Freetown, the capitol of Sierra Leone was founded by a Nova Scotian abolitionist in 1792 and was named by freed Canadian and Caribbean slaves. The city has a population of 1.2 million and is equally divided amongst Christians and Muslims. The most widely spoken language is Krio, a tongue made up of a combination of English, Portuguese and native tribal languages. Freetown is the home to the oldest university in Africa, Fourah Bay College.
Freetown sits on a peninsula and has the world’s second largest natural harbor. Because Freetown was built on the sides of several mountains (where the name of the country emanates, being named “Lions Mountain”, by the Portuguese), there is not proper land for construction of an airport. The airport lies across the bay next to the town of Lungi. To arrive in Freetown, from the airport, there are 4 options. 1) Driving, by vehicle around the large bay, which takes over 3 hours. 2) Private helicopter service, at $120 for a 5 minute ride. 3) Private speed boat crossing costing $50 for a 30 minute ride (it is reputed that once a year a speedboat capsizes). 4) Lastly, and most frequently used, is the “local” ferry service. One US dollar for a foot passenger and $4 US for a vehicle, guarantees an efficient and reliable journey, but, to be kind, the ferry is not of “modern” design.
Surg+Restore, as well as ReSurge/Africa, have been fortunate enough to have made the acquaintance of Mr. Rudi Bruns, the Swiss consult to Sierra Leone. He has been a gracious supporter and supplies much needed connections and assorted other services to both of these non-profit foundations. Many times he has been kind enough to send a member of his staff, Abdul to meet us at the Freetown airport. Representing Surg+Restore on this current trip to Africa are myself, Dr. R. Scott Brown, an anesthesiologist and Ed Zancanella, an OR nurse from Portland, OR. Abdul has always been easily recognized, as he wears a red baseball cap with the Swiss flag. After arrival, on this particular occasion, Abdul, nor the Swiss baseball cap were anywhere to be found. Both of us, on this trip had been put in contact with a Sierra Leonine who lives in Portland, Or. His name is Dominic Yambasu and he has started a non-profit, which funds public education in Sierra Leone, called Charity House. In an extremely generous act, he had arranged for his nephew, Harry Cowan, an immigration official who live in Freetown, to meet us at the Lungi Airport. Fortunately for us, Harry had made previous arrangements to personally greet and provide us with taxi service to the Lungi Hotel, a short 7 minute ride from the airport. After getting settled with our accommodations, our man from the Swiss embassy, Abdul showed up, in a bit of a panic from not finding us at the airport, sans red Swiss baseball cap. Yes, the problem was easily identified.