Freetown, Baby!


“Usay yu de go?” by jc2010sl
March 4, 2011, 1:22 pm
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One of the things I miss about home is long walks in the park. For the most part, there just aren’t the places to wander. There are certainly no parks in Freetown, and while it definitely has a picturesque charm, a stroll through the city isn’t quite the relaxing turn that say, Hampstead Heath is. The beaches are beautiful of course, but places to loll about on, not stroll around. There are a couple of walks around the Krio villages on the peninsula, and it was one of these I tried last weekend.

Swinging down from the monstrosity that is the US Embassy (no photo or I’d currently be in some cell deep within) you come to Leicester village, a pretty Krio settlement at the back of town. It was a public holiday and there were a fair few people milling about the dusty streets. They were all pretty friendly, and a couple of them asked me “Usay yo de go?” – “Where are you going?” When I answered “A de waka nomo” – that I was just strolling around – they seemed a bit perplexed. “Funny white people” they must have thought to themselves, walking around to no purpose. I walked down the valley to the foot of the village to find an incredibly beautiful spot where small terraces have been built into the hillside and farmers are growing remarkably European vegatables; lettuce, cabbage and carrots among them.

On coming back to the top of the village I got talking to the family whose house I’d parked my car outside. It turned out the father wanted to send his son into town to get some kerosene for his generator – this a wealthy family with the mother a teacher and the father working as a Government printer. “Sure,” I said, “I’m not going straight to town, but I can drop him off closer in.” Spared half an hour’s walk before reaching a road decent enough to pick up public transport, the kid hurried over to the car. As we reached the turn-off for town, I said I was taking the other way but that I’d keep an eye out for him when I headed back, and would take him to town if I saw him. “Where are you going?” he asked, “Leicester Peak”, “I don’t mind coming”. Fair enough I thought, he probably doesn’t have much else to do. As we drove to the top he told me this was a spot his village often comes to at Easter for “outings”; outdoor public parties with huge sound systems and all manner of street vendors. “I haven’t been for a year,” he said “I like it up here.” While I read my book, he sat around, taking in the scenery.

“Right, we’re off” I said, and we headed into town. I wanted some bread only sold by street traders so I said I’d take him right to the petrol station. Bottom Mango roundabout didn’t have the stuff I was after so I headed further into town. “We won’t be too long,” I told the kid. After turning off from the petrol station, he looked forward at the road and said “A no wan de cam yet”.

It was a phrasing I hadn’t heard before, and I didn’t quite get what he meant. I seemed as though he was saying that he didn’t want to be there; “I do not want to be coming here yet”. “Cheeky kid,” I thought – I’ve just given him a lift all the way from his house to the filling station! On further quizzing it turns out he was saying that he’d never been down the road before. In this context “Wan de” meant “one day” rather than “want to be”. So the phrase meant “I haven’t one day (i.e. at all) come here yet (i.e. before)”.

Given this was one of the 3 main roads in the city, and that the boy had lived in Freetown all 13 years of his life, I was a little surprised. When we got to the roundabout at the foot of the hill, his eyes were bulging. “Is this where the beach is?” he asked. He hadn’t been to Lumley Beach either it seemed. As I dropped him off he thanked me and headed home. I wonder when he’ll next be in that part of town.

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