Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Bureh Beach, Sierra Leone, January 2-3, 2019

I didn't sleep very well - worrying about my phone I guess.  I sat around, reading a bit, enjoying watching the waves and then went with some others for lunch.  They had crab and lobster again but I just sipped my water.  I spent an hour or so playing in the waves and visiting.  While we were sitting on the beach, a couple young guys came out of nowhere and motioned that they were thirsty.  I told the group to hang on to their stuff and soon someone from the camp came over and chased them away.  He said exactly what happened to me.  They come over, asking for food and when you're distracted, grab you stuff and run!  Bastards!

I really enjoy our group but they are an interesting lot.  So many seem to feed off gossip - who said what to whom and then they get worked up over things that happen that aren't any of their business.  Nienke and Jono were very upset this afternoon because they received an ultimatum email from Will and Karen.  There are 9 people away for different reasons.  They're upgrading in different hotels because some hate camping - (are you serious?  This is a 95% camping trip!).  Some choose to spend their money that way, and others want to go where we aren't going such as Conakry -a bigger than normal shithole I've heard.  Who knows why else.  January 1, when out of those staying here only Tall Brian and Melissa had wifi, Will and Karen received an email from "the majority" of the group talking about the unprofessionalism of Nienke and Jono and other things.  So, after supper, we had 'the meeting' we should have had a couple of weeks ago so we could air our concerns.  In the email, Jono was accused of drinking and driving which he has honestly never done.  At the Sierra Leone border he apparently bought 2 beer - both for Nienke yet someone thought he was drinking. Jono was devastated by this untruth!  People also complained about their 'tone' with us; that they're not professional and don't treat us like the 'adults' we are (supposed) to be.  I have noticed a huge improvement in Jono the last couple of weeks.  He used to rant, rave and yell at us for stupid things we did.  Recently he spoke very professionally about our water use and the reasons for the rules.  So tonight, all sorts of incidents were mentionned and numerous people spoke.  One big thing that bothers lots is Nienke and Jono's drinking.  They get drunk fairly often, yet said tonight they've only been drunk twice.  When they're drunk they argue and Christmas night Nienke spent the night in another room sleeping on the floor.  Their relationship seems very tumultuous to me and I think it's a lot of work for Nienke to try to keep Jono in line.  Some people explained the issues as being about customer service - we are 'customers' and they are working for us so they have to behave in a professional manner.  I get that but the problem with that is they never have any 'down time': they're with us 24/7.  For me, what they do in their personal lives is not my business.  Many on the truck though think it is.  I don't see this trip as a business/customer relationship.  I see it more as a family where Jono and Nienke are the leaders (parents) and we are the kids.  Someone has to make and enforce the rules and that's their job except those who break the rules don't seem to want to be called on it, just like children sometimes are.  One day, one woman was on cook group yet she did not discuss with the other 2 members what they were going to cook nor their shopping plan.  She went off to visit an island.  Cook group usually starts making supper at 5 pm.  She arrived back at 6:20 and was told she would have to make breakfast in the morning by herself.  She started screaming and crying and ran away!  Ya, we are all adults!  Someone stepped in to support her, obviously not knowing the full story and another argument ensued.  Are you kidding me?  Another man kept using the water to wash his hands - we have a wash up bowl for that and it appeared like he would intentionally turn the tap on and waste water.  Water is very precious and he was told a few times not to do what he was doing and then got angry when he was 'reprimanded'.  Another man took his own bottle of alcohol into a bar and was reprimanded by Jono.  Could you do that where you live?  Some took exception when Nienke accused people of 'stealing' cook group cashews- lots had been eaten from the expensive bag.  Well, if you eat something that you know isn't yours, what would you call it?  It goes on and on.  If we acted like the adults we are supposed to be, I think we would have fewer problems!  If those with concerns had spoken in private to Nienke and Jono telling them how they felt rather than let it eat them up for weeks, grumble about it constantly and let it destroy them, things might have been different.  However, some feed on this information and let it become their problem too and almost seem to enjoy it.

So at the meeting, for some, all they wanted was an apology.  An apology from Jono for past infractions which they got but somehow didn't hear because they kept on and on about it saying it wasn't sincere or was followed by a 'but'.  It reminded me of making Jane and Nico say sorry for things they'd done.  They'd blurt out the words but not really mean them.  An apology can be just words - to me, behaviour has to change other wise it's okay to keep doing the same nasty things as long as you apologize afterwards.  Jono had been much better the past couple of weeks but that didn't seem to matter.  And besides, Jono was drunk at the meeting - and that's another thing - he told us he's only been drunk twice on this trip!  Not true.  Someone told them they were functioning alcoholics!  How is that for judging?  No one disputed the fine work they do - Neinke the organizing and information finding and Jono his excellent driving which, to me, is why they're here.  Does their drinking bother me?  No, it's not my business.  Does it affect me?  No, they do their jobs well.  So why do some think they have the right to meddle in their personal lives?  Not sure but Jono resigned.  And if Jono goes, Nienke is going too and I'm not sure where this leaves us!  I expect Will will come but I can't imagine him being able to do both jobs.  Time will tell.  

This morning the group has gone into Freetown for their Nigerian visas so I am one of the few left at camp.  I enjoyed being in my room with a sort of cool breeze blowing in the window.  The fan/power stayed on an extra couple of hours so that was nice!

When I finally left my room, Nienke and Jono were still here and are definitely leaving.  They are no longer our crew and therefore we are on our own.  Brad, who is Karen's nephew, is in charge.  Will is booking a flight and will hopefully be here on the weekend but then he may need visas before we move on.  Jono learned this afternoon he has a job with a company he worked with before in Switzerland shuttling skiers from Geneva to the Chamonix and Mont Blanc region.  They're booking flights now.  

I am very sad and think things will get tougher - it will be very hard for Will to do what the two of them have been doing so that will leave us with more to do - more research into visas without Internet, much more bushcamping and camping without options which will lead to more people leaving the trip and on and on.  There is no point in trying to imagine the future.  It is best to just focus on the moment and let life play out.

I'm on cook group tomorrow so will go into Waterloo to file a police report about my phone in case I can claim it on insurance and pick up a few groceries.  Looking forward to..... The moment.

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