I returned to the United States on July 14th. These are the entries I couldn't post due to lack of Internet.
Day Eight Sierra Leone: Above the Law
Today commences the ultimate deviation from the beaten path. We are moving from the hotel to spend the rest of the week at my father's house in the eastern most part of Freetown. Our hotel was very European. Air-conditioning. Gourmet meals. Room service. Guests who were in the natural resources industry. Now we are venturing to the ghetto, Freetown's equivalent of the South Bronx. No electricity. No running water.
Pops picks us up at noon. It's another full sightseeing day before we finally lodge at his house. The first stop is to the American Embassy, not to register, but just to see. Amongst shanties and dilapidated houses, it is the only first world looking building. "Here, you and Lindsay take a picture in front of the emblem." Linds and I are standing ready for the photo when, BAM! A soldier comes running up the hill. "Hey! You no for snap picture dey!" (You're not supposed to take pictures there!) He's rude and aggressive.
He attempts to snag Linds' iPad from my father's hand. Naturally, my father takes offense. In a not-so-polite voice, my father explains that although he was attempting to take a picture, he pressed the wrong button and no picture was taken. The soldier doesn't listen. He's loud. He's in my pops' face. He takes the iPad. It's getting scary. It's also getting pretty funny.
My pops says, "If you no for dey na uniform, I been for teach you a lesson."
(If you weren't in uniform, I would have taught you a lesson.)
Again, Sierra Leoneans. Argumentative. Another security guard intervenes. Lindsay's iPad is handed back to her. In the car, my pops goes, "But I did manage to snap a picture of you two."
He takes us past the city limit to a village called Sussex in the rain belt. As soon as we get there, it just starts pouring. It's extremely fertile. It's home to the country's only water pipeline. These communities are very secluded. The roads are non-existent. Stray dogs and roosters. Families squatting in abandoned fixtures. Kids in the grass and dirt streets "repair" potholes, make fake toll gates with string, and ask cars for tips. The whole place is a wonderland of wet greenery.
It is also here where father's purchased plot of land is. Up until now, it was just a rumor. In the States, we had heard about this plot of land my pops had in addition to his house. Now here we are looking upon it. There is lots of tall wet grass and large black stones. It is also a very modest size, probably large enough for one small house. But there's one very cool thing about it.
It is by the water!
It's overlooking its own private beach. The view: the sand, the water, is breathtaking. Pops says he plans to build a couple of guest rooms there for when Sierra Leone's tourist economy rebuilds. It's smart. A rush to an untapped resource. In America, only rich people own beach front property.
Anyways, we go to the beach. There, we have lunch with one of pops' childhood friends, Mr. B. He's a funny potbellied Creole who lives by the water. We all order the Barracuda. Me and Mr. B order ours with fries. Pops and Linds order theirs with rice. The Barracuda tastes like it was plucked out of the sea five minutes ago. That's how fresh it tastes.
By now, it's evening. We stop by my grandfather's house and the only highlight there is when they bring a live goat into the living room.
And then off to my pops' house to stay for the next week and to finally meet my stepmother.
We get here. Now mind you, I'm in part doing reconnaissance for my mother. I'm ready to report to her and say, "Dad's wife is ugly! She's nowhere as pretty as you." I'm ready to do reconnaissance on the house. Ready to say that it was the ratchetest thing I ever did see!
We meet his wife. Aunty Sallay they call her. She is round and homely. But she's sweet and funny.
She's in the living room with kids watching a thirty year old Bollywood film. The house is actually a house. Not like the temporary houses around it. It's relatively spacious and we get to sleep in the master bedroom. What a sojourn it's been. We're finally here.