Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Craziest African Adventure Yet...

Yesterday was by far the most insane 'African Adventure' I've had yet. Certainly the most overwhelming.

By now, I've gotten used to the cat calls, the kissing and hissing sounds to get my attention, the "Do you love me's", and my favorite- trying to guess your name by using only African names... so hearing "Fatmata....Miratu.. Kadie.... Isatu...." and sometimes you'll hear the occasional... "Sarah...". I'm used to all of that by now. I'm also used to hearing "Mercy Ships" which sounds more like "Massy Sheeps!!" and people asking me if they can be my friend, or if they can marry me.

When we ventured out yesterday, I was just ready to get off of to the ship, have some fun, eat some good food, and possibly make a few sweet purchases at the Craft Market. We headed out- and all was usual. I realized later, I'd never been out on foot on a Saturday. Normally I'm off at the beach or working on a weekend. We were met by a fork in the road. I thought that we'd taken the route on the right before and it was better because there was more foot traffic, but not as much car traffic, which made it safer. I wish I had re-thought this before we went for it.

We got to walking, and realized quickly the extent of the foot traffic.Very little room for anyone to move, and there were poda-podas(mini-busses) pushing their way through the crowd- they didn't honestly care if they hit you or ran over your food. Multiple times, I had to pull one of the girls I was with out of the way because they were going to be hit by either a poda-poda or a wheel-barrow. I almost go taken out by a wheel-barrow and a SUV later down the road. As we walked, we entered the market.On a weekday, the market isn't too busy- it's just right for walking home or to the market on. On the weekend, however, everyone is out selling or buying things. All you hear is '1,000....10,000....500!!' and all you can smell is rotting, and there is black mud under your feet that makes you slip around.

A common issue in Freetown is muggings. Upon my arrival back on the ship, I told a friend of mine that we walked to the market on that road, and she asked if I was mugged.... to her surprise- I wasn't. Thankfully all of us had shoulder bags which allowed us to carry our bags with our arms around it, and I didn't keep anything in my pockets- I definitely know better than that at least:)

On this road, I saw tons of fish, chicken feet, mangoes, sunglasses, candies, rice, different powders- the works. When you passed fish, and smelled it, you hoped it was over and you didn't have to pass another fish vendor, but of coarse you did. The stench was overwhelming, and there were flies all over the food they were selling- it got to be almost unbearable. People pushing, people yelling, people asking your name, asking to be your friend, asking for food, asking for money...

Thankfully the road finally ended and we got to some less crowded streets, then eventually to the market road. I don't think you'll find me on that market road ever again- I'll take the market road next time, thanks. Also-I'm not sure if you'll find me going to the market on a saturday ever again... the only exception would be when my mom comes.. but we'll see about that;)

Finally we were at the market. I was drenched with sweat. We all split up and went shopping. On the bottom floor of the craft market(which was a large building- very different from other markets I've been to) was wood carvings, baskets, and hand-made wooden plaques to hang in your home. Upstairs was the fabric and jewelry section, with some dolls and carvings as well. One thing to note is you do have to be incredibly wary when buying things- especially dolls and carvings- often they are voodoo-related, which is just something you absolutely do not want to mess with. I generally stay away from those things unless I am certain they carry no other meaning other than just being a carving of an animal or a village.

I got going and found some great jewelry that I'm going to either use for myself or for people back home as gifts when I visit. Apparently I'm super at bartering. I've always found that I actually like arguing prices down, but yesterday I scored 4 necklaces and 2 pairs of earrings for 15,000 leones, which is about $3.75... great huh? Eventually I got tired of arguing, and looked around but then found the girls I came with.

We were waiting for one of the girls who really wanted particular things to finish up- the rest of us just wanted to look around. I was standing there, when suddenly I got a really strange feeling- my vision went weird, kind of like it does when I get a migraine, and I got really dizzy. I told the girls I was with because it started freaking me out. They told me to sit down. I was really nervous I was getting a migraine- it'd be a terrible time and place to get one- I wouldn't be able to walk back to the ship- we were over an hour away walking at least at this point. As I sat down, suddenly my vision turned black. I can't remember if I closed my eyes and just couldn't open them, or what happened, but then my hearing also went weird- kind of muffled. At this point, I had to give myself a bit of a pep- talk... it was something like... "michelle- don't do this now- you wont be able to get back to the ship quickly and if there's something really wrong, there's no way to get medical attention within 2 hours(traffic is terrible- taking a taxi would take 2 plus hours)...come on wake up..." Now- I'm pretty sure I just blacked out... I didn't faint because I still had muscle control- I never left the upright position I was sitting in. I came to and then one of the lovely girls I was with- who is a nurse- gave me 2 sugar tablets- and I was okay... Completely strange. I'm hoping it was just a hydration and electrolyte issue- nothing more... but I dont think you'll find me very far from the ship for a few days...

Anyway... after that, we walked to a close-by bakery where I enjoyed an amazing pizza-by far the best since I've gotten here- and then we journeyed back to the ship. The way we came home was a little tricky because there was a 'sidewalk' which is just drain covers- some which are super shaky and some have fallen into the drain- or you walk in the street- which had a lot of crazy ocada(motorcycle) drivers and cars... but ... we got back pretty quickly.

Afterwards, I got back, took a shower, took a nap, and relaxed for the rest of the evening- I wasn't feeling great, unfortunately. But, I"m feeling better today;)

Keep Hydrated
Always keep a nurse close-by
Don't take the market road
Always wear a bag that you can hold as you walk
Never go out to the Craft Market on a Saturday unless you have a well-planned route
Never get overheated


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