Freetown, Baby!

Taxi no make sense by jc2010sl
February 25, 2011, 12:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Taxis and poda-podas in Freetown are always emblazoned with messages on their front and rear bumpers. Mostly these are religious professions or exhortations, and sometimes homespun wisdom; “Trust in God” and “Giver never lack” are common enough sights. Recently though, I’ve spotted some altogether more peculiar offerings.

Some are rather gnomic, like “Mi wan gren” which translates as “Myself alone”. Is the driver saying he doesn’t need help from anyone else, or that he’s abandoned in the world? Others are downright confusing, for example “10 * 1 = 11? Homework”. I asked my driver what this was about and after a lengthy pause he said, “Well, the answer to 10 times 1 is not 11, so the driver is saying if you think the answer is right, you need to do your homework.” I wasn’t convinced, but couldn’t come up with a better explanation myself. The oddest of all though was a message “Yu Nar Wak” – “You are a loser”. I can’t imagine painting that on a taxi is particularly good for business.


Seduction Salone Style by mabrajeux
February 16, 2010, 1:31 pm
Filed under: society | Tags: , ,

Number of marriage proposals: 1

Although I was pretty pleased with this achievement as I considered my first three weeks in Freetown, apparently by local standards I’m not really doing that well…

Truth is, people in Sierra Leone are generally incredibly friendly. Greetings are an important part of the local Krio culture and it’s very common to greet people you cross in the street, saying either ‘hello’ or ‘Aw di bodi?’(krio for ‘how are you?’ – watch this space for more info). People also often ask you your name, which is a bit unsettling at first, as if they are somehow invading your privacy but you soon get used to it and if I had a better memory, I’d be on first name term with half of Freetown!

But walking around the streets of Freetown you also encounter a more interested kind of attention… It ranges from shouts of ‘white girl, white girl’ when you walk down the street to the fully fledged promise of eternal devotion and marriage proposal… (well, just the one in my case) Although this attention is a little strange to get used to, you can soon tell the good-humoured banter from the more intrusive hassle and you learn to reply or walk past.

This seductive trait, along with Salone friendliness and willingness to chat can lead to amusing conversations, which can soon resemble an orderly interrogation, as I experienced a few days ago.
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Freetown traffic by mabrajeux
February 1, 2010, 5:02 pm
Filed under: photos, society, travels | Tags: , , ,

We started off the week end by a quick excursion to the centre of town, ditching the drivers and trying our luck with the local transport services…

Maybe a quick explanation is in order here. Not only is traffic in Freetown pretty hectic but you also have many different options to choose from:

• Foot: Walking around is quite nice if it’s in a quieter part of town, but the centre is pretty crazy. Also, Freetown is very spread out and walking from our place to the centre would probably take more than an hour. Also, some of the roads are pretty steep, most of the cars are in a questionable state and all the drivers seem to behave like London night bus drivers…

• Cycle: I have so far seen 3 bicycles in Freetown, and if the hills didn’t put me off cycling in the first place, the motorised competition certainly would!

• Poda-Podas: Our taxi driver yesterday described it as transport for ‘the common people’. Hundreds of those little minibuses with wooden benches cover a certain number of routes all across town. A bit like a bus, except it’s more often full and you quickly feel very intimate with your fellow passengers… Each seems to have a name or a motto, ranging from ‘Allah is great’ to ‘De Gunners’. Football might well be the number one religion here… (photos to follow, promise…)

• Taxis: regular taxis are shared and follow a certain route, so you can pile in as long as you’re going in the right direction. So far, taxis I’ve taken have been almost disappointingly civilised in terms of crowding but I have definitely seen up to three people in the front passenger seat! My taxi was also confidently hailed by a very young girl (maybe 7 or 8 years old) in a school uniform who announced she wanted to go to Hill Station before settling in the front seat on her own…

• Charter taxis: same taxis but you can hire it exclusively for yourself, so it’s a regular taxi, basically.

Add to this cohort of vehicles an astonishing number of 4*4s with more or less competent drivers and you might get an idea of Freetown traffic. Then take this idea and multiply it by the number of times a driver will beep his horn every 5 minutes (that’ll be about 10) and then you’ll have an accurate idea of how hectic it really is…

So after a quick tour of the city centre by means of taxi, foot and poda-poda, we eventually succumbed to the call of the beach and headed south to Sussex beach and Franco’s. But more on that later…