It's cliche, but every ending *is* a new beginning, and vice versa.
Leaving tonight, for the last time, for Lungi, seeing me having to wait for an uncool five hours, in the middle of the night, to wait for my flight to Casablanca to take off, I'll be moving through half a dozen countries, before settling, with Niamh, in Uganda, just over a month from today.
The last two months, after my return from Tanzania and South Africa, haven't been half bad. Sure, we've had city power perhaps 20% of the time and didn't have water, at all, for a few days, and little water on many others, GOAL, Niamh's organization, finally decided to pony up the cash and get internet at the residence. This meant that, whenever there was power, and we are on a generator in the evenings when city power fails, almost always there has been fairly reliable internet. This, a bit of a godsend, as it allowed me to not have to walk the earth in search for overpriced and very unreliable internet cafes, every day.
The last 19 months or so have been interesting times, good people, a cute kitty, and starting off a weekly pubquiz at O'Casey, last Thursday in its 45th installment. And, on the verge of my departure, a nice project for GOAL, too.
I'm sad for leaving the kitty, Tash, behind, though.
And here's to hoping a return to Asia will happen... at least at some point. For now, it's a one month tour of Europe, which will include a wedding in Brighton and braving the frozen wastelands of... Serbia, as well as visiting a new country on my list, Montenegro.
Then, it's Uganda for a year, with, almost upon arrival, trips to Tanzania and Zambia. And, shortly after, a return to Istanbul and an onwards trip to Azarbaijan with, hopefully, side visits to Georgia and Armenia.
Ah, the bane of aging. If only I still had the same sense of wonder for discovering new places as I once had. And if only discovering new places was as exhilarating as it once was. With the globe being so much more interconnected, and with everyone and their baby brother now having a Facebook timeline where photos, books, games and whatnot get shared, it's just too easy to virtually never leave home and always stay in touch, even in the remotest of places.
The vast majority of the planet has become a completely standardized affair, the wonder and differences being found in every smaller aspects of local life.
Meanwhile, I have to cough up good money to get out of here. The cheapest connection between Freetown and Amsterdam is setting me back 840 USD. For a one way flight. Considering a round trip Amsterdam Johannesburg easily goes for less then 700 USD, it's a total rip off.
And I still have to get to the airport. The cheap option is to take a government ferry, at two euros. But that means either leaving at 2pm, from a fairly easily reachable location, or at 6pm, from the other side of town, a drive there easily taking two hours. As my flight only leaves at 620am in the morning, it would mean having to spend the night close to the airport. There, hotels typically go for over 100 USD per night, as the mining companies bleeding Sierra Leone dry scoop up all the overpriced and low quality beds, though a new place I found that's not great, but manageable, 'only' charges 35.
The alternative, which I in the end decided to go for, is taking a water taxi, at a rip off 40 usd, at 12am. Which means I'll be stuck at the airport, in the middle of the night, for some five hours, before my flight leaves. And, though the airport provided free high speed internet a year ago or so, that has disappeared in the mean time.
Indeed, there's no good alternative here.
It's tempting to want to return to Sierra Leone in, say, 15 years time, to see how the place has developed, but it's also easy to suspect that change will be little. The main road out of town through our area has now been under construction for some 15 months. This is a stretch of road not more than five kilometers long. The road leaving Freetown, going down the peninsula, has been under construction for over five years, nothing ever really changing.
The president recently announced a new international airport will be built on this side of the bay. Sounds nice, until you realize it will be on the other side of the peninsula, where you have to somehow get to the other side of the mountain range that forms the back of Freetown. Meanwhile, see above, trips to the airport are a pain and flying is horribly expensive.
The UN coughed up a loan to allow the high speed internet cable to beach in Freetown, giving land-based international communication access to Sierra Leone for the first time in history, on the condition that the Sierra Leone government would set up an independent telco regulator. The cable beached last October, an independent overseer is yet to be formed. And, hence, access to the cable hasn't yet been rolled out.