Living in the Community – Morning ablutions

There was nothing to be done; I just hoped my Malarone tablets could form a second line of defence against the malaria parasite.  I arose, picked up my washbag and towel and went into the bathroom.  I took off my shorts and took up a quart  jug from one of the buckets.  I scooped up some water and poured it quickly over my head.  I had to bite my tongue as the coldness of the water reacted against the hot sweat of my body.  I had to repeat this to wet my whole body; then I reached for the washbag and soaped myself vigorously down as fast as I could.  Then I had to repeat the process with the jug to rinse of the soap.  I cleared my eyes and reached out for my towel and quickly rubbed myself dry.  It was a relief to be clean but by no means a pleasurable experience.

I came out and we had some breakfast – our cook had laid on some hot water and we made coffee, ate some bread and some fruit we had picked up en route from Freetown.  I then had to face the latrine; this time for the serious end of business.  I picked up the key and a roll of paper that we had left next to it, and I headed out back.  Unlocked the door, then pushed the bolt across to stop anyone following me in (including the goats that were browsing a few feet away).  I looked at the small hole I had to aim at.  It was less than a foot across, and of course being a triangle there was not a lot of leeway.  I dropped the trousers, but made sure they did not hit the floor and did the most intense squats I have ever done.  It is remarkable how good that is at moving the bowels and it did make me wonder that it is more efficient than the western bowl style toilet where you bend only to 90 degrees.  But of course the problem with this method is that unless you relieve yourself quickly you have to deal with cramp, stiff limbs and, if you have an itchy nose, no way of scratching it without going off balance.  As I rose I saw I had hit the target cleanly; I did not want to deal with the consequences if I had not, and beat a retreat from the latrine as fast as I could.  While the smell from the pit was not overpowering, nothing about this place was pleasant.  Not just the smell; the austerity of the surroundings including the concrete floor, but also the wind whistling under the gaps in the walls and the activity nearby was enough to put you off your evacuations.

I replaced the key and the paper, washed my hands and got myself prepared for the day.  Gray was heading off to do some surveying in the nearby Kilimi National Park and would take our driver and vehicle with him.  Kofi and I wanted to train some people to use GPS and survey sheets to record the property rights of the villagers of Fintonia.  We could not start the work until we had permission from the village elders so our first order of the day was to go and have a meeting with them.

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Malarone

Into the Jungle – Settling in camp

Stephanie was struggling with the rental drivers.  They had used up far more fuel than they expected and needed to get some more.  Since the last filling station was in Kamakwie (on the other side of the Scarcies River), I think the solution was to buy some local expensive fuel from containers.  But we were on a tight schedule.  We had a full day of meetings in several villages in Sierra Leone, followed by more tomorrow before crossing the border in to Guinea on the following day.

A lady brought in from the last village we had seen had been cooking up a dinner of fish and rice, and stashes of bottles held by us travellers were brought out, including Amarula, whisky and a bottle of red wine.  We sat round, phased a little by our long journey but fascinated by where we now were in the midst of the area where the project was acting on the ground – about 350 km north east of Freetown as the crow flies, more like 500km the route we had taken.

We retired relatively early; the camp had no generator so we only had firelight, a couple of lanterns and our own torches or phones to light the world by.  The thunder rumbled around and it poured in the night.  I tried to arrange my stuff as best as possible around the room, the most useful and valuable items in the mosquito netting with me – I was having no false scorpions terrifying me again.

A few pages of book read and I was ready for sleep, and awoke only when the soggy dawn broke.  There was patchy activity in the camp and I saw for real what it was like.  I was in one of four rectangular cabins under the trees and behind me, about 30m away was a long drop toilet.  Across an open grassy area where our vehicles were parked were another series of cabins, this time metal rondavels perched on a bluff above the Little Scarcies River.  In front of my cabins were a couple of picnic tables where we had ate the night before and alongside it our hired cook was back boiling eggs in  a large pot and getting some water under way for us to make coffee – traditional African Nescafe sachets with Nido and St Louis sugar cubes of course.

In the trees off to my left was a large open area surrounded by bamboo benches and tables.  And out beyond the rondavels was our ablution area.  We took a plastic bucket and headed down to the river to wash.  I was content like most to strip to the waist and clean myself as best as possible but one or two dove in the river.  The waste water went into the bushes and I headed back for my boiled eggs.  It was a typical boy scout breakfast, as along with the instant coffee from a big box of sachets, we had white bread, margarine and red jam, flavour indeterminable.  Hugo had found some ripe mangoes at last at one of the last villages on the other side of the river and we all had a juicy slice.