Thursday, November 02, 2006


More adventures

The people from Makeni didnt arrive today but sent a message to say that they would come on Sunday. I was a bit disappointed since I wanted to get going, having packed again. Oh well. You have to take your time here as I'm learning fast and nothing quite goes according to plan. It gave me the opportunity to visit the downtown area again. In fact I had to go to a Government office to pick up my Sierra Leonean driving license. As it turned out this was a bit of a farce. I had already been the day before to play the paper chase, fill out forms speak to three people in separate offices and hand over a wheelbarrow full of 80,000 leones ($30!!). Today was supposed to be a pick up but they found some more paperwork for me to fill and said that I have to go back tomorrow morning again. The Government people couldnt really care about my 1 and half hour journey there. (see the lady in the pic waving at me to stop taking the photo). I could have gotten upset but it is just the pace of things here and it is better to laugh than cry. The paperwork is really so that they can keep their jobs. You wouldnt believe the dinginess of the office though. It is more like a prison with no lighting and no ventilation - incredible. However jobs are hard to find I suppose and this is a good way to put food on the table so I'll go along with it.

I decided to walk back despite the distance. This was a bit of an adventure and the heat/humidity made it seem more like a hike in a sauna. As a rarely seen opporto (white man in Krio) walking the streets I attracted quite a lot of attention especially from the small kids. I was able to chat with many and really enjoyed this.
It more than made up for the driving licence lark. One thing struck me was the conspicuous lack of older people - evidence of the average age - 17.5 years. I came across a wedding party coming out of a church and everyone was dressed in their finest. The most striking thing was the womens tremendous headgear - hats is not the right word. I chatted with one of the guests, Eugene who was interested in talking and a was great fellow, a teacher in a secondary school. I felt a bit like the ancient mariner since I think I delayed him from the celebration. I then visited the parliament building at the top of Tower Hill which I was somehow expecting to be a splendid building, but instead it turned out to be very badly dilapidated - typical of so much I have seen in Freetown. The building was erected in 1960 apparently by the Israelis says Joe who escorted me around. I stopped by a school and chatted with a couple of teachers outside the buildings. Seems that attendance is good although it still costs a small sum to send kids to school. The teachers were quite happy since things had improved significantly from the end of the war about 4 years ago. School books seemed to be the most needed. Moving onwards I found a school for the arts which was really interesting. In this god foresaken place there are some gems that really stand out. Everything from "ballay" sculture, music, dance - Shengbe Shenbe style - apparently from ancient times and comes under the heading of spiritual arts. Anyway I really enjoyed this visit. Other nice interludes along the way were around drinks shacks where I treated kids usually in neat school uniforms to "fantas" - an orange drink. Nearly home and by now dark, I stopped at a bar / restaurant to murder a Star - the local beer and reflected on a really nice afternoon.

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