they did they withdrew their grip immediately and said “ooooh – smooth hands”. It happened a number of times. Yes, compared to the hard calloused fingers and palms, my pussy little hands were like silk to these people. I admit – apart from a little gardening and the odd piece of restorative DIY, I never do manual work. All I have to show for hard graft is the RSI that I have from years of typing at a computer. They laughed and giggled and guffawed at me. I took it in good heart but it was a good example of the rift between these hard working people collecting raw material and using hand tools at the end of a supply chain and my internet and interconnected life where my skills are passed through my fingertips to machinery. Not even machinery; digital electronic symbols.
Jan had a chat to some of the village elders, apologising for not bringing the photos he promised, and we started to head back to the vehicle. We left them behind collecting new wood and busily making their fuel in the hot steamy sunlight. When the Ebola crisis emerged, it was this isolated village that my thoughts turned to first; how many were affected, how long was it before anyone from outside realised they might be ill or dead. How many survived. I’m sure many did. Despite the uncertainty of this disease, I’d seen in the countryside around Freetown how resourceful and hard working people can be, how they had already survived years of abuse, civil war and poverty, and I am sure they would have found a way to deal with these new challenges.