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Showing posts from January, 2018

Commuter

The car is stationary in the busy morning traffic, the queue snaking down the hill in front of us and up the slope beyond. The windows are open, the humid morning breeze carrying upon it the shouts of the street traders, and the never-ending hoots of Freetown’s bikes, tuk-tuks and cars. “Tissue, tissue, tissue!” cries a man carrying a metre-high stack of tissue boxes as he weaves between the queues.
The sky above us is hazy – the sun a dull red disc just rising into a white sky above the city hills. It is harmattan, they tell me: Saharan dust caught on the trade winds and carried high across West African skies from November to March. “You think this is hot? Wait until after harmattan!”


Weaving inbetween the lines of traffic, a fleet of wheelchairs ascends the hill towards us. People affected by polio, I wonder. Several have a weak or wasted arm or leg. Their family push the chairs from car to car and gaze impassively at the occupants.
The car begins moving again and our driver weaves…
The plane comes to a stop and everyone stands. Between the jumble of shoulders, heads and arms reaching for overhead lockers I catch a glimpse through the window – outside, flood lit and stark in the darkness, a building bears the uneven label “Lungi International Airport”.
We all move slowly to the exit, the conversation a babble of Krio, European and Chinese languages. At the plane door, a blast of heat and humidity as the West African night assaults us and my shirt is wet by the time I reach the bus that takes us the fifty metres to the airport building.
I strike up conversation with the person next to me – a European doctor returning from holiday. She was present throughout the ebola epidemic and talks passionately of the country. We walk past an unmanned health screening station – a piece of post-ebola heritage – for a quick passport check. Beyond, behind a dirty glass screen, men shout out offerings of currency exchange. I hand over £100 and in return receive several hundred no…