The boring stuff

You’ll quickly become aware of how much electricity items use – fridges and kettles especially.

A good fridge-freezer that’s able to maintain cool temperatures during blackouts is invaluable, as you’re unlikely to want to turn on the generator just to power the fridge.

Food

Chances are you’ll be cooking using a gas cylinder. Ours lasted four months before it ran dry, mid-lasagne, with guests on the way. Plenty of people employ a “chop-chop” lady to prepare meals. Sierra Leonean specialties include fiery smoked fish stews with sweet potato or cassava leaves (a bit like spinach), satay-style peanut (“grannat”) stew with a whole fish and black bean (cowpea) casseroles.

Jollof rice is a sweeter, less spicy alternative and Western-style dishes include noodles with little pieces of hotdog sausage, pasta with mild sauces and fried rice with luncheon meat. Omelettes are also popular.

Eating out Western-style varies from delicious fish kebabs or lobster and chips at the beach to dining at the many Lebanese-run restaurants. Alongside the ubiquitous shawarmas and kebabs, you can generally find lasagnas, curries and even Chinese-dishes, although quality varies. Fear not, burgers are available when you’re feeling that way out.

If you’re brave, buy a bag of fiery, tasty goat meat from the roadside. Small cookeries also offer Sierra Leonean classics with heaps of rice with sauce, charged by the size of the plate.

Domestic chores

We have a washing machine but it’s strictly ornamental as it doesn’t appear to work. Most people pay someone to wash their clothes by hand. It’ll be done in cold water with some “power detergent” but all but the most drastically stained clothes come back surprisingly clean. You’ll notice how immaculate children appear on their way to school, while folk in general are much better turned out than we are. A testament to Salonean elbow grease.

Electric irons suck juice. I’ve seen the local tailor using a charcoal-filled iron but unless you’re a dab hand with these it’d be best to find clothes that don’t crease too easily.

Provided you can afford it you can, of course, employ a cleaner/nanny/home help to worry about these things for you. That means both being comfortable having someone else in your house and getting a recommendation. Sierra Leoneans tell us that theft is rife although, thankfully, we’ve yet to experienced it.

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