Freetown, Baby!

The Game by mabrajeux
November 30, 2010, 11:44 am
Filed under: entertainment, photos, public life, society, travels | Tags: , ,

The first time I visited Moyamba, I was bitterly disappointed not to be able to stay in the recommended guesthouse, which also doubled up as … a stadium! It’s hard to explain the feat of architecture that allowed this amazing combination, but basically the rooms are underneath the steps which overlook the gamefield…

As I’m sure you’ll understand, I was therefore incredibly excited when, on my second visit to Moyamba, I managed to bag myself a room at ‘The Stadium’! Although the TV wasn’t working, the place still provided a predictable entertainment for my evenings in town: the national Sierra Leonean football tournament involving such talented teams as Bo, Bonthe, Moyamba, etc…

All three nights I stayed in Moyamba, I was greeted, as I came home from a day-long workshop, by hundreds of locals, cheering, shouting, sucking cough drops and oranges – you don’t eat oranges in Salone, you suck the juice out of them, this being the end result:

The atmosphere is hard to describe so I’ll let the shots do the talking…


Sign of the times by jc2010sl
November 26, 2010, 6:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags:

The one upside of having a limb immobilised in plaster is that you can get people to sign it for you. We had a visitor last week and here is the message he penned:


Real Education by mabrajeux
November 26, 2010, 10:36 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

As I’ve mentioned in this blog at times, I’ve been working for a few months at a free secondary school in Lumley, Freetown.

Rather than talk (or write!) for hours about the amazing work they do, I wanted to share a few photos I took last week of the students and the staff at Educaid. (More here)

More here


Vintage by jc2010sl
November 11, 2010, 2:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags:

Western attire is pretty much universal in Salone, at least among the locals. Printed T-shirts are particularly popular. Like the cars here, they seem to have been well-used in more developed countries before being sent to Africa to expire.

Most people have only a moderate grasp of English, which leads to some amusing sartorial choices. One of the ripped young guys working in our compound has a shirt with “Beer belly under construction” on the front. Another guard’s T-shirt asks the viewer to “Remind me again why I need a boyfriend?” My personal favourite though was worn by a man one coming out of a mosque. Its message? “Juicy Jew.”

Women by jc2010sl
November 5, 2010, 3:02 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags:

A fairly common greeting over the last week has been “How did you hurt your hand?” Its usually followed by asking whether my “shine shine bebe”, that is “lady friend” is responsible. The general assumption is that I was beaten up for cheating (a pretty common occurrence in Salone and the reason one of our drivers is missing a front tooth). One colleague in the Ministry said that I “fo bia” the inconvenience, and then chuckled to himself. “Do you know what I mean” he said? “Yes,” I replied, translating his Krio directly; “I have to bear it.” No he said, “It’s an idiom; it means a women has pained you.” I guess this is the attitude that prompted someone to paint on the side of their poda-poda “Never trust a woman.”

My injury has also flushed out some pretty sexist views that are never far from the surface. Even one of the women doctors I work with was horrified that my “shine shine” hasn’t brewed me some pepe soup. “You should stay in bed until she has made it for you!”

Sierra Leoneans seem to take the same view of women that Homer Simpson has of beer – “The route cause and solution to all man’s problems.”

Man Down by jc2010sl
November 3, 2010, 2:01 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In the lamest fashion possible, I slipped last week playing football and fractured my wrist. I suppose I could offer some fairly unsurprising reflections on the state of medical facilities in Salone, but something else struck me much more forcefully.

Customer service doesn’t really exist here – there is no notion whatsoever that because you pay for something you expect a certain standard. Even knowing this, I was slightly surprised at the attitude I encountered. I broke my wrist on Monday night, was x-rayed, patched up and told to come the following morning at 9. I duly, foolishly, did so and waited an hour to see the doctor. He told me I had broken wrist, and that I should come back at 3:30 to see the orthopaedic surgeon. Having been once bitten, I arrived at 4, only to be reassured that the doctor was “on his way”. “How do you know?” I asked, “Have you called him?”, “I don’t have to – I know he’s coming.” After some back and forth and a disputation on the nature of knowledge I finally extracted his phone number. I called him and was told in a tone of some annoyance that he was not on his way, but was busy.

When he finally did show up the receptionist then had the cheek to laugh in my face that his presence demonstrated he had been coming all along, so why had I being so tetchy about it. She and her colleague then had a good laugh that I was so conscious of wasting my time, assuming I couldn’t follow their Krio. Now maybe I’m viewing things through the rose-tinteds to expect it would be different back home, but the shenanigans at the hospital threw the other responses I had into stark contrast.

In the Youyi building where I work, every person saw (and there a lot of characters lounging on the stairs or outside offices) was most solicitous of my welfare. Even people on the street have said in passing “Oshya” – “My sympathies.” It got me to wondering how a nation that is so friendly and open can suddenly become so sullen and rude. And of course, back home it’s the reverse. For the most part staff don’t treat you as a huge inconvenience on their day, but you would think someone unhinged if they asked you how your broken wrist was when they pass you in the street.

It’s almost as though the thing freely given looses all potency as soon as someone is paid to do it. I can’t be certain what the explanation is, and nor am I really sure which attitude I prefer.