I’ve immersed myself in normal today. I helped out at Frog’s school summer fayre, we went to our village pub for tea, I bathed the girls and put them to bed.
As I was breastfeeding Baby Girl (note: pack a breast pump for Sierra Leone in case of Huge Boob issues) I relished the sight of her big blue eyes looking into mine and, for once, didn’t try to hurry along bedtime. It’s going to be the last one in a little while.
Tomorrow I say goodbye to my girls and travel to a hotel at Heathrow. Then, at ridiculous o’clock on Sunday morning I’ll be boarding a plane with blogging bud Annie from Fable and Folk and Kate from World Vision to head to Sierra Leone. We fly to Brussels first, then get a plane from there to Freetown. We arrive in Freetown around 5pm before getting a water taxi, then a car to Bo – around five hours away.
It’s all a bit surreal to be honest. One minute I’m in my safe little bubble in a village in Devon, immersed in mum life, writing pretty features about interiors for glossy magazines and websites, browsing cushions online, then the next I’m in Sierra Leone.
I don’t blame you if you’re rolling your eyes at this post. Yeah, yeah, just another blogger going on a “life changing trip”. Whatever. So you’re a mum? Big deal that you’re leaving your kids for a few days. People do it all the time.
But, for me, this isn’t a normal, everyday occurrence. I’ve never been to Africa. The last big adventurous thing I did was travel to India, Sri Lanka and Thailand on my own 10 years ago. Back then I didn’t have two little girls to say goodbye to, or a husband to miss while I was away. I didn’t think about missed school runs or worry that I’d left enough food in the freezer.
At the school fayre today I was met with well wishes from parent mates and teachers who knew about my trip – anyone who hasn’t heard it from me has been forced to listen all about it from my five year old. I got home to a phone call from my mother in law, text from my parents, and a couple of messages from lovely friends. It all feels a bit more real now. I’m going to Sierra Leone. SHIT, I’m going to SIERRA LEONE!
I felt nervous earlier this evening. I still don’t feel fully prepared – still got to get my dollars from the Bureau de Change and pick up an adapter plug. Still got to get those mini bottles of shampoo and some (apparently highly recommended) baby wipes and chewing gum. My inner Monica has been madly waving her organisation stick and I’ve printed off all my travel documents and put them in a labelled folder. Man, I’m such an effing loser. What a travel noob.
The NLM has been oh-so-laid back about this trip, as per. When we first discussed the possibility of me going he was supportive, admitting that it was probably the last thing he’d want to ever do, but that he understood my own motivations for wanting to go. He’s mainly taken the piss out of me this week. Mimicking my ridiculous last-minute stresses.
But as I write this he’s looking at Google images of Bo in Sierra Leone, watching YouTube videos about the languages spoken in Sierra Leone, and checking distances of places I’ll be travelling on Google maps. He told me he was proud of me and that he’d miss me. As a man of few words, this is a big deal. It would be enough to make me cry, if I wasn’t so bloody sure he’d take the mickey out of that too. (“Ya bloody Jessie. What ya cryin’ for!”)
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing stories of the amazing work done to rebuild communities since the Ebola crisis. I’m hoping that if you’re reading this you might come back to see what happens on the trip, and hopefully share some of these stories. Whether it’s a share on Facebook, a retweet on Twitter, a comment on an Instagram pic or a little message on Snapchat (I’m mollyjforbes over there) then it will all mean SO MUCH.
If you’re still not sure why I’m going, then read this post I wrote for my girls when they’re old enough to understand.
OK. I think I’m ready now.
Bye. See you from Sierra Leone!