Day Thirteen Sierra Leone:
During the day I draft a letter to leave for the family. It goes like this.
Our time in Sierra Leone has truly been an unforgettable experience. Thanks so much for your kindness and hospitality. We will be back very soon. In the meantime please parcel this cash to the following people.
Pops 250,000 Leones (~$57)
Aunty Salamatu 300,000 Leones (~$69)
Yebu 10,000 Leones (~$2.25)
Kemoh 10,000 Leones (~$2.25)
Fatima 20,000 Leones (~$4.50)
Mohammed 10,000 Leones (~$2.25)
Tolo $10,000 Leones (~$2.25)
Umarr Shariff 100,000 Leones (~$23)
Alhagi Mami 50,000 Leones (~$11)
Fatmata 100,000 Leones (~$23)
Aminata 100,000 Leones (~$23)
Aunty Fanta 150,000 Leones (~$34)
Pa Foday 50,000 Leones (~$11)
As we compose the list, we start to realize how much of a racket this has all been. Even though we are glad to leave this token of our appreciation, we can't help but think we have been weaseled into this. All the plantains, the fish, the couscous, the African clothes, the bathroom cleaning, the fresh rainwater, the showing of report cards, the Achilles massages, the general stopping by and saying hi.
It doesn't register until the requests start coming in. "Can you send me back a phone?" "Can you buy me an iPad?"
It starts with my father. He knew what he was doing when he brought us from the hotel to his house. He knew he was saving me over a thousand dollars. He def took advantage of that fact by making me foot the bill for meals and having me buy fuel for the generator. Still, we really can't blame him or any of them for having that mentality.
What is alarming though, is despite his setting up national social security, despite his being on the board of a security company, despite starting a school in his hometown Waridala, I get the overwhelming feeling that my father is completely broke. He tells us he's coming to the States a month after us and will collect his American social security during that stay. But his American social security is not much. He only held down a job two full years when he was with our family.
The more disturbing thing is that his ticket to America is one way. He hasn't told anyone when he would be back to Sierra Leone. I get a bad feeling in my gut. I get the feeling that he is about to do to this family in Sierra Leone, this wife, these kids that depend on him, what he did to us many years ago. My heart goes out to Aunty Sallay and the kids. I feel bad for her. This woman who was the enemy for all these years. Life is funny.
She knows it, too. Before the day is over she surreptitiously corners Lindsay. "Can you send me an American cell phone so I can keep track of Fode? The Chinese ones here don’t work well. I don't want a fancy one. Just a small one." Lindsay tells me about the exchange. We are happy to oblige her one request.