Renovating our home.

I had NO intentions of becoming a builder, but here I am, deep in building construction!

When we decided to move to Freetown, we weighed all the pros and cons of different living arrangements.

Should we move in with my Dad? He lived in a massive house with a huge yard – the kids would love it; he had goats; a crocodile (don’t ask why); you could walk to the beach; it would be easier to care for him if we lived together etc. etc. But – he had many dogs – no Bueno for Sheba, plus he had an open door policy with all the market women in town – they knew to bring everything to him to buy – he loved to batter to get the best prices for fresh fish, lobster, palm oil, palm wine, mangoes, DVDs, you name it … He was their best costament and he loved the company, so everyday, he would have at least 10 visitors coming in and out his house – no Bueno for us!

What about my mom’s house? I already talked about the bad road ad nauseum – no Bueno for us! What about renting a house? As fate would have it, Shekou’s dad was renting their childhood home to a British NGO whose lease was ending 6 weeks before I was supposed to be in town! The house was perfection – up Spur Road with beautiful views of the Atlantic, a cool breeze, walking distance to my Dad’s house, and most importantly, a relatively good road! Plus Shekou loved the idea of moving back into his home and having his kids do all the things he used to do – climb the trees, run around the large compound, find their way under the big storm drain covered by harvested pieces of rail tracks from when Sierra Leone had a railroad decades ago! Aside from the storm drain exploring which will NOT be happening under my watch, I loved the plan and we were very excited.

We had a plan – we were going to have it renovated to make it ours, and my beautiful and dynamic sister-in-law who is uber-talented and has impeccable taste, was going to supervise and have it ready by the time I got to town.
We had a timeline – the roof would take 1 week to replace, then the tiles and painting another week, then the grounds – we were set!
Welcome to Freetown, where things don’t exactly go according to plans! Long story short, the house was not ready for my arrival, so I ended up at my mom’s house with Sheba in tow, learning how to co-exist with my mom’s dogs, Lucky and Bruno.

The house was fabulous, and my sister-in-law had done an amazing job getting it ready. The roof was done, the tiles were replaced, kitchen was done, there were only a few plumbing and electrical things left to do, plus finishing the bathrooms, painting, and finishing the grounds – autopilot really.

My sister-in-law had to make a quick 2 week trip to London, so I needed to take over the work – all the contractors knew what to do, it would be easy!

Let’s just say, it has not been easy. I have quickly learned more than I ever need to know about electrical systems, plumbing, designing a shower floor, masonry etc. Plus, I have been well indoctrinated into the work of Sierra Leonean contractors – I have quickly learned that a bag of cement costs Le 50,000 and not Le 70,000 like the masoner said; that you have to be there to know that the truck that was sent to clear the grounds only worked for 1 hour and left to use up the petrol in the tank to do other work; that dem go was me face go up at every opportunity!

Thank God for my sister-in-law providing remote coaching from London, my father-in-law coming everyday to supervise the process and protect his fool fool Amerikin daughter-in-law from crooked contractors, and my mom and step-dad for providing immediate feedback and price-checks! Thanks to them – I am becoming a Salone builder and our home should be ready soon!


  1. I loved reading this. I’ve been involved in my fair share of construction projects at the hospitals – learned more than I thought was possible about septic tanks and water systems etc. And, sadly, yes, you do need to keep your eye on people. It’s all too easy to be taken advantage of! The house looks lovely – it will be so worth it.

  2. Lidia Pop

    As I read this I have two distinct feelings: sad for the frustration you mist experience with eery hiccup ( even, though I know you as a fast troubleshooter and result oriented leader). The second feeling is a weired ammuse ent as I recognize so much of my country of Romania’s work style and ethics in constriction industry. How similar we all are, from one end to another of the Earth! Yo are an amazing being and I can’t wait to read more about the actual real difference you make on this Earth!

  3. lola

    building is on your blood, your parents are natural builders lol. broke do add ya en all, nor join dem pan dat oh. niceven to be part of constructing your dwrlling. God bless

  4. Cheryl

    Same story for us when we built in Ghana! My hubby flew back and forth to ensure that things were on point. Two of his brother’s were supervising, and things got a little dicey for awhile. EVERYONE wanted a piece of the $$ action!

  5. Josephine Dauda

    This took me.back to when I first got to SL and I had errands running from Ministry to Ministry and would complain about the delays and red tape…my Mum and Dad were likens good experience.but I couldn’t see it then and would get frustrated but 5 years later and they were right..once you financially survive the building contractor every other supplier will feel.lile a breeze!!! Welcome home BFF!!!

    • fforna

      Hi BFF!!!! Can’t wait for you to come back! I am going to Salone college currently 🙂

  6. Lilian Abraham

    How nice for Shekou to relive his childhood watching his children grow in his backyard…priceless! With regards to the construction, that was wishful thinking on ur part that the house will be ready upon arrival..but u nor say oosai den tie cow nar dae e go eat grass so u go understand. All the same happy to know you’re settling down well!! Thx for the update

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