It’s late afternoon. Ginny drives me to the hotel, and Bockarie keeps us company, summing up the working day along the way. I suggest we go for a drink. We stop at Lumley Road, in front of a beach bar named Cuba. The bar is outdoors. Simple inventory. Several canopies with plastic and tin roofs resting on wooden beams driven into the sand, something like a bar, with a barbecue in the background, and an ancient billiard table with several guys gathered around it. I notice they play badly. The plastic tables and chairs are slightly sunk into the soft sandy surface. On one side is the street, on the other the beach and the ocean. Bockarie and I sit at the table closest to the beach, while Ginny orders a drink and returns to the vehicle, which may not be left unattended. My enthusiasm for the ocean and the beach from this morning does not decline. The environment in which I find myself is quite different from the enclosed spaces and limited gardens common in the part of the world I come from. The sun is still strong and high above the sea, but in some unusual way it does not burn on the skin as in my parallel. At Bockarie’s suggestion, I order Guinness, which is produced in a local brewery.
The ringing of the phone in the room interrupts my focus to work. They’re calling from the reception desk. It’s eleven o’clock. Wasn’t it at 12? Time seems to be a flexible term here, quite different from the one I’m used to. I put on my shoes and jacket, take my bag and quickly go out. In front of the building my driver Ginny waits for me together with Bockarie, an excellent specialist in development projects, human rights and economic development. I heard from him several times in preparation for my mission and felt somehow happy to be able to work with a man whose African experience is comparable to my European one. I see him for the first time in person. He’s a little older than me. He is thin, but bony and strong. Pleasant smile. Feeling like we’ve known each other for a long time. We hugged in greeting.
I woke up early with almost no sleep. I’m still tired of the trip, but the excitement is bigger. I get dressed and walk down the wet pathway to the reception building. They take me through a spacious courtyard to the dining area, in front of which I am greeted by three unexpected hosts: a small thin-legged animal slightly larger than a rabbit, a kind of gazelle similar to a baby deer, and a funny long-legged bird like a heron, but much more exotic. They kindly pose to me, accustomed to human attention. I am delighted with their presence. They look like three aliens to me. A banana tree, with many small fruits, and a tall coconut palm, with numerous nuts, grow across the path. The real African fauna and flora.
I arrived the night between Thursday and Friday. An eleven-hour flight from Zagreb, via Istanbul, with a seven-hour wait, and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Late October, Lungi Airport, Sierra Leone. Two hours in the minus. It’s warm, steamy. Africa, for the first time. A night ride in an obsolete brand van on a hilly, earthy, muddy road to the port, and then by boat to the other side of Tagrin Bay. Wind and sea foam dust. Fortunately, there are no mosquitoes. I guess the wind blows them away. Freetown lights in the distance. Somehow, there are few of them on the other side. From the remoteness, it seems smaller than it should be.