Sunday, 19 October 2014

Farewell to Conakry - FBA Update 2

Straight into the update for the 'Food Basket Appeal'. A marvelous response. Thanks everyone. Total pledged currently stands at over $4,500.

First, let me set the scene. A successful shopping trip in Conakry has garnered some half decent French & South African white wine, crackers, biscuits, salami, chorizo, Ivorian chocolate, and 3 different cheeses. Big deal you might think? Well, treats take on a whole new meaning here. I'm sat here like a lucky self satisfied cat who's won the lottery - yep, NPA (electricity), water, & Internet - at the same time. Stevie Nicks & Fleetwood Mac on the travel speaker... brace yourselves, there's more. Later hot chocolate will be served with a dash of Capt. Morgan with those enticing French biscuits - seriously now, does life get much better...

Corniche area in Conakry. Let's do those name checks...

I thought reverse order, from the smallest amount pledged and upwards?

That means Sporran (Scottish next door neighbour, the man tighter than a photo finish) - 10 Guineas, 7 shillings and sixpence.

OK. Perhaps, on reflection not the best way to proceed. Random order instead... 


'Tea Cake' (2 month's pocket money)
'H' (as above)

My 5 special Canadian Brothers: 'Escargot' - first guest runner in Conakry, 'Man Product', 'Blackjack', 'George', & 'Calgary'


'Italian in London'

'Vancouver Island Lovebirds' (JH & KH)

'Peter Pan', 'Wendy' & family - Dallas based

Ali Baby

'Little Pammy'

'Lifeline' (4 time guest runner) & 'Queen Vics' - from Harare

Robert Mugabe (enjoys the jokes)

'Mags' & 'Sammy' (older sister & my favourite neice - don't tell the others)

'Agent Z' (thanks for breaking convention, and for intro to Jo)

'Offshore Les' (thanks mate)

'HNMPO' (folk of a remote northwestern Lake District village will know these 2 stars) - they live in a home, and have donated each others birthday gift allowance

'NYC Risk Management'
'Inspector Clouseau'

'Sporran' & 'Suzy' (2 mentions)

'Yorkie' & family

Brian T - Ghana

'Frankie Valli' (Calgary's ultimate diva - SL divas take note...)

'The Foxes' (aka younger sister & family)

'Dr. B' (wealthiest guy I know), Marie Louise and family

'Potent lawyer' & 'Ranger Bear' - Jimmy B, what memories 

'Barber of Seville'



'Femme Fatal' (come back...)


'Wildcard' (aka Johnny Admin) - come on now, how many people have appeared in a James Bond movie? Quantum of Solace - Tea Cake & H you know this scene well... 

'Our man in Khartoum', 'Ops', 'M3' & 'M2' - special memories of sharing that apartment back in Sudan days.. 

'Hartlepool Lass'

'Ed B'

'Mann Alive' & Linda

'Sister 1' - best HR professional I've ever worked with

'Pivot 1664' - ex bootneck and guest runner in Makeni

'Charlie Rupert' in Kurdistan


'Gorgeous Kev'

Thanks all. If anyone would like to contribute to the 'Food Box Appeal' (see last 2 posts) you're most welcome. Now back from Conakry I will be pushing forward this week with KAB. We hope to make the first deliveries in Freetown. It has proved impossible to set-up a PayPal account in Sierra Leone so I'm looking at alternatives (with Jo's help), I'll let you know.

Good to see the smiling faces of Freetown again. Forget for a moment the terror and hysteria gripping the US after one death and a handful of cases. Think about the 4,500 poor souls who've died here. The number of orphans, the poverty, the hunger, the fear, the collapsed economies, the schools that should have opened weeks ago, I could go on...

This outbreak began back in March with barely a mention by the mainstream media. However, we now have hysteria in certain parts of the world. I think my mother-in-law started all this. Declared she wouldn't hug me for 21 days after I returned - every cloud... 

The Ebola outbreak seems to have gone through distinct phases. 

Phase 1 - People dying in Africa from something or other - what's new?

Phase 2 - MSF (brilliant organisation) shouts early from the rooftops.

Phase 3 - WHO asleep at the wheel - says MSF exaggerating and to calm down.

Phase 4 - Spreads rapidly from Guinea into Liberia & Sierra Leone.

Phase 5 - WHO remains asleep at the wheel.

Phase 6 - Incredibly brave work being carried out by the few with very little. West African governments overwhelmed. Shout from the rooftops. 

Note: A little rich as they'd been painfully slow to react themselves and had downplayed the initial outbreak. They didn't want Ebola. Indeed, President Ebola Conde (as some call him in Guinea) visited the forested regions in May, shook hands with everyone and declared the emergency over. Lack of resources is no excuse for lack of leadership and inspiration. 

Phase 7 - 4 weeks ago - WHO, CDC and others awake from slumber, bit too late the genie is out of the bottle.

Phase 8 - Cases & death rate increasingly exponentially. This is serious.

Phase 9 - Two weeks ago - WHO & CDC competing for who can present the worst worst case scenario. No good news, no perspective. Hardly inspiring. Creates panic.

Phase 10 - Last week - a few cases emerge in US & Europe and the world is now in the grip of hysteria - the fear of fear of EBOLA. Death toll here passes 4,500. Welcome to panic in the social media age.

Phase 11 - Next / current phase - now officially really bad, Czars being appointed, airport screening everyhwere. Bill O'Reilly says, ban travel to or from Africa for the next 25 years as a precaution. He and others claim it's all Obama's fault. The corporate 'Blamethrower' is now out of the box; the CDC head, the incompetence of WHO (and that's just their own report)... could well lead to scapegoats this week...  

'Day in the life' Ebolastan...

0600 hrs - wake up, check news. International and African networks. BBC first. Check Twitter. Digest everything sat in the bathroom 'office'. Reply to the 3 most important emails.

0630 hrs - early morning run from the Ratoma guesthouse. Around 30 mins.

0730 hrs - get ready for the day, listen to the BBC World Service. Breakfast of coffee, fantastic fresh bread & jam, discuss Ebola with other guests. Take daily anti malarial (Doxy) - can't afford to become ill with anything. Malaria is the biggest killer in sub Saharan Africa, not Ebola. 

0815 hrs - leave compound. Set off on foot. Tell the driver to pick me in 10 mins. Try to get some steps in. Exchange a few knowing nods with locals who've seen me walking or running in their neighbourhood. Monsieur Ben, my Togolese French teacher, you'll be proud when we meet up next week...    

0830 hrs - good to see things at street level, I avoid all human contact, Abdul picks me up.

0900 hrs - arrive at an office for first meeting. Wash hands in chlorinated water. Have my temperature taken. 36.4. Spend the first 10 mins of the meeting discussing Ebola. We don't shake hands. 

1000 hrs - drive in heavy Conakry traffic to a meeting at the British Embassy in the Corniche area of the city.

1030 hrs - take coffee and set-up temporary office in L'Avenue restaurant. Wash my hands in chlorinated water. Have temperature taken. 36.8. Get stuck into morning email (good wifi). Walk 500m to the compound where the Embassy is located. Wash my hands in chlorinated water. Have temperature taken. 32.3. I'm dying, not good news.  

1100 hrs - arrive at the mini compound of the Embassy inside the main compound. You've guessed it. Wash my hands in chlorinated water. Have temperature taken. 36.9. That's better. I'm recovered. Don't shake hands in the meeting. First 20 mins of meeting dominated by Ebola.

1230 hrs - walk back to L'Avenue to find my vehicle. Check emails, messages and texts. Answer a few. Make a couple of calls. The SL Ebola daily text comes. States 11 dead and 26 new cases. Confirmed cases in Sierra Leone now past 3,000. We get texts a couple of times a day - utilising modern comms and data reasonably effectively. I always check for Western Area first, I live there. My neighbourhood.

1300 hrs. Drive over to Patisserie Le Damier. Wash hands in chlorinated water. Afternoon office. Lunch. Excellent food and good coffee. Paris prices, but worth it. A haven of tranquility out of the heat and madness. Oh, and good wifi. Coffee & wifi, exactly what you need on the road. The few patrons, mostly French & Lebanese, are friendly and we discuss... Ebola. There's no escape. They want to hear news of Freetown.

Conakry is raw. Extremely raw. A hard place to like, not alone love. Freetown is easy in comparison. Drive to Le Damier around the corniche, some of the photos were taken en-route. 

1700 hrs. Productive. A couple of expresso's as the afternoon wears on. Time to head over for the 'aid package' at the big supermarche. Have a walk first through the main downtown core. Crowded. Dirt poor. Baking hot. Stinks. As Kipling said, "The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it." As I'm thinking about the pong, I become aware of ambulance sirens. You immediately think the obvious... you hear them all day...

Wash hands and enter the supermarket. A deli and wine store - feels surreal.

1800 hrs. Drive past the national stadium. It was here 5 years ago that at least 150 people were killed while protesting against the junta government. They'd seized power in a coup d'├ętat 9 months earlier. Demonstrators were murdered by undisciplined security forces who opened fire. Mayhem ensued. 

1830 hrs. Arrive at Palm Hotel. 5 star hotel with Geneva prices. Worst Internet of the day. Wash hands in chlorinated water on the way in. Great surroundings (see last post) but average food and highly priced beer.

2030 hrs. Head back across town to my guest house. Wash hands in chlorinated water. Soles of shoes sprayed. Temperature check. 37.1.

2040 hrs. Into my room. Back to the news and reading of US hysteria. Read and work until midnight. Early start tomorrow... 

Well over my word count. Return to the Food Basket Appeal in the next post. Also Liberia coming soon. Already thinking of Christmas back home in England. Must get booked up. Flights are under pressure after events this past week. Only 2 options from Freetown. SN Brussels & Air Maroc. Could possibly drive to Conakry for Air Chance to Paris. I suspect though, may well end up being via Morocco with Air Croc.

Talking of Christmas. Quick mention of our (group of neighbours and family) Turkeys currently being fattened back in Cumbria. They were pretty small when I last saw them. This year we have Sandy, Amy, Bruce, Archie, and Peter coming on nicely. Peter is developing quickly and is by far the fattest.

That's all from Conakry...

Given the current circumstances a couple of quotes below from Simon Sinek. They somehow seem apt right now.

Panic causes tunnel vision. Calm acceptance of danger allows us to more easily assess the situation and see the options. 

A good leader shares information, even if they don't know the whole story. Without any information, people create their own, which causes fear and paranoia.

Couple of photos left over - some strange monuments in Conakry, here's one...