The other week, Luca (the Country Deputy) called me and asked if I could accompany him to the field for an opening ceremony of a Transit Centre. (Transit centres are put in place to help reduce the risk of contamination. As soon as someone feels ill, they can go there to be ‘quarantined’, if Ebola is confirmed then they will be sent to the nearest treatment center, which could be two hours drive away. With terrible road conditions. So a transit center is an intermediary area and they will be building 16 around Guinea and 9 actual Treatment centers each having a capacity of 100 beds) WFP’s role is to provide hot meals to patients and their families and to build the centres, because WFP has a huge logistic capacity too.
It was so nice to get OUT of Conakry. It took us 3 hours drive and once out of the traffic, the route was really beautiful, and I felt that maybe I could like Guinea. There is an abundance of resources here. Paddy fields, lakes, mountains!, green, lots of green, and small huts with straw roofs dotted along the side of the road. I was feeling so tired but there was no chance of having a nap as every 3 minutes you hit your head on the window because of the holes in the road. And every 30 seconds, the driver hoots his horn at a person walking by, or a goat, a chicken. A bit unnecessary.
When it finally finished, we walked out and the 30 degrees c hit us like fresh air. We went on to visit the transit centre, which was not yet operational. But they had everything in place and we had to get our feet sprayed with chlorine before entering. They showed us the rooms equipped with plastic mattresses and buckets and they demonstrated how to take off the PPE kit. It felt eery walking around, as if it was a prison camp.
In other news, I realise that the maid can only cook 2 dishes, oily meat or oily fish with rice. Both taste very nice but I don’t want to know how much oil she uses. The avocados are huge here and such good pineapples and papayas. But it doesn’t last long, even if we put it in the fridge which defrosts during the day when the power is switched off. I am used to walking in puddles in the kitchen.
Yesterday I went to the airport to take some photos of an Antonov 124 , the second largest plane in the world, land in Conakry. It was bringing 5 tonnes of WFP cargo – tents and generators as well as a UN van. Considering the fact the runway got struck by lightning last week forming a huge hole in the surface (I’m not leaving here until we are 100% out of lightening season!) it was quite impressive to see this gigantic plane land at little Conakry airport. But what was so bizarre was when the back lowered the Russian crew, about 8 of them, stepped out in their PPE kits like a spaceship! Gloves, boots, goggles everything. After the unloading of the 5 containers, they hosed down the boot of the plane and took off their kits, making sure not to step on the runway, leaving it in a bin bag which they left on the runway. And it took half an hour for the aircraft to leave because the crew refused to take the bin bag with them out for health and safety reasons, and the airport refused to dispose of it out of pride! So my colleague collected it and we had to bring it back with us.
I am so grateful for my week off in Senegal. Dakar was a really great city with so much to explore, I loved it.
I took the UN plane which I was quite excited about. There were only three of us and it started moving before I did up my seatbelt! The most efficient plane journey I think I will ever take. Once we landed in Dakar, at the French Military base, we were screened by people dressed in their PPE kits and then that was it, I was allowed to go free! After that, there was nothing to do with Ebola in Senegal, no billboards along the road or no hand gel at every entrance. When I was asked where I came from, my response depended on who it was. If it was someone I wanted to get rid of quickly, I would say Guinea and they would step back or make a joke about not coming near me. In fact one maid in a hotel cowered in the corner of my room. Another taxi man asked how one catches the virus, so there is still work to be done.
I spent my first full day walking around getting lost in Dakar. A city where elegance meets chaos, noise, vibrant markets and glittering nightlife. You come across stalls selling bright fabrics next to modern fashion shops, french patisseries and coffee shops.
I think you could have a very nice life living in Dakar. The climate is lovely and you have stunning houses, no power cuts, a good supermarket. I’ve been told it is like the Paris of West Africa!
I’m missing home a lot a lot a lot! I would love for it to be cold enough to wear a coat and gloves!!!
Love and kisses from a fever free 36.8°