Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Day Fourteen Sierra Leone: Fin

Day Fourteen Sierra Leone

As I write this last entry from the States, I can't help but think of Richard Pryor's quote about Africa. He has this famous bit from Live on the Sunset Strip where he's talking about the Motherland. He says, "When I was in Africa, this voice came to me and said, 'Richard, what do you see?' I said, I see all types of people.' The voice said, 'But do you see any niggers?' I said, "No." It said, 'Do you know why?' 'Cause there aren't any.'"

Now I'm not gonna go ahead and say I didn't say the n-word my whole time in Africa (it seems to be my default word for some reason jk), but my use of it did vastly diminish. I probably only said it less than a handful of times.

The point is, man, what an empowering trip it was.

I didn't realize it until when in Brussels waiting for our connecting flight, I see all these white people in the terminal and I think, man, I just came from two countries run entirely for and by black people. Amazing.  Except you know the mining, the newspaper, and other hidden powers, but still.

The biggest lesson I learned is that Africa fits whatever narrative you give it. If you say it's poor, devastated, war torn, you're gonna find evidence for that no doubt. But if you say it's on the come up, it's resourceful, it's beautiful, you would find lots of evidence for that too. I think back to the first day in Gambia and how scared I was of the soldiers on the road. Then, I think back to the last day in Gambia and the big smile the soldier at the gate to the airport had. "Have a safe trip!" he offered.

The trip is over. Our last day, Lindsay discovers that someone in our pops' house stole her costume jewelry, but we just shrug it off. We're happy to be heading back home. My pops, Umar Shariff, and Pa Foday accompany us on the ferry to the airport. We get to see, from the second floor, all the people and cars going to Lungi Airport. We take one last look at a beautiful, hilly countryside.

The trip is over and we are back to reality. Back to the comforts of the first world. Somehow they seem sweeter, like things not to be taken for granted.

The implications of the trip are already coming to be. My pops is already bragging to my mom about how we gave money to Aunty Sallay. My moms is already chastising my pops for the sideways schemes he subjected us to. I find out pop's land in Sussex was financed by our house in Boston. Seree is excited we're back. I tell her when she goes to bring her camera. New developments are rumbling under the surface.

But I don't care. I'm still waking up from a dream.

I never did find out what my last name means. My pops and my grandpa both just said that it is a popular Mandingo last name. But it is only now that I realize that this whole trip was never about the last name. It was about the people with it. The cousins, the aunties, the grandpas, the uncles, the distant brothers, the fellow countrymen. The people I never knew existed until now.

But enough of this philosophical shit.