Freetown Launch Party and more....

April 29th 2013
Published: April 29th 2013
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Oh dear – it's been a while since I wrote a blog – let's see if I can remember week 6. So – we arrived back in Makeni from the beach without Em – it was very strange! She was heading to Freetown and Mark and I were going to meet her there on Thursday. We knew electricity was only 7pm until 7 am after being told last week so we were looking forward to 7pm when we could turn on the lights and charge our computers and phones. I told Em I would call her as soon as I could charge my phone. Being at the beach for two nights meant there I had low battery in my phone. 7pm came, but the electricity didn't. 8pm and we were sitting in the dark. Then we discovered that the electricity had been rationed even more – and Makeni only gets electricity every other night. And the generator wasn't working. So off to bed we went with our head torches (thanks Caz!).

We were desperate for electricity. No power in our laptops so searching to find places that had a generator working. The Clubhouse that use to have the generator on during the day last year, no longer had it on as the office for the Street Child staff had moved from the Clubhouse to the Centre. And the generator at the centre was not working. I would like to think I will never take electricity for granted again, but I imagine a day after getting home all will be forgotten. I used the electricity at a local hotel – MJs where David Beckham once stayed. They also have wifi which is not very reliable – so the chances of being productive are hit and miss. Many dinners in the dark and early nights as not much to do but the odd night we did get some electricity it was so nice. I was able to use my fan again at night and luckily my power board that I bought with me from home meant I could charge everything at once as each of us has only one plug socket in our rooms.

I went back to Kate's school – St Josephs school for the deaf and played with her class. Duck duck goose was the game of these 4/5 year olds. Maybe it is because they are deaf, or maybe because they are small children, but they really whack each other hard on the head to say goose! But none of them really seem to mind! At the school they have a tailor and a carpenter. I set the tailor a task of creating 100 arm bands with red crosses on them for all the medical volunteers. He is also making me a dress – not sure what that will look like but we will see!

Thursday we were heading to Freetown – we wanted to go as early as possible, but Tom, the big boss was landing from the UK that morning and we needed some of the luggage he was carrying to take to Freetown as he was bringing a lot of promotional material that we needed for our Freetown launch party the following evening. It was a guessing game as to where he would end up and what time so we were getting a little agitated as we were waiting with no idea how long for. Eventually a Dawnus vehicle turned up at the centre and we realised that Tom and the bags had been delivered to the Clubhouse
half an hour before. The Dawnus vehicle was heading back to the Clubhouse and so we jumped in to realise that the driver was my old friend Alex Thomas who drove me back to Makeni from the Dawnus camp a few weeks previously. I asked him if he was heading back to Bere Junction (almost half way to Freetown) after he dropped us off at the Clubhouse and he said yes. I checked to see if he could wait for 15 minutes for us to sort out the new bags that had come out and he said no problem. So Mark and I jumped out at the Clubhouse to quickly grab the promotional items we needed. We left Mark's bag in the car and took mine so we could fill it. We worked as quick as we can to sort the bags – dripping with sweat as we went. I was lucky enough to have a parcel from home within the bags but because we were in such a rush I was not able to appreciate the package in the way it was meant to be. I had flip flops, wispa bars, minstrels and even some hot chocolate as well as the first blackberry to join the marathon team. We rushed out to find the Dawnus car – and it was gone! Tom and Lyndsay were sitting outside and I asked them if they knew where the car had gone – and Lindsay had said she had sent the driver away! Little did she know he drove off with Mark's bags! Luckily she had his number so he came back – but if we did not have Mark's bag then we would have been sure to have lost our lift – and with the amount of luggage we had – it would not have been good and involved taking lots of big bags on the back of a bike! Big PHEW!! So we got a lift to Bere Junction, which is about a third of the way to Freetown. Then we realised how much harder it was to get transport from Bere then it was from Makeni. But eventually, a lovely 4x4 stopped for us and we squeezed in. It wasn't until we arrived in Freetown did we realise that there was a live chicken in the boot with our luggage!

We arrived at Joe's – our home for the next few days. We were spoilt – we had one room in a two bedroom apartment with air conditioning, running water and electricity (electricity just at night though). What a luxury! Paul, who lived in the other room, works for Joe. He became our big brother during our stay. Driving us around and looking out for us. We took him (well – he took us) to a Senegalese restaurant we had been to previously and then a mosquito had a nice meal of my bottom during dinner. Then we went home and had an early night before our big launch party the following day. Friday – big preparations for the launch party that night in Freetown. Flash Vehicle Rentals were hosting the party on the roof of their office. Lucky of us it was opposite where Joe lives so very handy commute to work that day. Mark, Em & I worked hard to prepare everything for the party! The day whizzed past and suddenly all the guests started to arrive, even before our volunteers had arrived from Makeni to man the bar, register our guest and generally help out. It was all hands on deck when they arrived and the party was a huge success. We had some live performances and an auction. Paul (our big brother) donated an Olympic Games Maker T-shirt and also Andy Murray's gold medal winning tennis ball which landed at his feet whilst he was working there (and I thought my stories from London 2012 were good). Our final auction item was the marathon team, Em, Mark and I taking the winner to dinner. Unbelievably, we made $1,451 US on the auction - $701 on the prize with us! Who knew I could raise so much money by eating good food!After the party and some clearing up, Paul took us to Freetown bars and clubs along the beach road in Aberdeen and Lumley. An experience, some of which I will not be repeating. There are a lot of local prostitutes who target white men as they supposedly have lots of money. As much as I don't like going to a place which is predominantly expats, it is a lot more comfortable knowing they don't want to marry you.

Saturday we headed to the beach for some networking as there were some Freetown expats leaving. It was a great evening until the heavens opened and we got very wet running for cover. And cold – once we were wet the sea breeze made us cold so we all huddled together and most people were wearing the beer jackets. Sunday we got a lift up the coast a little to meet a Paul at Tokeh. Em and I had a relaxing couple of hours lying in a hammock whilst Mark got frustrated when his team Sunderland lost to Newcastle. After some lunch we walked around the beach to meet Paul at the new beach resort called The Place. And it is stunning! Proper Western 5* standard. It was beautiful. We had meeting with the owner and the manager to see if they were interested in sponsoring the marathon by reducing their $699 per night rate for our beach add on package. They seemed keen to help and as of yesterday, we have confirmed they are on board and will give us an extremely good rate!


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