Oct 17, 2019
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My First Trip to Africa: Sierra Leone, Freetown – Kono

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I all the time wished to go to Africa. Like most Afro-Individuals, I grew up in an setting idolizing the whole lot, Africa. As soon as I bought there, I understand I Knew nothing about Africa. My maternal grandmother made it clear that the whole lot Africa is finest. Granny didn’t, nonetheless, spend time disparaging the accomplishments of different cultures.

Rising up in Nicaragua’s Latino and black cultures. And for me, there isn’t a differentiating between these two ethnicities. Latinos are blacks, and black are Latinos. However this isn’t so for everybody who finds favor with one group.

In Africa, these distinctions will amplify. Making a surreal world the place an elite minority will deal with different with detached. Typically stereotype can clarify issues If it was simple as black and white. Nevertheless, issues are seldom black or white.


The same old stereotype cannot clarify Africa’s ethnic variations; most folks’s look darkish to me, however they’re variations; variations that return for hundreds of years. The Sierra Leoneans requested me typically, “are you Nigerian,” “American” or “Hausa,” these normally got here up. Chief Morsay outlined Biko and me as “white.” He advised us that we’re foreigners identical to folks with white pores and skin. His index finger was rubbing the highest of his hand for emphasis. When Afro-Individuals do that in a dialog, we all know that it is an impediment akin to “Whites Solely.” “You are not Africans,” he mentioned. In Africa, it issues the place you come from, or from what facet of the river; within the case of the Congo’s Bushong and the Lele ethnic group; what facet of the river makes a distinction socially politically and financially.

However none of that was on my thoughts. I used to be excited to go to Africa. Regarding my grandmother’s Afrocentric beliefs; I wished to see for myself the grandeur of the continent that launched civilization and the whole lot that makes us stunning: The melanin, the curves, rhythm, the meals. An inventory of protection mechanism, my shallowness used to fight the fixed inflow of American racist propaganda, the place the whole lot is about colour, and black is the shade that faints all colours.


Consequently, racism is the lens via which most Afro-Individuals view the world. It is not a distorting lens; for essentially the most half, the lens is correct; though limiting. Focusing solely on the one view. In a world the place human beings discover myriad of the way to segregate each other, racism makes this division potential.

It’s clear that the Belgians of King Leopold II acted in essentially the most racist, inhuman approach in the direction of the folks of the Congo. However in the end Mobutu Sese Seko of the Ngbandi ethnic group arrested Patrice Lumumba of the Tetela ethnic group. I do not suppose that ethnicity was the trigger for Mobutu Sese Seko transgression in the direction of Lumumba. Thomas Sankara and Blaise Compaoré, each are from the Mossi ethnic group of Burkina Faso. However identical to King Leopold II, greed was the rationale for Mobutu’s treachery in the direction of Patrice Lumumba and the destruction of numerous Congolese lives. Compaoré did the identical in Burkina Faso securing privileges for a ruling minority; protecting energy on the expense of Thomas Sankara and the folks of Burkina Faso. Utilizing corruption, expropriation even international help to take care of energy. With no state to reply to, these males have been no completely different than King Leopold II within the inhumane remedy of their countrymen.

In Sierra Leone, the (RUF) will implement the identical, slicing off limbs and advert systematic rape and homicide; dispersing 1000’s and enslaving the inhabitants to extract diamonds for his or her private wealth.


However poverty is a relative factor. Having grown up within the Caribbean and Latin America. I used to be accustomed to 3rd world actuality. However none of this ready me for Africa.


The quantity on conversations goes up the nearer you get to the African departure lounge. Issues are direct. Laughter strengthened; the sucking of the enamel is loud, the grins massive.

The aircraft landed in Lungi Worldwide airport to an amazing refrain of cheers and applauses. Like a Hollywood emancipation scene, Africans are joyful and grateful to be house. You possibly can really feel their pleasure. I too was excited, to greet the African air. Stepping out of the airplane, I discovered the humidity acquainted. What was completely different, was to look right into a crowd and seeing one shade of black folks. I attempted to not look shocked; I fake I have been right here earlier than. The Africans checked out me like if I have been right here earlier than too.

The tarmac and runway are large, like all airports. However at Lungi you do not see the buses, vans or the strolling tunnel defending you from inclement climate. All the things is open and huge because the sky. I did not see industrial airplanes or enterprise plane; simply empty tarmac with a far far-off blue-green forest horizon with no buildings in sight.

Strolling into the slight immigration constructing was a shock, no crowds! I believed this unusual for a global airport. One way or the other, I believed they may be connecting flights to the opposite a part of Africa. Solely the individuals who will probably be boarding on the identical aircraft in path to Liberia. Immediately as you enter the constructing, you see some outdated trend cubicles with trendy fingerprint recognition machines. Immigration officers have been simple and fast. They ask for passport and yellow vaccination card. Welcome to Sierra Leone!

The folks of Sierra Leone are pleasant; they’re beneficiant with their consolation zone. They greet you, contact you gently with a standard customized.

Ready for our baggage, I used to be attracted to 2 giant, very spectacular, standing picket sculptures. Two motion figures carved from a single tree trunk. Nobody paid these any thoughts. They stroll by them like nuisance African memento. I all the time appreciated the eye to element of African artwork; there’s a consideration for the viewer, the wearer, and dealing with of artifacts. This affiliation of welcoming artistically with dance, texture, meals and colours was for me African arts performance.

Though very spectacular, I didn’t know on the time; these two picket sculptures will symbolize the end result of my African inventive impression.

Leaving the airport, we see an indication with our names. Our host Chernor, we name him Cherry, prepare to have Lamin greet us and prepare the bus tickets that may take us to the seaside and the ferry to Freetown. Lamin works for an organization that assists vacationers to Sierra Leonne. Having somebody on the bottom that speaks, Krio was calming. Krio is a greater bargaining language; exchanging cash is aggressive, some notes have preferences. So there’s room for saving should you can cut price in Krio.

Outdoors, they’re younger males promoting bus tickets together with Sim Playing cards. They’re aggressive, however not pushy. There’s lots of money in sight constantly exchanging arms. We anticipate the air situation mini buses to fill with passengers. The ferry is just not far-off, a couple of mile. But it surely takes about ten minutes drive to get there. The street is incorrect; I believed that this being the way in which to the airport it may be in higher care, however no. It was simply the begging of the numerous examples of neglect and corruption that the folks of Sierra Leone stay with daily.

The seaside is massive and clear; I discover this as a result of in all places else appears to be litter with particles. I see some modest swiftly constructed shanties. I used to be searching for colourful fishing boats however didn’t see any. They’re babies, taking part in with torn and soiled western garments. They paid us no thoughts. Presently the little wharf was filled with the passenger from the aircraft, ready for the ferry; baggage and other people underneath a picket hut, with an armed guard. We waited for a number of hours. It will likely be sunset earlier than they referred to as our numbered tickets, the small ferry made a number of journeys transporting us safely to Freetown.

The boat journey takes lower than an hour to cross the ocean estuary arriving in Freetown at evening. The view was darkish with no figuring out options to see. Inside, our host Cherry and his driver Mohamed are there ready. They picked us out of the group instantly earlier than anybody presents to help. Lamin had despatched pictures. Cherry made certain that Mohamed will get our baggage. Cherry greeted us with an enormous smile, glowing eyes, on a vivid spherical pleasant face. He instantly requested us in regards to the flight and are we hungry. He mentioned he has prepare dinner meals house, “it may be too spicy for us,” he mentioned. So if we like, we are able to exit to get some meals. We go for the spicy meals; it was very late for our jetlag our bodies to exit. The streets in Freetown, at nighttime, are jammed full of distributors promoting the whole lot. None of it seems to be interesting to me. Freetown simply would not look clear. And this can be a shock. A Massive shock!

We left the wharf on a two-lane paved street lit with occasional avenue lamps. Mohamed is targeted on his process whereas Cherry does the speaking. I am glad he’s. The street retains getting crowded the nearer you get to city. They’re a lot of babies out promoting stuff, something. I see a lot of bake good and fruits. All the things seems to be hire. Issues really feel unusual, anachronistic, a bit misplaced, like if I’ve traveled again in time. The folks do not appear frightened in regards to the visitors. The road is abuzz with African music. And the persons are simply transferring with goal in what looks as if a chaotic order.


We journey on paved roads all the way in which as much as School Highway in Godrich. Then we flip proper. And Mohamed slows to a crawl; the street now unpaved turns into a collection of hills and gullies slowly main as much as the following turns, just like the bus journey from Lungi to the seaside. There will probably be extra moments like this. Mohamed is making an attempt to not have the underside of the automotive drag on a hill, patiently he turns. Like if he has completed this a lot of time.


The automotive got here to a cease at a big steel door, about 10 toes excessive. Surrounded by fencing simply as excessive with damaged bottles cemented on the highest. We’re three turns off the primary street, among the homes have this barrier. Loads do not; some homes are simply containers of corrugated scraps steel wooden and cardboard put collectively. There’s a sense that Freetown was not all the time like this. These dwellings naked the scars and the stays of political corruption and a vicious, inhumane civil struggle.

At Cherries house, he introduces us to his uncle Mohamed, his sister Mimona and his “Home Boys.” Cherry has two “Home Boys” and a “Home Woman.” At first, I believed he was speaking about his kids, however no, that is what they name the servants or assist. Though they’re greater than servants, they should be beneficial by a member of the family. They name you “Sa” like yessa. Like I mentioned, It feels such as you’re again in time.

Mimona positioned a big bowl of “krain krain,” on the desk. Cassava leaf pounded and shredded with sizzling peppers added to the pot of fish and boiled Jazmine rice on the facet. It was sizzling; that they had a superb giggle watching our faces get vivid. Though very spicy, it was scrumptious. The rice was useful calming the krain krain’s warmth. We wanted one thing to drink. Small baggage litter Sierra Leone. This evening whereas consuming sizzling Krain Krain we have launched these ubiquitous waterbags. In keeping with the water mission “Infections and parasites, most present in contaminated water, result in the biggest explanation for demise in Sierra Leone.”

After a really lengthy journey, the mellow dance of Mosquito Smoke Coils, I used to be feeling drained. I wanted a shower. Reacquainting myself with these norms of the Caribbean and Latin America: The open bathe and chilly water. Ensuring to not drink the water from the pipes throughout my bathe. I went to sleep in Africa.

The following day I noticed a lot of kids some in uniform. The faculties are out early for the little ones. Schooling in Sierra Leone is legally required. However a scarcity of faculties and lecturers has made implementation unimaginable the by-product of corrupt establishments plaguing this nation. I noticed a gaggle of three strolling on the street with a basket on their heads. They give the impression of being 5 or 6, too small to be strolling in a busy metropolis by themselves.


I noticed an individual on the again of a bike balancing a door. They’re, all the time males, driving just a little reckless swishing out and in of visitors on bikes with unstrapped helmets. Some carry greater than two passengers; I’ve seen 4 and 5 together with infants. They’re a lot of bikes; folks use them as taxis. Taxis have routes like buses. The DDR had a superb thought for the younger combatants to turned of their AK 47 for Honda path bike taxi. Though a lot of their raped victims, and amputees, wouldn’t suppose so. Freetown is a brave place dealing with a troublesome peace.


That Evening the darkish room began to maneuver. The curtains transfer like a ghost getting into the room with a moaning sound that bought louder. The wind started to accentuate, roaring and transferring the curtains vigorously. It was the annual dry Harmattan winds of the Sahara, making their seasonal journeys over West Africa. I used to be trying ahead to them since I examine it in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s guide “Half of a Yellow Solar.” I questioned how all these corrugated shanties have been bearing. The winds have been as intense as a class one hurricane; I used to be settling for a protracted evening of wind and noise. But it surely completed as shortly because it began. The following morning, I bought as much as what would be the acquainted energy outage. Outdoors, on the porch, the view jogged my memory of my childhood in Bluefields, Nicaragua’ Caribbean coast, with massive lush, blue-green mango timber. That shades the blue sky stress-free the solar’s warmth just like the sundown after a protracted day. I used to be shocked. Nothing appeared misplaced from the Harmattan winds. Bushes have been standing, and branches didn’t litter the bottom.


With the electrical energy and water all the time going out. We use rainwater from tanks. Everybody drinks water from the plastic sachet, on the market in all places. Fuel mills serenade the neighborhood together with the odor of cooking smoke.

Our conversations with Cherry and uncle Mohamed centered on the politics of Sierra Leone and the devastating civil struggle. They are saying that the general public from the nation are within the metropolis searching for work. Many ladies now in Freetown noticed a special, extra emancipated way of life, the place unwilling to return to the nation. “Nation life is difficult,” say Cherry.

Corruption, the decade-long struggle are among the causes for the collapse. The financial insurance policies that make the importation of foodstuffs cheaper devastated the native farming and younger males who could be farming are searching for diamonds and trapped in a vicious circle, making import merchandise crucial and poverty inevitable.


Most the massive grocery shops in Freetown appears to be personal by Syrians or Lebanese trying folks (my stereotyping). In one of many grocery retailer. In each Isle, a Syrian particular person was trying watchful down the Isle. And one other Syrian particular person sitting vigilantly behind the cashier, a younger black lady. Through the struggle, the Syrians have been a goal of elimination.


It takes a very long time to drive via the jammed packed streets of Freetown. A number of persons are promoting one thing, something. You could find something on the market on the streets of Freetown; it looks as if everyone seems to be on the road: Males, ladies with infants tied to their backs, kids. And at occasions, many occasions, it seems to be sorrowful, like surviving is their solely concern. It made me really feel grateful for the place I stay. People listed below are struggling; it is considerably unusual as a result of the whole lot they want is on the market on the streets. And their mineral rich nation able to offering for all their wants. Conversely, I noticed the identical darkish complexion one after the opposite! Block after block, mile after mile, hour after hours, day after day, working, the identical darkish pores and skin; this made really feel grateful to go to Africa.

The following day we journey to the province of Kono to satisfy the Chief. It is a lengthy drive. Alongside the way in which I see Chinese language males constructing a brand new street. Paramount Chiefs, due to divine proper, owns all of the land in a specific area; they’re many chiefdoms. The Chiefs decides who will get what. In case you’re not from the identical tribe, you’ll most likely will not get land from the Chief. However for essentially the most half, Chief will allow you to use the property. Chief Morsay was sort. Alongside together with his African-American daughter Sia, an sincere businesswoman with a form streak. Sia donates her time and assets to appropriate injustices whatever the social norms. Her entrance door typically filled with neighborhood kids taking part in along with her kids’s toys. They know that Sia will feed them. We witness a gaggle of highschool women asking for sponsorship. Due to her charitable popularity, Sia will get many of those. The Chief explains that this creates confusion. Issues have their place in Africa. However Sia is making adjustments, and her father is listening. They share a mutual respect.

We bought to Kono within the night. After some pleasant chat and introductions. The Chief took us round to see his city. Kono is much from Freetown however seemed simply as miserable. It was darkish, with no streetlights and plenty of diamond sellers. Nevertheless, even in darkness, Kono is pleasant, the folks spoke and have been excited to see the Chief. His character is pleasant. However, you could not see, like an influence outage. Did I’m wondering why, why a lot poverty? Why would not the federal government maintain important providers?


In entrance of Chief Morsay unpaved house, bikes move loaded with three to four peoples; generally with bundles of lengthy grass for bedding. The blue smoke hangs within the heat air, morning, midday and evening. Africans are cooking with charcoal furnaces, I see them on the market on the facet of the street.

The Chinese language are on the brink of lay down asphalt on this a part of Kono; It is dusty, a combination of brown and grey mud and free gravel. Outdoors the whole lot is roofed with mud. Folks stroll up and down more often than not transporting water. I see a lot of goats, geese, geese, and chickens strolling like members of the village.

Nobody pays the animals any consideration. Automobiles are aware to not hit them. They’re no visitors cops or crossing guards. There’s a fixed honking of horns; drivers honk folks they’re about to move. Nobody is in a rush. Youngsters stroll holding one another’s arms.

Every now and then an enormous lumbering truck will go by with muddy wheels. Some roads are like little lakes, with folks washing garments and taking a shower.

Within the village, they use mud bricks to construct properties. Persons are exterior doing chores. Males are standing round guarding bikes ready for a fare.


Sia and the Chief took us to a village the place they’re planning to construct a hospital. They inform us the mortality fee is excessive. It is a harmful to get sick right here. Driving into this space is troublesome. The village chief praises Sia and provides her a blessing.

Sierra Leone has the very best fee of maternal mortality on the planet. Una Mullally reviews from the Bonthe District within the rural southwest, the place teen being pregnant charges are excessive, and requirements are scarce.

They may take us to see the mining of alluvial diamonds and coltan. The sight is so spectacular it is laborious to explain. Maybe a whole bunch of individuals, males, and girls mining particular person plots on high of a hill; with hand instruments. Employees transferring up and city like and an ant colony. You possibly can hear many languages spoken. The work seems to be laborious.


I used to be amazed to see two girls panning for gold within the brown river. They have been joyful to display. I used to be entertaining the concept that I am going to see gold, however probably not. However after a few swirls, identical to that the pan had specks of shining gold. I seemed round, and all I noticed is a forest. The women with gold of their arms don’t have anything to indicate for it. Over time they most’ave generate 1000’s of {dollars}.


The folks of Sierra Leone are sort. The SUV we drove has a battery downside; it is not going to begin in a single day. The boys who come to assist arrived with a wire. Not a jumper cable however with a wire peeled on the ends. I believed this was very harmful. And why there is no jumper cable and why this course of is the choice. Recycled water bottles full of gasoline are on the market on the facet of the street. They bump for gasoline with an vintage hand-crank so outdated that I by no means even have seen it within the motion pictures.


We drove again to Freetown; it seems to be lots dirtier that the nation. I do not suppose they choose up trash right here. Though they most get rid of the rubbish someplace. I noticed a burning heap of rubbish. I could not be certain. However I believe it was the dump. It did not look that completely different than the opposite blocks. Aside from the smoke. However I child you not; Sierra Leone is filled with trash and other people shouting at one another, not in a impolite approach. In case you’re gentle spoken, no person will hear you in Sierra Leone.


I used to be speaking to the “boy” Muhammad, he isn’t a “boy,” that is a cultural norm. Muhammad will flip 27 this month. He’s a pleasant one who treats folks with respect. I requested him “how a lot he will get paid?” He does lots round the home, in addition to drives in all places. To my shock, he advised me that, “this isn’t a paying job,” he mentioned it was his obligation to be respectful to his elder, and that is what he’s doing. He mentioned his uncle suggest him to come back right here. He mentioned he hopes to be within the place to do the identical for others.

We made a cease at Mohammad village; he was joyful to drive move each farm, waving at his neighbors. We went to his uncle’s farm to get a goat for supper. Mohammed was exhausted, though he would not say it. He is been driving for hours. The chief negotiated for us a superb fee with a colleague for an in a single day lodge. He didn’t lengthen this to Mohammad. He advised him that the place has a safe compound that he can sleep within the automotive. Or he can keep within the employees quarters. I believed for certain he was going to take the quarters, however to my shock, he slept within the automotive. Though unusual to us, Mohammed just like the Chief understands that everybody has a spot in Africa. Mohammed mentioned that in Africa all you must do is be respectful and pray.

A number of the root causes of the battle lay within the marginalization of younger folks by the attitudes of elders and conventional leaders.

Conventional establishments, managed by the village elite and courtroom chairmen “paying themselves” via arbitrary and extreme fines.

Exploitation of the labor of youth via customary regulation is a long-standing observe in Sierra Leone and the broader area. Jim Crow was not only a racist establishment. It was a system that exploited labor.


My ideas, nonetheless, was for tomorrow’s supper. Cherry will carry somebody to slaughter and butcher the goat for dinner. Goats are in all places within the nation. Cherry mentioned that they all the time return to their pen and other people by no means steal them.


It is unhappy how soiled this place is. I noticed a person sweeping the sidewalk. He had a few piles of trash. It seemed like he took it upon himself to maintain his little nook of the street clear. However the trash was simply to the facet. And the folks have been already stepping on it.

The persons are very pleasant. Regardless of all of the stuff they should promote. Nobody is chasing you to purchase one thing. However should you select to purchase one thing, they arrive dashing with a competing cut price. I believed strolling at evening may give me a brand new perspective on Sierra Leone, it did. It made me really feel extra depressed how unhappy nearly all of the persons are residing.


You do see a couple of costly vehicles. Right here they hire an SUV for $100 US a day. You see costly fits on the market on the sidewalk. They’re so many individuals promoting that you could’t see the buildings. All, a black financial system. Nobody pays taxes. The nation is broke.

Some folks also have a police escort an officer strolling with a machine gun. I’ve to remind myself that this place simply bought true a brutal civil struggle. A number of the younger males might’ve been youngster troopers.

The folks with amputated legs and arms look worst off. 1$US right here is about 7,500.00 Leones on the streets. Cherry tells me that neighboring Liberia is worst and that the folks from Liberian and Guinea come to Sierra Leone to work as a result of it is lots higher.


They’re indicators reminding civil servant that taking bribes is a criminal offense. By now, I could not blame them. They simply do not receives a commission sufficient. And the devaluation of their forex is not any assist. When the Governments cannot pay its debt, they print cash. By Legislation, The Central Financial institution is answerable for regulating the monetary sector. If, the Governor of The Central Financial institution could be courageous sufficient to criticize spendings. He ought to do not forget that his successor in 1980 Sam Bangura, criticized Siaka Stevens’s insurance policies for being profligate. Sam Bangura physique was thrown from the highest flooring of the central financial institution constructing onto Siaka Stevens Avenue.


The brutal civil struggle in Sierra Leone didn’t result in institutional adjustments. A minority elite nonetheless controls the nation and is intensifying their political energy. The state all however stays absent. The democratic election 2007 return to energy the APC, the occasion of Siaka Stevens. Though Ernest Bai Koroma did not have an affiliation with Siaka Stevens, different members in his occasion did. Two of Siaka Stevens sons Bockari Ok Stevens Ambassador to america and, Jengo Stevens particular advisor to the president and Ambassador to Germany. Lack of political centralisation, the folks curiosity, makes this election simply as risky because the democratic election of 1971.


I just like the meals in Sierra Leone, particularly combined with the recent peppers. However my abdomen was beginning to flip. The climate is gorgeous not too sizzling. Nevertheless, Freetown is a metropolis that I used to be prepared to go away. By now even the noise air pollution was bothersome. I attempted desperately to purchase a memento. However the whole lot on the market was an import. I used to be searching for a home made doll. There have been none to see. All dolls are the plastic MATTEL kind. Cherry took us round to search out genuine African memento. I noticed some stunning African material. They’re all imported from China. The textile trade in Africa is all however gone. A budget Chinese language import makes it troublesome to compete. At first, it was simple to establish pretend African material made in China. However their expertise has improved. The batik and Kente material look stunning. It is difficult and costlier to get hand-dyed cotton batiks from Ghana and The Gambia. With an infinite donation of garments to Africa, they too are struggling to outlive.


The bargaining was intense. When a vendor quoted me a value, one other vendor would beat it. If I take a look at a specific colour or type, one other will present me related. Quickly they’re going to get a really feel for what you are trying. As soon as Cherry got here on the seen talking Krio, the costs drop much more. His eyes will bulge in shock as he sucks his enamel and shouts Eh! I ask for and African doll. The seller mentioned he would get one. He got here again with brown MATTEL. I advised him I wished one made in Africa. He mentioned he has one, however I should come by tomorrow. I am certain he would have created one over the evening.


We bought prepared to go away. Lamin met us at Lungi Airport once more. I used to be shocked; Chery advised him to examine on us. By now we have been accustomed to the sound of Krio. However I used to be glad for his help once more. He suggested to examine in and get our tickets stamped later. The aircraft is not going to depart for some time. He took us to a spot throughout the street to attend and get a drink. It was a superb time to loosen up in a courtyard underneath a tree. I requested in regards to the variety of kids on the road. He mentioned that some household from the nation would ship their youngster to a different household within the metropolis for an training. However a lot of folks exploit this or are too poor. So the ship the kid out to earn cash.


Can issues get higher? Certain they’ll. Corruption is not going to change with governing. However at the very least The federal government can present for clear water, electrical energy, training, phone, a sewage system, public well being and clear roads.

Anticipating a discount within the measurement of the Authorities sector, versatile change charges, privatization, enhancements within the effectivity of public service provision may be an excessive amount of to ask.

But when we’re asking, why not add a street community linking them to different cities within the space and the remainder of Africa, and bettering the functioning of the state anticorruption measures and, final however not least, how about some regulation and order for the federal government.

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