Friday, July 19, 2013

Day Seven Sierra Leone: Mr. Fofana from NASSIT

I returned to the United States on July 14th. These are the entries I couldn't post due to lack of Internet.

Day Seven Sierra Leone.

I understand.

I understand now why Pops left the States.

Now I don't think I would escape my kids and the comforts of the first world for a diminished quality of life, but I still understand. I understand when a man calls my father this morning to complain that he is being evicted. My father just makes one call and, like that, the man is granted a three month extension. I understand when my father drives to the central business district of Freetown, passes my phone through the window, and it comes back in ten minutes unlocked with a new local number. I understand when my father nods at an armed soldier and, like that, he can pass through to the State House. I understand when all around town people wave to him and say, "Hey, it's Mr. Fofana from NASSIT", Sierra Leone's Social Security office. In America, my father lived in one of Boston's blackest ghettos and worked at Radio Shack. He didn't feel like a man. Here, he does. I understand.

Anyway, me and Lindsay come back from eating lunch in the hotel restaurant and the reception lady is like, "Your grandfather is here." And he is! My grandfather is waiting in the lobby. My grandfather who I haven't seen in twenty-five years! Just chilling. We embrace. We take pictures. We share memories. He scolds me for not converting Lindsay to Islam. He lectures. We just listen and nod. But it's great to reconnect. I promise to him that we will sit down before the end of the week and record a video of him telling our family oral history. Linds and I also promise him babies before he dies.

By the way, Lindsay had gotten her iPhone stolen at the airport. We're not in happy Gambia anymore. Here, people are struggling to make a buck. She checked her small case which had the phone tucked in. Someone had gone through it right when we got off the plane.

Yeah, people here are hustling all around.

Just some quick mathematics to drive the point home. In Gambia, 1 US Dollar = 30 Dalasis. In Sierra Leone 1 US Dollar = 4,500 Leones. It's a fact that my brother and I used to make fun of growing up. We'd go up to our mother and be like, "Would you like to buy a stick of gum? That will be 4,237,623 Leones, please."

So yeah, people are hustling. It's crowded. In the Central part of town, people are walking with their merchandise.  Towels, cloth, belts, watches on their heads. Soca music is blasting. Women selling coconut juice. It's amazing. Pops is leaving no stone unturned. I'm overstimulated in a good way.

We drive by my mother's old high school and I take a picture.

At night, we call my mother from an outdoor restaurant on Lumley Beach, in Aberdeen. I hear her talking to my Uncle Mohammed in the background. She's like, "They're calling us from Freetown!" She has no idea I'm about to text her a picture of a building she hasn't seen in over forty years.

P.S. We are moving from the hotel to stay with my pops. No Internet. So entries for days eight through fourteen probably won't be posted in real time.

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