Hey! My name is Emily, I’m a 22 year old undergraduate student originally from the UK (Devon) who has been living in Canada (Montreal) for the past 3 years. I’m going to be in Freetown for two and a half months doing an internship with the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law where I’ll be monitoring court cases and writing a report on issues of corruption in Sierra Leone. I’ve just arrived and I’m very grateful that I flew in on a Friday evening as it’s meant that I’ve been able to take a few days to acclimatise before starting work on Monday! I was expecting to experience much more culture shock than I have, something I think is partly due to my weekend arrival as it’s meant I’ve been too busy enjoying myself to feel too overwhelmed. I would definitely advise other interns to plan their flights similarly if possible!
After my long flight from the UK to Freetown I was welcomed by Sonia, our lovely intern coordinator, smiling from behind the ACIPP sign. She was very easy going and made me feel instantly at ease as we made our way by taxis and ferry to the ACIPP house in Goderich, in a kind of suburb-y area of town. The next morning most of the other interns were still asleep so Sonia and I travelled into town to run some errands, purchasing things that I’d forgotten to bring. This was made less overwhelming (the traffic and street side stalls in the centre of town are chaotic to say the least!) by Sonia, who did a great job of pulling me from stall to stall bargaining on my behalf. From there I went with Imma, the other interns and a few of their friends to watch Sierra Leone vs. Tunisia in the world cup qualifiers at the stadium! Which was an amazing experience, even though it resulted in a 2:2 draw meaning Sierra Leone failed to qualify. After this we went out to a couple of bars and to the birthday of a friend of a friend, finally returning home at 4am – a great introduction to Freetown’s crazy nightlife.
The next day the other interns and I joined some friends in their pickup truck and travelled to the beautiful River No. 2 beach. We insisted on sitting in the back of the pickup, something that in hindsight was quite irresponsible but which was very entertaining none the less. The road to the beach is spectacular, flanked by misty mountains and jungle for the entire journey. The experience was made even better when the heavens opened and torrential rain soaked us within seconds. Once we got to the beach the sun came out for a couple of hours before another, even bigger tropical storm rolled in over the mountains. Being British I thought I knew all about rain, but the downpours here are so heavy I can only describe the feeling of standing in it as something akin to a power shower. It’s torrential. We threw our things under a hut and ran down to the sea and had the most unforgettable swim in bath-temperature water as the cold rain poured down in curtains that rolled across the waves. That is one experience you can look forward to if you’re brave enough to visit during the rainy season!
On the Monday Sonia accompanied me through the crazy Freetown morning rush hour (already well described in a previous blog entry) to meet my colleagues at the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL). After the initial introductions a colleague who I had previously met on Saturday night offered to show me around his university (FourahBayCollege) which happens to be the oldest university in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is the election period for the student union so the atmosphere on campus was crazy – student politics are much more important and consequently more exciting than most Western universities as they are directly connected to the higher politics of the country (I will talk more about this in a later blog post).