Crap airplane food throughout the night, and a 5a.m. landing were not ideal preparation for the sunny but absolutely bloody freezing weather at Gatwick.
Driving to my parents’ house in Sussex, everything was just so tidy and sterile. The culture shock was more so than it would have been in my adopted country of France, and, driving down the green lanes and smoothly tarmacked roads of Sussex, there were NO PEOPLE ANYWHERE. No-one walking, selling, carrying things on their heads, pushing cars, laughing, waving, shaking hands, cooking, or hanging out. Just shiny new cars driving to jobs, in order to support the huge, tidy, empty houses - no actual life. And no-one shaking my hand, asking my name, or enquiring “how di body?”
After a couple of days at my parents’ and the obligatory mouth-watering curry we have every time I visit (poppadums, peshwari naan, Bombay duck, and various wonderful freshly cooked curries, from the Magna Tandoori in Arundel), I began to adjust.
An evening out in London with a meal at a Caribbean restaurant helped, too. I drank Guinness punch (mega rich drink containing Guinness, spices, cocoa, condensed milk and sometimes egg), with roti (the fajita principle, with chicken curry inside a heavy pancake. The roti dough is usually made with flour, baking soda, oil, corn meal and seasoning). My companion had ox tail stew (rich, dark and flavoursome) with rice and red peas (kidney beans) - all delicious but very filling, and massive portions.
Then it was back to my life in France
Two days later, I got a text from a French friend who knows Freetown – he asked “miss gemma! how di body?” ☺
One last word; don't go to Sierra Leone without a guide, or at least experience of travelling in Africa. The country is officially 'encouraging' tourists (so why are visas so hard to obtain?), but there is nothing to help anyone find their way around or understand the place. Like no signs in the airport and no roadsigns in Freetown.