It was 6:45 on the first Sunday of half term and nineteen brave, intrepid and excited students and staff began the trip to Sierra Leone. fourteen hours later and the same nineteen arrived at Freetown airport (well near Freetown) with a short short 45 minutes on a crazy, rough wet boat ride along with our mountain of luggage. We were totally awe-struck by the sights and smells of the centre of Freetown as we pulled up to the jetty. As we travelled through the streets of Freetown the hustle and bustle of everyday people's lives gave us the true feeling of being in Africa. We arrived at IMATT after squeezing into a minibus with our cases, thankful for the air conditioning in the stifling heat. We then retired to our rooms to unpack and get a well earned rest.
After a slow rise in the morning we made our way to Ballanta Music Academy, where many of us will be teaching tomorrow. There we were greeted by a personalised welcome banner and a sea of friendly faces who were itching to shows how us round and and to tell us us about their instruments. there was also a young boy showing off his gymnastic prowess by doing back flips and jumping through hoops. It was great to finally see the academy which we had all worked to raise money for and see the effects this money has made. It was great to see an impressive recording studio that had been built purely from funding from Wells Cathedral School. More impressive was that it was being used by the academy to record a jingle for a mobile network to raise more money for the academy. Everyone was clearly very excited and raring to get teaching.
Loaded with mouthwatering sweets, we walked through the slum in Congo Town, one of the poorest areas of Freetown. As we began to hand the delectable goodies, we greeted with open hands and beaming smiles of the children in astonishingly neat school uniforms. So sought after we're our gifts that in a very short space of time we were totally surrounded on all sides. We exchanged names with some of them, telling them about where we come from and what we are doing in Sierra Leone. The makeshift houses and shops bordering each side of the dirt track were a reminder to us of what we are here to achieve, and also that we have a lot in our lives that we take for granted.
With our stomachs growling, we headed off to Lumley Beach, where Mr Ladley informed us of the British forces storming across the beach and forcing the rebel forces back into Liberia. This military showdown was responsible for stopping the civil war which tore the country apart. We then stopped off for lunch at 'the most respected restaurant in Freetown' to quote Mr Ladley. The food was spectacular, just what we needed to satisfy our hunger pangs. As we ate a group of street merchants laid out their wares to tempt us,
As a last minute rehearsals for tomorrow's television broadcast are continuing to the tune of 'Don't stop believing, these48 hours have proved to be a promising start to what will be the trip of a lifetime!
Henry and Jasmine