Less than one hour after arriving at Dorset Alex's very European house in Murray Town, the two of us are sat in the front of Doctor Jack's company 4x4 on our way to an out-of-town pool party. Jack was working down at one of the slums today, giving advice to pregnant women and treating kids with early symptoms of malaria. "It is shocking down there. The rubbish is collecting by the waterfront and they are just building straight on top of it."
We drive out past ‘posh’ Aberdeen and Lumley Beach in the West End and hit a section of open road before Goderich. The clue to where we are going for our party is in the second part of the name: i.e. 'rich'. We pull up in a cloud of dust at the guarded entrance to a huge compound. Once inside I realise that I have left Africa behind and been transported all the way to...Malaga. My head is spinning. I am swimming in a pool surrounded by tens of millions of dollar’s worth of property. The pool party is being hosted by some affluent Argentines and Lebanese. I am told that a one-bedroom apartment here will set you back $30,000 per year in rent. It all seems so very out of place; a tiny microcosm of expat Spain transported thousands of miles from southern Europe to West Africa. To be honest though, I am as happy as a pig in muck. After spending two weeks feeling like an oven-baked pasty in Makeni, paddling around in this pool - beer in hand - with a cool breeze blowing in from the ocean, feels like a little slice of paradise.
Not long after it's dark I say farewell to the lovely Edna - a smart middle-class Ugandan girl I’ve been chatting to for an hour - and set off into the darkness with Jack and Alex in search of Leones. Before I came out to Sierra Leone I never would have believed you if you'd told me I would be parked up in the pitch dark, by the side of a busy Freetown roundabout, window wound down, exchanging a twenty quid note for leones with a lad in the street. But that is how things are done here. And yes it is safe and trustworthy otherwise these lads would earn themselves a bad reputation and lose the trade.
We are changing up money because we have decided to treat ourselves to dinner at the brand new Chinese restaurant on the edge of Murray Town. An hour or two of air-con is justification enough for me. What is it though with the Chinese and the concept of Vegetarianism? I specifically request the Chinese manager and ask him to please not cook or put any meat or fish of any creed or colour in my 'noodles and vegetables'. He assures me that it will be so. My vegetarian noodles come served with pork and prawn heads. The manager appears surprised to discover that pork is not a vegetable. I must also mention that the 'Chinese wine' we order with our meal is the hands down winner of the 'world's most awful (no, rancid) alcoholic drink I have ever tasted'. The three of us do have a bloody good laugh though. Fortunately, Alex has a bottle of twelve-year-old Scotch at home that more than compensates for the Chinese debacle. We end up sitting up into the early hours discussing the past and present until far too much good quality whiskey has been consumed and it is clearly time for us both to crash.