Out and about on a Saturday night

MaryBeth McKenzie is an information officer for the Candian office of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), currently visiting the MSF projects in Sierra Leone. These accounts are from her journal reports of her experiences in the field.

Freetown, Sierra Leone West Africa Saturday night, for me and many Canadians, is certainly the night to go out. For the expatriate community in Freetown, it is no exception. Saturday night in Freetown and the official city curfew is at 11pm. The MSF curfew is 10:30pm. I leave at 8pm and returned to the MSF apartment at 10:28PM. Going out in a post-war zone is tricky at best. Using a small hand-held handset, complete with squelch, I am required to inform the MSF office when I leave my present location, where I am going and again, call in to say I have arrived where planned. Tonight it was the Lebanese-owned 'Cape Club' - a local eatery frequented by expatriate workers and a few people from Sierra Leone. We passed and cleared, two military check points to reach the restaurant - only 2km away. Although my fabulous meal of barracuda cost me less than $10 Canadian, few people in Sierra Leone would ever come the door. The place is spacious with a large patio. Everyone eats outside along the waterfront. It is beautiful. There are torches and electric lighting. A side salad costs more than most people earn in a day ($2 US). The Cape Club is the first location where I have seen any tourist take-aways, mostly a few carved wood items. I am told by an expatriate that such marketeering on a blanket in the parking lot is good, Afterall, it demonstrates that life is getting back to normal for the country with the former reputation as being the 'Venice of West Africa'. Perhaps this is so. It is strange, however, that the goods have traveled a great distance (from Ghana) for me to buy as a keepsake about Sierra Leone.