Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Last trip to town

Today was quite the day.

It started off not so great, actually. I woke up and was not too happy about it...I wanted to sleep more I needed to get up, eat something and meet my friends at 11.... 11 you say? Isn't that late, Michelle.... not really... I went to bed at 2.. so... yeah;) Haha. I didn't sleep well at all. Something was bugging me to my core last night and I had some really crazy dreams... my mind wouldn't stop reeling. Anyway... waking up was sort of welcome relief from the dreams.

I met up with my awesome friend Noel. I honestly just wanted off the ship. My only goal for the day was to have a coconut. I hadn't had a coconut since February, and it's my favorite treat here. Honestly, when I first tried them, I didn't like them a whole lot, but forced myself to drink the milk and eat it because it has a TON of good electrolytes in it, and I needed the electrolytes from being in the hot sun day after day in February. Now it's just a sweet, sweet memory. I got a 1/2 and 1/2, which is right between a young and old coconut. The old is what you think of when you think coconut- brown, hard, and young is green and pretty much all water, but the 1/2 and 1/2 gives you an awesome milk and some soft flesh... so great.... anyway... that was all I wanted.. that and a walk.

We got out and noticed town was a bit busier than normal.... now... when I say this... it means that it's about 100x worse than anything you'd ever see at home. Think Black Friday crowds in the street times probably at least 5... Think about this for a minute... To get 3 miles driving here... just 3 miles, can take up to 2.5 hours... each way... that's how bad traffic can be... walking is always the best option...Now, I said it was worse than normal.... meaning it'd probably take about 2.5 hours at least to get anywhere in that mess... the crowds were obscene. At one point I was like ... "wow... someone could mug me now and no one would ever catch them..." Bad thought, I know... but it was INTENSE.

Finally, we reached the fabric street. Noel wanted fabric, so we went down, she spotted what she wanted almost immediately. The street was nice and calm, which was a sweet break from the previous 40 minutes of mayhem. We strolled along and looked at fabric. I found a few I liked, but they were hiking the prices up. I told them "no white man price- give me good price- I have been here for 11 months- good price. No liar prices." No one was up for bartering today, so I walked away and washed my hands of it.... I've learned never to fall in love with fabric- chances are you'll either pay way too much or it, or not get it at all....

Then we walked up the road a bit toward our next destination. Noel stopped right in front of the coconut place- I'm glad she did- I didn't see any others all morning(strange). We stopped, drank our coconut milk, the man selling them cracked them open for us and scooped the flesh with his machete... probably unsanitary... but oh well.. i've done it a ton of times;) Then we kept walking up the street to our next sweet stop.

Noel loves getting Shwarmas.... now... a little history. In West Africa, there are many influences on culture- normally the French have a large presence. In Sierra Leone, however, it's English, Chinese and Middle Easterners who have left their mark. The English for their colonization of the country, the Chinese for coming to their aide post- war and their construction efforts(they're viewed pretty positively here, but not always), and the Middle Easterners own MANNNY shops .... it's like that all over West Africa... probably a pretty good business. Now the Shwarma shop was owned by a few Middle Easterners(Lebanese is the most common), but run by Sierra Leoneans... I wish I'd been to this place before today... it was awesome.

We waited in line- Noel knew just what to do- she was a frequenter of this spot... I wish it hadn't been my first time- it was incredible. You walk up, say what you want and how much spice(HOT AFRICAN PEPPER) and they make it for you. Man those peppers are so kicking, I wont put it near my mouth- I got mine without pepper at all. They prepared the pita bread, put cabbage, tomato, french fries, sauce, and beef from a spit onto the bread, and wrap it up nice and neat, then put it on a press to get hot, then they wrap it for you to go. Each one costs a little under $2.... awesome. Next door is an ice cream establishment. They have a bench, where customers sit, they take their order, bring it to them, and they eat the ice cream while sitting... at home that'd be normal... here- it's just plain bizarre. So,as we waited for our Shwarma to be done, we had a strawberry swirl ice cream(when I say Ice cream I mean soft serve). :) Delightful. Perfect treat.

We packed our Shwarmas in the classic black bag- all things bought at stores in West Africa are put in black grocery bags- always... unless its a fancy place. Then we began our trek back.

A few stories that I want to share... they're... special:)

So here, if you want to say something like "ohhh!!" you say "ehh bo!" I so I was saying that to someone. Then she looks at me and says, "Why you say "ehh bo!" and then looks at my retainer and decides she needs to touch it and starts questioning me on what it is... I said "It's for my teet(teeth)." and she was still curious, so I walked away before she got a hold of it... then 3 minutes later, someone else asked what it was... oh man.. haha. You'd think they'd never seen a retainer before... oh.. wait... they haven't...;)

Noel and I both wore tye dye today... That's pretty normal for both of us.... but I wear it while out so whoever I"m with can spot me easily... people kept commenting on the fact we matched(really the only similarity was that we wore tye dye- completely different designs) and we had people say they 'liked our style..." :)

On the hike back, A woman came to me and grabbed me and pulled me the opposite way of where I was going rather forcibly... it freaked me out and I noticed she had a police officer pulling her arm, so I pulled the other way and got her off of me, when I was yelled at from another direction and just was I realized what was happening, I was hit in the back by a huge stack of boxes being pulled on a giant cart... I quickly got out of the way and felt bad for responding to that lady so poorly. Often here we think someone is trying to hurt us or get something from us, when really, most of the time, they're just looking out for us- such great people.

We also came across a man who was quite sketchy. He was wearing a helmet and an army-type jacket with a fire engine sewed on the back... he was flirting with my friend and told her she will marry him and that he has diamonds for her. For anyone not knowing what diamonds mean to Sierra Leone... just got watch Blood diamond... enough said... we're not allowed to touch diamonds here.. nor would I really want to... they say they're 'conflict free' yet peoples families are killed all the time due to these diamonds... anyway... back to the story... He said she was going to marry him, and she just kept saying "no!" He touched her and I got angry, then he fell back and started with me. The second he touched me, I smacked his hand away and told him to leave us alone... he did.... more on him later...

We then came across a store selling batik, and I definitely wanted some- it's Salone's trademark... African Tye Dye;) I found 2 fabrics- 4 yards each. I talked these women down and they were much more reasonable than the person before. I got 8 yards for the price the man back on the fabric street was asking for 4 yards... I paid 75,000 leones- I wanted to pay 70,000, but the woman begged me for the other 5,000 so she could eat, and I told her it was to bless her, not because she talked me into it;) In Us Dollars, that'd be about 15 dollars- a real bargain I'd say.

We got walking again, when mr diamond man came back... Noel out of frustration said something like "Oh no! Really!!!" He was coming at her even harder.... once he touched her again, I yelled at him and said "Do not touch her. She no want marry for you" and he walked right away.... A few weeks ago, I was sitting on deck 7 learning phrases from patient's caregivers, and I didn't know this one would ever come in handy, but it sure did today... for me I'd say, "Me no want for marry you".... so I just adapted it... "Me no ready for marry" haha;) Funny... but useful....

Finally, we got to the lovely back way we can take to the ship, which is all gardens and a small little village set up, then back to the ship. I delayed showering because I had a hunch we'd have an emergency drill today, which we sure did only moments after I delayed(good thing I didn't shower.. that cold've been interesting considering I need to be one of the first people to respond to an alarm)... then it was time to say a few goodbyes. I honestly thought saying goodbye to these friends would be fine... one is probably coming back, and honestly I didn't take that one too hard, but the other... I was fineee until I hugged her goodbye... then it was just like ... "oh crap...". She was in my gateway and we have quite a few memories to laugh about. We honestly didn't spend much time together over the past few months for whatever reason, but honestly, it felt really bad. It felt a lot like when I said bye to my family coming here... it felt a lot like a sister who I'd gotten only in February had left and I have no idea if/when I"ll ever see her again... but alas... tis life on the ship...

I came back to my room, let it out for only a minute, then I started getting our room ready for the sail. I've learned over the past few days that cleaning is really my way to cope with stress of any kind.... Often I'll be in some kind of a sad/bad mood and then I'll be like ... "oh look... i need to do this or clean this or wash this..." and I have at it... other times, I let clutter build up all around me and I"m fine... but then when I"m in a mood... things get donne!!

Our ship leans and rocks and sways sometimes up to a 45 degree angle, so... pretty much anything that will lean and fall off a shelf needs to be secured... therefore, I ran around the cabin doing just that.... then my can of oatmeal busted, so I had to vacuum, then I decided to clean the bathroom, then I finished up my room, put laundry away from last night, then I gave myself a break... I made some popcorn(I'm getting realllly good at it!!), made hot coco because the cafe was closed(I was aiming for a chocolate mint frap), then layed in bed, cut up pictures for the kids I'm saying bye to tomorrow, and watched most of Polar Express.. and here I am:)

It's really surreal that this was my last trip into Freetown... I'll be going out to say goodbye to my kiddos tomorrow, but it was my last time going DOWNTOWN... bizarre really... it doesn't feel real. It feels even LESS real that in 14 days, I will be home.... HOMMEEEEE.... the sail still feels like it's weeks away, and home feels worlds away... but... guess what... IT'S HAPPENING!!! I'm feeling so blessed right now- great week, excitement building, and I get to go home for Christmas this year... I had no idea I'd get to do that when I left.... I probably won't be home next Christmas... but ... gotta have at least 1 in Africa, right? ;)

I'm off to go watch the rest of said movie then see about bed.... I"m on swimmer's watch tomorrow from midnight to 2 am, then looks like I'll be working nights on Friday, unless we sail... which would be a hugeee blessing... truly... but we'll see what tomorrow brings:)

Nice job if you got through this one... ;) Thanks to my faithful readers.

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