T-minus one day (…and counting)

Well, I’m basically ready to go. I have an extremely large amount of stuff… but I can carry it all  myself, which is the Number One Traveling Rule. I am taking no fewer than three backpacks: my big trekking 80-litre monster, my day-to-day school backpack as a carry-on… and my purse is a little slingpack.

But the bulk of my luggage isn’t clothing — I feel like a traveling pharmacy. Antibiotics, Imodium, Pepto Bismol, oral rehydration salts (sensing a pattern here?), anti-malarials, a thermometer (fever being the warning sign of any number of illnesses that strike in Salone — malaria, typhoid, meningitis — and how are you supposed to tell by touch if you have a fever when the temperature rarely drops below 25 degrees?), band-aids, Polysporin, hydrogen peroxide, anti-bacterial soap, sunscreen, bug spray… the list goes on… I’ll probably be leaving most of it behind so that there’s room for gifts and souvenirs on the return journey, but get your requests in early to guarantee space!

When I said in my previous post that I’ll be touching down in Freetown, I stretched the truth. Sierra Leone’s international airport is located in Lungi, a fair piece north of Freetown on the other side of a large bay/inlet. My flight lands at 18h30 and so to get into the city, my options are thus: take a water taxi across the bay and hope we don’t hit a rain storm or some unexpected obstacle in the dark, or take a helicopter and hope the Soviet-era chopper doesn’t end up in the ocean. (Let’s not even talk about the government-operated ferry.) Forget pickpockets, malaria… first we’ll see if I can get into the city in one piece.

Nevertheless, tomorrow I’m off — my flight leaves Monday from Toronto so I’m going down a day early to get in position, as it were. I fly Toronto-Brussels-Dakar-Freetown. Cross your fingers that Eyjafjallajokul is feeling placid and the airspace over Belgium is ash-cloud-free. With a little luck and a lot of jet fuel, I’ll be in Freetown in 72 hours. The plan for the first two weeks is research, research, research — after so many months of writing thesis proposals and giving presentations on media assistance programming in Salone, I’m fairly excited to actually get out on the ground and start talking to some local journalists. It will probably take most of the month to get all my interviews done, but if I get a lot of them out of the way right after I arrive then I hope I can take some side trips and days off once Alex arrives on June 7.

I’ll spare you the lyrics to that Chantal Kreviazuk song. Catch you on the flip side.

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