Thursday, August 1, 2013

Day Twelve Sierra Leone: Sights & Sounds

Freetown is a city of electric generators. At night, during the day, you can hear them pumping, pumping. The toppled telephone wires are relics of the past. Good reliable power comes from the ta-keta, ta-keta you hear in the distance.

Step outside. See the scenery. Take a chance. Take the poda-poda. But you have to be quick! Once that public van stops everyone will rush in. They will scratch. They will knock each other over. Four or five to a seat. Fifteen in a vehicle, handing their one thousand Leones for a chance to get to Forah Bay, to Aberdeen, to Lumley, to Town, to Free Street, to Patton Street, to Savage Square, to Hill Station, to the Clock Tower, to Upgun, to Shell.

"No me the driver, me say no dey go Shell. Me say last stop Upgun. Last stop Upgun. Everybody come out!"

And like that everybody exits.

"Na me the driver again. Now who say he want for go Shell?"


"One thousand more Leones!"

But once you get back in beware the hooligans. Beware the city thugs who ride the poda-poda just to sift through your pockets during a crowded ride. Please.

Beware of the cops. They want bribes.

"You would like the right of way? Give me fifty thousand. Your neighbor owes you money? We will go get him. But we don't have enough money to feed the prisoners. You know how the government is. That's gonna have to come from your pocket."

"Good news, we have your man in custody. Come back tomorrow to write a statement."

To the prisoner: "Tomorrow he's coming by to write a statement. Call someone to give us bail money before he gets here!"

Oh the town, the town. Anything can happen. How free it is! How free is it? You are stuck in traffic. Damn. It has been thirty minutes and you haven't moved. Only main road to town. But look at the town! Look at it! Look at the people selling wares. On the curbs, under tin fixtures, under wooden fixtures. In their hands, on their heads, in a wheelbarrow. What do you want? Slippers? Biscuits? Coconuts? Vimto? Fanta? Radio? Soccer boots? Wigs? Bleaching creams? Toothpaste? Tires? Gum? Bags? Dashikis? Lappas? Belts? Steering wheel covers? Windshield wipers? Chargers? Toys? China? Beads? Legal documents? Human blood?

People are arguing then laughing. People are haggling. A bullhorn screams British terms "Top up, top up!" pleading for cell phones to add call minutes to. People are exchanging currency. People are out and about. Bumping, strolling, trying to survive another day in Freetown.

This is my home and I only have two days left to embrace it.

No comments:

Post a Comment