Freetown, Baby!

Land that we love by jc2010sl
July 18, 2011, 6:30 pm
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They love a bit of ceremony in Sierra Leone. No occasion is too lowly for pomp and circumstance, speeches and votes of thanks. Nevertheless, I was a bit surprised to receive an agenda for my “Farewell Ceremony” on my penultimate day:

“1. Prayers
2. Master of Ceremony
3. Speeches (15 mins)
4. Statement from Mr Samson [sic], (10 mins)
etc. etc.”

My first thought was that it was a joke – I being the guy who continually pesters my counterparts to plan in advance (including by writing agendas). But when Musa asked if I would be around at the appointed time, I guessed they really must be serious.

Somewhat typically, the time on the handout didn’t match the time in the email sent round, which led to all kinds of palaver. When we got round to them, the speeches were genuinely touching. I just about believed the kind words, interspersed as they were with plenty of jokes at my expense. When my turn came I found myself welling up; my thanks too were genuine and it will be a real wrench to leave.

As the “Ceremony” wrapped up and people wandered out, I thought of the President’s public meetings. They open and close with the National Anthem played from a grainy old recording. When the tune it reaches the rousing final bars, I feel the hair on my neck stand up. I think about how much I’ve come to love the place, how much it will stay with me, and what an amazing experience it’s been to be part of the country’s journey, if only in a small way. And as the last phrases of music play, I hear the words in my head:

“High we exhault thee, realm of the free
Land that we love, our Sierra Leone.”


Green ink brigade by jc2010sl
January 15, 2011, 11:54 am
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I’ve been marking tests over the last week. When asked by a colleague if I could help out I said “Sure, can you give me a red pen to mark them?” “No,” came the abrupt response. “Only the President uses red ink in this building.” To make his point, my colleague brandished a document on his desk; “you see, the President wrote this,” he said, jabbing at some red annotations on the paper. “OK,” I said, “can I have a green pen?” An exasperated look came across his face. Only Ministers can use green ink it transpires. I asked him if he was winding me up. No, he assured me, and I believed him. The wind-up isn’t really part of Krio humour. “Are there any other restrictions I asked?” “No,” he said “you can write in brown, pink, yellow, whatever you want as long as it’s not green or red!”

As I walked out of his office, he called after me “and that’s why teachers say they are as important as the President!”


April Full by jc2010sl
April 1, 2010, 3:28 pm
Filed under: society | Tags: ,

I wanted to put up an April Fool post today. The outlandish tales which came to mind, though, had the distinct disadvantage of being “true”. Take a radio report from a couple of days ago: three people were charged with turning a child into a deer. I asked my driver how you could establish a) that a child had been turned into a deer and b) who was responsible. He murmured something about “bad people”, and said that witch doctors were very powerful.

I turned to the papers for inspiration, wondering if the Salone press went in for hoax stories. I wasn’t disappointed.
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