When the phone isn’t ringing or the guests are on the beach or in the jungle and I have a spare few minutes, I find myself making lists: things I need to do on my next day off, places I want to visit, emails I want to send, animals I hope to see. Everything ends up as a list, even the first paragraph of a blog post.
If I were to list everything that frustrates me about my experiences so far living and working in Sierra Leone, you would still be reading this post in several days’ time. It’s not all peaches and cream. In fact, it never is. Peaches don’t grow here, and any sort of fresh dairy product is as rare as finding a truly cold Star beer, if not rarer *.
It’s not to say that I’m not enjoying my time here, only that in choosing a life such as this one, certain sacrifices have to be acknowledged, such as accepting powered milk in your tea, never seeing a strawberry, or not knowing whether your 8.30 meeting is going to begin at 10.30 or 12.30. I ate a mushroom for the first time in a month last week †. It was very expensive and imported a ridiculously long way. Luckily I wasn’t paying for it or shipping it. These may sound like trivialities, and individually they are, but these small frustrations combine over time to have me longing for life back home like all-day electricity and a good British queue.
There are, however, obvious benefits to my life as it currently is. I do no cleaning and no laundry, I don’t have to cook, my commute lasts all of 15 paces, and someone else takes care of the supermarket shopping. Rather like the Queen or President of the United States I don’t carry keys, and only need to have money in my pocket about twice a month when I head to Dublin village on a biscuit run or to buy more internet credit.
What life here demonstrates then is how little we need as necessities, even today. The island has no hot water, washing machine, wifi (only SIM data), television, twenty-four hour electricity, true refrigeration, or even modern ovens (just open wood and charcoal braziers). There is the water well for water (and tanks and piping for convenience), generators (and wiring) for a few hours of power, a safe for valuables, and an outboard engine for getting to the mainland, though manpower and paddles shaped like the spades in a pack of cards would do just fine, and did for hundreds of years since well-to-do Krio families first settled the islands and started making lists.
* My body has been craving something for a few days now, but I can’t figure out what it is. It could be peaches and cream, or a falafel, ice cream, a carrot, unprocessed and chemical-free food of some kind, a satsuma or a date or a grape, a pea, curry, a decent piece of cake, fruit squash, pizza, cereal with fresh milk, beef rendang, bacon, rice pudding, or custard. I hope my mother is taking note. It’s all rather strange, as I don’t care that much about food when I’m home.
† Which is why mushrooms don’t appear on the above list.