Archive for August, 2013

See Ya, Sierra Leone. Adios, Africa!

August 26, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are well. Looks like I am heading home tomorrow instead of on Friday. Aside from a meeting tomorrow morning, I’m all done with my work.

20130826_130429

I head out tomorrow late at night, but will have to leave the hotel earlier because of the car and boat rides. Today was a regular, productive day. I started with Abdoul (note the spelling – this is the correct way to spell it. I know this now that we are facebook friends). In the first picture, you can see a kind of sick, sleeping dog underneath a car. 20130826_145555This is a far too familiar sight here in Freetown. Sometimes there are two or three dogs under one car. I’ve also witnessed a few dead dogs on the the road. It make me so sad. I’ve seen more stray dogs here (street dogs, as they are called) than I have in any other place in the world.

20130826_150350

The second picture is of Lumley circle, a major round about and commercial centre. I don’t think too many foreigners go here except to drive through. We went here in search of a place that can print digital photographs, so this picture was taken standing outside of a second floor shop where you can make copies and print things. 20130826_174218They don’t do the digital photographs that I was looking for though. For lunch, Abdoul and I drank ciders and shared some pizza. It was delicious and fun. He showed me on his phone some beaches near Freetown that were not polluted at all. Next time! Now, I’ve loaded up Breaking Bad, and am SO excited to watch it in bed. All in all, it’s been a really rewarding, interesting survey. My mom said she will pick me up from the airport, and I am soo excited. Thanks for following my blog! See you soon!

Love, Annie

Advertisements

Sierra Leone Sunday

August 25, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Today was an easy but productive day. I woke up a bit later and worked over breakfast. 20130825_173428It was too late for breakfast by the time I got to the restaurant, but the nice staff at the restaurant made me a huge breakfast of an omelet, toast, and fruit anyway. They were so nice. I think it’s because I’ve been taking good care of everyone by tipping, and also because I had some meals last night with one of the hotel’s big deal, longer term, guests.

20130825_173115Abdul met me at the restaurant, and we went out for two hours of work. After that, I hung out on the computer and worked more. I walked around the hotel and took these pictures. It rained a lot today and there was a ton of fog. We are on top of a hill so I could watch the movement of the fog. For dinner I had fattoush (salad) and fish. I think in the future I’m going to stick with the falafel. Tomorrow I’m getting up early to start work! I have the plan all written out.

Love, Annie

First Full Day in Freetown!

August 24, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope you are having a nice weekend! Today was a productive and interesting day in Freetown. 20130824_110354Even though it was Saturday, I woke up early for a breakfast meeting. Breakfast is pretty good at the hotel. I had an omelet and toast and fruit. I’m impressed. After the meeting, I called Abdul and we set out for a full day of work. I was very productive today. We went out for lunch at a beachside restaurant that everyone (all types of people. I’m told black people, white people, and Lebanese people) frequents. 20130824_131437I told him all about my job (showed him why I was running in and out of all sorts of stores) and we had a relaxing and fun lunch. That’s Abdul in the picture, we are going to an auto body shop. I couldn’t help but think that a car would have to go to an auto body shop after driving up that road! I had a Savanna Dry cider during lunch. Those are so delicious. I discovered them in South Africa. 20130824_143540This lunch was the most fun out of all the lunches I’ve had with drivers this survey, probably because Abdul and I are around the same age so it was more like friends. I liked that it wasn’t awkward. I had dinner with the same person from breakfast, an extension of our meeting. It was a great evening. 20130824_143608We both had Savanna Dry Ciders and I heard all about his family and how he has lived as an expat in many different countries. He has four sons, and age-wise I am right in the middle of the sons. I can’t believe he and his wife are choosing to move here! Pretty bad ass. You can’t move here with children because there are no schools. Tomorrow I’m going to do some work. There’s a small chance I might be able to head home a few days early so I’m trying to get it all done.

Love, Annie

Adios Abidjan, Hello Sierra Leone!

August 23, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope you are well. I apologize, I did not write yesterday because I had a headache and couldn’t deal with looking at the computer screen. It was certainly a nice day though. 20130822_145325After a successful meeting (finally) I finished my work and then Chino and I went to a nearby beach town called Grand Bassam. It was very fun. We walked around on the beach and drank coconuts! On the way back, I tried to let a fly out the window but accidentally closed the window and squished it. We had a laugh about that. I also bought a wooden mancala board with some seeds to play. I think that will be a nice souvenir.

20130823_175202I knew how to play this game because when I was little, I played this computer game called Strategy Games of The World and it had Mancala, a game called Go-Moku (I think that’s how you spell it – it’s a Japanese game where you try to get five in a row of your color first) and a viking game that I don’t remember the name of because I thought it was annoying for some reason. This game was before Where in the World is Carmen Santiago and Command and Conquer. We played lots of computer games when we were little.

20130823_182931This morning, I woke up, packed, and headed to the airport. I was pretty happy to leave Abidjan! The journey to Sierra Leone was a long one. Two different planes. Then after getting off the plane at Sierra Leone International airport, a boat ride to take you to the city. I had an easy time with it because I had set up a service to pick me up at every step of the way (it’s best if you do that here). It worked really well, each time I got off somewhere (the plane, the boat) there was someone waiting for me with a sign with my name on it. YES!

20130823_184706

I was warned about the roads to the hotel, but didn’t realize how bad they would be! It’s pretty crazy, and SO interesting. I can’t believe the car made it up some of the hills. There is one main road that is paved, but other than that, It was an incredibly slow going, bumpy ride on dirt roads to the hotel. It’s rainy season, and all the rain really screws up the roads. In the picture is the paved road.

20130822_140757The hotel is FINE. It’s near the President’s house (which is also not on a paved road) and it looks way WAY better on the Web site (but don’t they all). The room is pretty good and the shower works FINE as well. There is a mosquito net. Im not thrilled about staying here for a week but it will be okay. Apparently this place is the best in town. Our client is staying here, and the people from the US Embassy also stay here. I had dinner with Paul, who works at the embassy. I met him on the way over. He wears a yarmulke and african clothes.

cutestHe is based in Frankfurt, and his family is there, but he travels to africa. He definitely keeps kosher because he stayed away from the shell fish and then I asked him about it. Cool! I asked him lots of questions about the foreign service because I’m curious about it maybe for the future, I know Lev (the handsome man in the picture above) might also be interested. Obviously that picture is not from survey, I just love it and look at it when I’m feeling lonely. I’m not feeling particularly lonely right at the moment, but wanted to share something that makes me really happy.

20130823_183759

In any case, Paul said got into the foreign service by applying just like everyone else. Of course. I was very nervous about the whole situation in Freetown before dinner, but am feeling much better after having eaten a good meal and after having spoke to some people about the safety of this hotel! I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how the markets are here! And to going home in a week!

Love, Annie

Oui Wednesday

August 21, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope you are well! Today started out Awful but became better as it went on. I had a meeting set up but the other party did not attend. 20130818_141421I got in touch with the woman on the phone. She hadn’t forgotten about it, she just didn’t come. She said she sent someone who spoke better english, but she didn’t know when that person had planned to come. The woman at the hotel reception was SO mean to me. After waiting an hour and a half after our starting time with no luck, I called Chino and we went out to get some more prices. I can’t spend the whole day waiting for someone to not show up.

20130821_130028I forgot to say yesterday that one of the women at the Citroen dealership yesterday spoke english – I asked her where she learned it and she said she studied in New Jersey in Newark, at Rutgers! That was a fun conversation. She had a nice shirt on that showcased her enormous boobies. I mentioned it to Chino and he had a laugh, but sometimes i’m not sure if he just laughs because he has no idea what I’m talking about.

20130819_162949Anyway I spent the rest of the afternoon working and had a snack at the Sofitel Hotel Ivoire, the nicest hotel in town. I figured there would be more english speaking staff members there and that they would be nicer. They were Marginally nicer but the cappuccino came with those French style macarons and the internet was very fast.  You may have noticed the pictures in this post! I was able to upload them from the Sofitel. Wahoo!

20130820_125423I arrived back at the hotel and had a nice workout and then dinner. Tomorrow I have a meeting and the woman is going to send her driver to pick me up at a designated time so hopefully that works out. If I finish work early enough, Chino and I are going to head to a tourist beach. Apparently it’s nice and he says a lot of white men swim there.

Love, Annie

Abidjan Tuesday

August 20, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

I think Abidjan ranks with one of the least awesome places I’ve ever surveyed, but I’m getting through it. Chino picked me up at nine and we had a full day of work. He was extremely helpful not only as a driver but as a translator in the auto shops and petrol stations. I did some really Fantastic work today despite the language barrier, and the horrible pollution (it’s dark all the time, a permanent haze over the city… and trash… and people peeing everywhere), and the general hostility of the people, and the traffic, so I’m proud of that.

Chino and I had a pretty awkward lunch (not that much to talk about) at a french sandwich shop. I had a salmon croque learned that the difference between “croque” and “sandwich” is the bread used in the sandwich. The salmon croque was quite delicious, it had melted cheese on top and scallions and a nice salad on the side. They don’t have nice dark lettuce like this at the hotel. I had a work out in the afternoon, and then dinner at the hotel.

My friend Doudou the bartender was not working tonight, so I ate at the buffet. For dessert there was a chocolate cake and a coconut cake so I mixed them together because that’s what my dad does with chocolate and coconut. Both the chocolate and the coconut cakes were really dense and it was a delicious combo. He would have LOVED this! Not worth coming to Abidjan for, but it was such a great part of the day to think of my dad and eat these cakes. I think my giggly enthusiasm for the desserts gave white american girls a silly reputation among the Ivoiriennes.

Tomorrow: More work and a meeting. And some weight training if I don’t finish too late! I hope you are well!

Love, Annie

Working in Abidjan

August 19, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

I had a very productive day in Abidjan. After setting up some meetings for later in the week (the hotel phone works swimmingly), I set out for one of the major malls. The hotel set me up with a driver, Chino, who speaks english and he will be taking me around this week! He has a little bobble head doggy on his dashboard and he said its name is “little Chino”. Ha! I didn’t see much of the city today because I was inside for most of the time, however, it looks pretty hazy and i’ve sensed some hostility from the local people. I’ll keep you updated. Unfortunately, pictures aren’t loading as the hotel internet is too slow. Have a nice week!

Love, Annie

Bonjour Abidjan!

August 18, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are well. This morning I had a long breakfast at the Accra hotel. It was pretty sad to say goodbye to Moses at the airport. The flight to Abidjan was awesome. It was on an Emirates flight that was coming from Dubai and had just stopped in Accra on the way to Abidjan. The plane had great facilities and I finished my book during the flight. I had a very easy time at Immigration, and then a difficult time getting the hotel shuttle.

At the airport, I ended up paying a guy more than I would have liked for his “services” helping me exchange money and showing me the hotel shuttle. He kind of forced his help on me and I ignored him, but then when I asked a security guard where to find the hotel shuttle, the guard led me back to that guy. Ugh. It wasn’t so bad but on principle (I didn’t give him that much money) but it gave me a bad taste of people in Abidjan. To be honest, though, the hotel shuttle isn’t clearly marked so I did needed help to find it.

My overall impression of Abidjan is not that great. The hotel is pretty gross. I went to work out – the gym is okay – and then requested my room to be changed because many things about it were unacceptable. The hotel reception people don’t speak English very well, so that was difficult. Im now in a slightly less shitty room.

The man who helped me change rooms has been giving me some looks and then he was a little snide when I asked him a question about the internet. I wonder if I was supposed to tip him for changing my room. It seems pretty silly and I didn’t think about it because the shower and internet are supposed to work and the rooms are supposed to not be so filthy. This is an international hotel chain, after all.

Dinner was Okay, really mediocre. I had a club sandwich and fries and salad at the bar. I checked out the main dining area but opted for the bar as it seemed like the best option. I’ll have to reconsider tomorrow, maybe when i’m feeling more adventurous. It’s pretty hard after a while not being able to easily leave the hotel for dinner. I can’t believe they charge 4500 CFA (basically 10 USD) for a few pieces of lettuce. They did advertise that it was “imported greens” though.  I’m not sure how working will be tomorrow, but I imagine difficult due to the language barrier. I’ll definitely go into it with a good attitude tomorrow morning.

I miss everyone at home. I miss gourmet dumpling house on Beach St. in Chinatown and the experience of eating there :D. If you are in Boston, I recommend you try this little restaurant. Some excellent dishes include the mapo dofu, yu hsiang eggplant (I think that’s the right spelling – it has chinese eggplant and pork strips and delicious sauce) and the sauteed snow pea pods as long as you like spicy foods. They have great dumplings there too. Soup dumplings and regular dumplings. I can’t wait to go for dinner, it will be less than two weeks! It makes me happy just thinking about it.

Love, Annie

A Great Last Day in Accra!

August 17, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope all is well and you are having a nice weekend! I’ve just finished packing up to leave Accra for Abidjan, Ivory Coast. It’s actually really easy to pack up because I don’t have much stuff, only what can fit into a cary on. 20130817_091921Today was exciting. I woke up at 5:30 to head to the Slave Castles with Moses. The castles are about three hours away from Accra in the central coast region of Ghana. It was nice to see outside of the major city.  I enjoyed how the buildings got smaller and smaller while the air got cleaner and cleaner the further we went from Accra. Our first stop was Elmina castle within Elmina township. Elmina is a huge fishing village. Unfortunately it was very smelly. 20130817_102531We parked in the village. When we got out of the car, some children came up and said “Peace!” I said “Peace to you too!” and some of the kids held my hand and kissed my hand and tried not to let go. The president of Ghana was planning to visit the town later in the day, so the place was, according to Moses, even more crowded and chaotic than it usually is. We left Elmina to head for Cape Coast castle, but on the way stopped for coconuts. This guy chopped the top off the fresh coconut, and I chugged the entire thing at once. Then he cut it up a little more so it was possible to eat the meat inside. 20130817_110420We got three for two cedis, so Moses ate one and I had a second! They were so delicious. We arrived at Cape Coast and I took a tour of the Slave Castle there. It was extremely interesting and I learned a ton. On the tour were people from all nationalities, including Ghanians. I made kind of friends with this group of guys from Accra. They told me that they are happy I was here to learn about history because it’s very important but also noted that they had no hard feelings about what happened in the past and wanted everyone to just love each other. 20130817_112736Okay, cool. They wanted to know what I thought of the castle and I said pretty scary but I was happy to be learning. We went into dungeons were people were held for three months with no lights or sanitation, and hot cells with no air flow in which people were just left to die. The picture of the boats shows fishermen working right outside of the “door or no return” where if someone walked out, they were going overseas and not back to their home. After the castle tour, Moses and I rushed to our final activity of the day, Kakum national park. That picture is of Moses on the canopy tour.

20130817_132931

We rushed over because we wanted to avoid traffic on the way back.  I didn’t know what to expect but the park was SO cool. We took a canopy tour, so we walked a bit up a mountain, and then walked up some stairs, and all of a sudden we got to walk on rope bridges 100 feet above ground and got to look down on the forest. I met a group of American college students who were doing some sightseeing around Ghana after their Medical Brigade. They had been setting clinics and bringing medical supplies around Accra (they were all pre-med students). 20130817_133646After the tour, we headed home and it took about three hours. On the way I got some plantain chips from a hawker on the street and they were delicious. I ate dinner back at the hotel and read my book (I’m almost done with Half of a Yellow Sun now. Soon I’ll ask my mom which other book on the account to read next!). I’m very tired from being up so early so it’s bed time soon. Today was a really awesome day. Tomorrow, my flight is in the early afternoon and I hope everything goes smoothly!

Love, Annie

Happy Friday from Accra

August 16, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope you are well. Today was a wonderful and very interesting day. In the morning, I finished most of my work. I had a lunch meeting and then went out with Moses to finish the last bits of work.

20130816_161025

The lunch meeting started and then ran a little late, but it was a pretty fun meeting.

We had an interesting adventure going to the Volkswagen dealership, we crossed this “bridge” pictured to get there. Good thing I’ve had some gymnastics training. Under the bridge was a river of trash and sewage. You can see Moses about to cross it here. We took the long but less freaky way back. After work, Moses showed me some of the Muslim neighborhoods of Accra, where I took some pictures of kids because they wanted me to and then they wanted to see the pictures on the camera. I felt like such a silly tourist.

20130816_170034

Later, Moses took me on a kind of walking tour of the Makola market, an enormous local market right near the hotel. We only saw a fraction of the market. There are major areas for different things being sold. There’s a used clothing area (which you see here), a household products area, a shoes area, a food area featuring produce and grilled fish and what I think were pig or cow hooves, a different food area with candy and cereals, etc. The market is right alongside the train station, so we walked through there too.

20130816_170756

There was a lineup of men at the station who wanted our tickets or payment (or something) in order to go to the station, but Moses let them know we were just looking around, that I was a friend and we were just trying to get a view of the place, and not actually going on a train. They let us through without any trouble or bribes! Hm. After the train station, we walked through the Polytechnic school and then looped back to the hotel. On our way I noticed a woman grilling little pellets of something. I learned that people grill a kind of special clay for pregnant ladies to eat so because it relieves having to spit a lot.

20130816_153301

Apparently people have been doing this for many, many years. I did not realize this spitting was a problem during a pregnancy, and Moses was unsure if I had been pregnant before so then he explained it to me. There are many women much younger than I am that are pregnant here or are carrying children so I guess I’m not surprised that he didn’t just assume.

20130816_171059After our walking tour, I went inside and had a nice video chat and then a really great work out. It felt pretty weird but nice to be out of the dirty market and station and I felt very lucky to be able to escape it. It was so hot and humid in the gym but I managed to complete a decent distance run and was very happy about that. For dinner, I had some fish and salad and rice. It’s bed time now, because tomorrow I’m leaving the hotel at 6 AM to head to two Slave Castles and then a National Park! I’m also going to get my laundry done tomorrow. Wahoo!

Love, Annie