Monday, 4 April 2011

How to spot a water leak and other construction stories!

Its the dry season and March is the hottest month of the year. Meanwhile Freetown is being torn apart and being put back together again by the Seventh Chinese Railway Construction Company who are widening and improving all the major roads particularly where I live in the West end of Freetown. I’ve mentioned the clearing technique before which involved bulldozing everything in their way, fences, pylons, drains, fronts of buildings, even religious buildings have suffered and lost their front steps for example (I am wondering if the local worshippers had to pole vault into the building?). It is bizarre to see this just after it happens, like the front of a house I saw, with what remains of a bathroom, the sink and loo hanging onto the wall but the bath gone!! Just after my Birthday party last year at Senegalese, the front of the restaurant was bulldozed off but they just rebuilt it and it now only has 4 tables!

It’s amazing how the Saloneans cope with all this, they just get on with and rebuild again and very quickly. Near Leicester Road, the new road went right through a market and the stalls just kept moving around the piles of mud and rubble!!! However, this road building has been going on awhile and shiny new surfaces are starting to appear. There have been drastic consequences however to this massive improvement programme and these are NOT in order of importance:

(1) Severe water supplies and long periods without electricity in the areas nearer to the roads

(2) Lots of water leaks with the precious stuff seaping out everywhere, mixing with all the dust

(3) Enormous and frustrating traffic jams

(4) Injury and death of the construction workers, although I have never seen any statistics on this

(5) Drainage and sewage problems

You see Guma Valley Water Company trucks around town and presumably they are going out to search and fix leaks. Guma is the reservoir that supplies much of the city’s water. It can’t be hard to find a leak as its always surrounded with crowds of kids of all ages with everything from a small bucket to large 5 gallon yellow plastic containers (called rubbers???) chatting and waiting to fill up. Rarely is there trouble. Kids can charge 1000le for delivering a rubber to a ‘water customer’ which they carry on their heads. Even the smallest child can manage a bucket on their heads. There are bigger water barrels called 'Pigs feet' containers as they are used to import the tasty product! I think they take 25 gallons. I'm glad to see them with just water and not the original contents! There are public taps around the town too, as the number of houses having piped water is quite small (around 20% I think) and collecting water is a water of life and its gets harder and harder towards the end of the dry season.

I must get some photos of the colourful and time consuming process of water collection and of all the frenetic building activity as we hurtle towards the 50th Anniversary of Sierra Leone’s Independence on 27th April. The deadline is to have some of the roads completed by then. Already there are bunting and flags appearing everywhere and buildings newly painted. There's still time for more paiting before the big celebrations, but that’s for the next blog!!!


  1. Hi Carole
    A year since I was in Zambia and still missing Africa. I'm suddenly aware that althought I have been keeping up with you on facebook and this Blog I have never actually told you so......and you have commented on my fb page too! So just to say I am reading about your adventures and am really pleased you went back to SL and it all sounds so brilliant as well as hard and stressfull at times....promise to do better and write again soon. PIPPA XXXXX

  2. Hello Carole! Mi name is Evelyn, and I'm a Graphic Design student from Argentina. At this time we are making a special work about countries all over the world, kind of "what means to be German / Mexican / etc...". So, I get Serra Leone for working. I searched the web about the dos and donts of SL`s culture, but didn´t find so much. I'm wandering if you can tell me some data about it. Mostly what kind of things are porhibited by the social / politcal culture of the country.

    Well, I hope you can help me!
    Thanks a lot!

  3. Hi Carole

    I am reading your blog as I have been offered a VSO placement in Freetown as a Finance Manager at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. The placement outline included your hotmail address but I received a delivery failure when I tried it. Your time in SL sounds amazing and I wondered if you had any advice to someone contemplating a placement. My email is

    I hope life is treating you well and you are happy and prosperous wherever you are.

    Thank you