Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Lockdown in Freetown (Part 2)

First light: 0640 hrs
Time start: 0700 hrs
Time finish: 0743 hrs
Weather: 24C
Humidity: 89%  
Circumstances: Ebola Crisis: Reflections on 3-day lockdown in Freetown (Part 2)

Always keep the first paragraph short. Hook the reader.

Escaped from 'Lockdown in Freetown' nine days ago. I'm not pretending a major hardship. It wasn't. Always try to count my blessings. Glass half full. I was fortunate to reside at the Radisson Hotel. Little did I realise I'd be pitched into a remake of the much loved Brit sitcom from the 1980s. Hi de Hi. Funny and surreal in equal measure. Each day began with a flyer under the door with the daily programme. 0900 hrs: aerobics at the deck side restaurant. 1100 hrs: run in the hotel grounds with Nunes, the hotel manager (a real star - thank you Nunes). 1400 hrs: water polo in the deck side pool. 1500 hrs: film matinee 'Cry Freedom' in the cafeteria. 1700 hrs: nobbly knees and fattest arse competition in the Bawbaw Bar. Remember 'Escargot' from the Conakry post? He took the honours. Happy hour between 1800 hrs... live music at the.... OK, you get the picture...   

Joking aside, fantastic effort by the hotel. The aerobics part wasn't true. Made it up...

As flagged in the last post (10 days ago), a two parter this time around. I think there's a run in here somewhere. We'll see...

Following the release I was so pleased to see my divas again. Straight to the office from the hotel, there they were. And here they are (pictures below)... they've developed something of a cult following; with my daughter 'Cup Cake', elder sister, and favourite niece (don't tell the others) leading the way. 'Cup Cake' is only eight and too young to read this blog, but she adores stories of Africa, in particular the divas. 

When I'm home I let her train with me twice a week (15 mins max); lo and behold she wants a guest runner slot. The beauty of this electronic 'diary', it's here for ever. In 25 years time when I'm probably in a nursing home, with a blanket over my knees, being fed soup, and telling anyone who'll listen, about Africa and the Ebola crisis of 2014; this will serve as a record. My acorns can read it to their own little acorns. Some other elderly person nearby will say, 'what exactly is that Tombola thing you're talking about there'. Can't wait... 

The SL divas are pictured below. I've had a number of requests to bring them to life. Let's start with Senior Diva, aka 'Eagle'. I've talked them into this. I've taken 10 photos of both, they've chosen for the blog. 


Let's go to Baby Diva, aka 'Cobra'. They've both said they want to remain mysterious. Or was it anonymous? 



On a more serious note and returning to the lockdown. Close your eyes and imagine. Imagine this takes place in your home town. Imagine being locked down for 3 days in your home. No freedom of movement. 7,000 teams going door to door looking for possible ebola victims. If they find anyone... your house is quarantined. 



Can you really begin to imagine? Your world? Mine? Completely different. 

What's it really like to survive on 5,000 Leone's ($1.25) a day. You have to hustle for this amount. No-one is going to give to you. No social safety net. No welfare. You have little money. There's no rainy day fund. You don't live monthly paycheck to paycheck. You don't have a paycheck. You live day to day. Forget the future. It's about today. You have insufficient food. You have no running water. You have no electricity. Your children are at home because all schools are closed. 

The tail end of the wet season. There's malaria, typhiod, cholera, TB, dengue, and plenty of other tropical diseases. Your little bit of money is worth less because prices are increasing. There's a crisis. You can't panic buy, you can't afford panic. You're confused because you don't know what's going on. You don't have TV. You don't have Internet. You speak to neighbours who've heard something on the radio. You've plenty of neighbours because your area is densely populated. You can't become sick, you can't afford sick. Sierra Leone has fewer than 200 doctors for 6 million people, that before this crisis began. 

If that's not bad enough... you now have EBOLA. Africa gets the shitty end of the stick every time...   

This isn't the bottom 5%. More like over 50%.

It's a huge triumph this extremely poor country pulled off lockdown with such compliance and success. Imagine this was your town or city? Seriously, think about it...

I've worked, traveled, or soldiered on every continent, in every corner of the world, and I continue to blame a serious bout of malaria last year as reason for co founding a business here. What was I thinking? Ebola hit within 5 months. This wasn't in the business plan. However, my short term woes are nothing compared to the ones people face here. And, do you know what? These people are amongst the happiest anywhere in the world. So humbling to witness. My time again (?), wouldn't change a thing. 

I've wondered (at least for a minute) about this next point. Read on, I mean this to be low key. The world is throwing money at this crisis. I'm convinced the battle will be won. The world's institutions, NGO's, and governments have been extraordinary. It's taken too long, but this situation is unprecedented. 

If anyone reading this blog is thinking they'd like to do something to help out, perhaps make a small donation? Easy. Send it to me (rubbing hands!), kidding, if you want to, and please don't feel under any pressure, just tell me through the comments section of the blog, or through email (markc.reading@gmail.com), and simply say how much you'd like to donate. 

We'll worry about mechanism for collection later - I haven't thought this through. I don't want anyone to pledge over $100 equivalent (OK, if you make a special case I'll take it...). I'm starting this tomorrow with $500 of my own cash (that's the budget gone for 'O's birthday present, which incidentally I missed 3 days ago). This will also keep me out of the Chinese casino here for a while. My partners, well, I'd like you to match? 

I can guarantee the money will go straight to the point of need. I'm here on the ground and will ensure this. I know the right people, driven people, who will maximize to the fullest extent. There's no overhead. I don't have a name for this. Maybe the 'Food Box Fund'. The money will be used for food boxes for homes quarantined. Imagine being quarantined with nothing to eat or drink. 

I've never done anything like this before. I make my own quiet donations in Sierra Leone, as well as to service charities at home. This is completely new ground.



In future posts I will publish the amount raised and how used, complete with photos. I've no shame, if this isn't successful, then the amount in the next post will still read $500. Johnny A, help me out here... Oh, 'Cup Cake' & 'H' your pocket money is officially donated for the next 4 weeks, you've no say. Remember at all times; we're a family, not a democracy. 

Let's keep it low key; max of US$100, British Pounds 60, or 27 billion Zimbabwe Dollars, equivilant. Each donation will be properly administered. You have my word. Baby Diva is my Finance Manager, she's a pain and will account meticulously. If through this humble effort we can raise a few thousand dollars it will make a decent impact. I hope my miserly Scottish neighbours are reading at home... come on you're still in the Union after 307 years... raise your kilts, undo the wallet combination... celebrate.

Let's finish with a run. The hotel run I promised. No time. 

Let's finish positive regarding Ebola. This virus will be beaten. Over 3,000 have died already in West Africa, but the international community is now fully engaged. The Sierra Leone government is doing its upmost. This country is overflowing with silent heroes doing truly remarkable work. All day, every day. This tide will turn.



Some countries are reopening borders and more flights are becoming possible. The strangle hold is being released. I'm here to Christmas (sorry 'O') and looking at R & R in Abidjan next up - that'll be a special post. This tide will turn. 

The wet season is nearly over. Another morale booster. Down now to short voilent rains, I like to think of them as Welsh. This opposed to incessant rains that just go on and give in abruptly. French rains as I like to call them.   

On a serious note; if you'd like to donate I'll put in the pot. We'll sort out out later. Neighbours - just pass over the fence. Everyone who donates will get a namecheck, it won't be in person - give me a codeword that might mean something special or someone special. You'll know when you see it. This is post 24 in the series, you'll start to be included in post 25. 

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