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.