The Sierra Leone Presidential Elections were scheduled to take place on the 17th of November. Being a significant political event, the elections had the potential for unrest and violent outbreaks that have happened in the past. Management of our company made the executive decision to shut down operations and demobilize for the election period, while moving any remaining expat staff to Freetown. Instead of block-booking a hotel in the city, it was decided that our small group of expats would stay on Dublin Island, the largest of the three Banana Islands, not far from the coast of Freetown.
The Banana Islands, though small, have a powerful history. In the 19th century, the British Royal Navy used it as a bastion to intercept slave trading vessels. There is an old canon dated 1813, but precious little else.
We booked rooms for our group in the Banana Island Guesthouse to stay for the election period, and everyone was headed there just as Alastair and I were arriving from London. A banana boat, quite apropos, carried us from the peninsula to our destination to reunite with our pals.
The combined population on the Banana Islands is around 900 people, so the communities are very small. Our group was made up seven expats, including myself and Alastair, and me being the only female.
The guesthouse, which is essentially a small cluster of round, partitioned rooms, was rather dilapidated and not clean. The floors were covered in sand, the mattresses were wet, and rats were running rampant. Needless to say, we didn’t spend much time in our rooms. Outdoors, however, the island had a charming feel.
Swimming and walking around were our activity options, but Alastair brought a couple of dial-up internet sticks to make sure work didn’t stop completely. There is no power on the island and our electricity came from the small generator at the guesthouse that was only running sporadically.
The oppressive heat, humidity, and general discomfort sent everyone into a spin of island fever within a couple days. Look at those faces!
One afternoon, Alastair and I traipsed through the jungle to a larger beach on the other side of the island. Swimming was the only method of cooling our bodies down.
On our way back, millions of bats were making their evening commute from the caves of a smaller island nearby over to the peninsula. Streams and streams of them poured through the sky.
We did go snorkeling, but the water was never very clear, unfortunately, so I left it to Alastair and Tim to to explore the murky shallows.
The waters definitely had their share of bounty. Enormous lobsters were hauled out of the sea daily.
Although, these lobsters don’t have big front claws like their New England counterparts.
I had anticipated not having many food options on the island. Fish, lobster and fruit were in large supply, but all other ammenities had to be brought in by boat from the mainland, but, without proper refrigeration or storage, that didn’t amount to much either.
Being a vegetarian, I was limited to fruit and the items I had packed in my bags. The jar of peanut butter I brought was my saving grace. Quickly becoming tired of lobsters and fish, the guys had other meats brought over by boat, as well as a few other essentials (whiskey and beer).
Bananas, papayas, and star fruit were plentiful.
Picked ripe from the tree, these babies were delicious.
I did a face-plant into mine.
From the radio, it was clear that election day had gone peacefully. We, however, still needed to wait for the results to be announced before safely traveling back to site. It can take over a week to tally up all the votes and have an undisputed winner. Lo and behold, Alastair and I had to leave our group early and head back to Freetown to take care of some business. Several days on that secluded island had felt like months.
I wasn’t sad to say goodbye to the rats that tormented us in the night, but I had enjoyed our stay. Without many creature comforts, it becomes easier to appreciate the little things, and Banana Island had endeared itself to me. I think our small team did some real bonding, and will now have an experience like none other to remember.
Nevertheless the running threat prevails: if you are bad, you’ll be sent to Banana Island!