April 15, 2009

South of the Border

I just got back from a week and a half vacation with some other volunteers in Freetown, Sierra Leone. It was great, after spending 9 months with only the bare minimum for amenities it was nice to be in a place where you can actually find some luxuries. There was electricity, running water, toilets. You could also buy tons of American style food on the street there; hamburgers, hot dogs, fried chicken, chips, root beer. I couldn't believe it, in Conakry I get excited when I find someone selling steamed cassava root (which is actually really good).

Freetown also has a lot of really cool buildings and architecture. A lot of the houses from the British are still there and in some sections of the city you can look around and almost pretend that you're in some kind of trendy part of San Francisco or something. Considering that they're coming off the heels of a civil war I don't really understand how Freetown is so much better off than Conakry, but it was a nice change of pace.

After we spent a few days on the town we headed out to a beach about an hour outside the city for a week or so. The beach was also strikingly different from anywhere I've been in country. There's no real tourism industry in Guinea and as a result there isn't any money going to keeping the beaches clean. So I've yet to see a beach here that I'd want to swim in. Usually the sand is littered with trash and you can be sure that there's at least a couple sewage ditches emptying into the water nearby. But the beach we went to in Sierra Leone was pristine. The sand was white, the water was clear, there was even a lagoon that you could float along in like a lazy river. It was probably the nicest beach I've ever been to and for most of the time it was damn near empty so we had the whole place to ourselves.

To top it all off when we got back to Freetown on Easter Monday to spend the night before we left we found a huge festival going on. Apparently Easter is a really big holiday there and there were tons of people completely packing the streets all night long. People were singing and dancing and dressed up in different traditional costumes. It was a lot like how I imagine Mardi Gras in New Orleans would be. It was a cool slice of local culture and it was an interesting way to finish up the trip.

So yeah, I had a good vacation. It was just what I needed. I like Guinea a lot and I like my life here but it's definitely good to take a break once in a while. Not to mention that it's always interesting to see a new part of the world. Now I'm back off to site feeling refreshed and ready to get back to work. I put up some pictures from the trip so if you want to check them out go to the photos link on the right side of the page.