Returning to My Mother’s Land

A Sierra Leonean Woman African Beauty

A Sierra Leonean Woman
African Beauty

December 22 or 21st , I’m not sure but it’s a Sunday…I think..

After traveling for 27 hours by car, plane, shuttle, shuttle again, plane, boat, then car…we finally made it to Ishmil’s house, Kadia’s brother. It is really nice…with security, security walls, and security doors. He made us African chicken and rice, which means free-range and the meat can be a bit tougher but it was spicy and delicious. We had refreshing water as well. One of Kadia’s bags, an important one was left behind by accident by the flight crew and my makeup bag with all of my makeup was left somewhere as well,,. The good kind of makeup bag where you have all of the “trusties” that have been working for YEARS…you simply keep replacing the…so, I thought, well there’s a blessing in everything. But, I was also thinking, I know God may have wanted me to get back to my roots but with NO MASCARA! A little EYELINER? No? I don’t think he wanted me to go THIS native! Not cute…But, I handled it…smiling…

I think I left it in the bathroom on the plane or maybe even in Ishmil’s car. Again, I’m not sure…so we’ll see tomorrow. My freelance shooter showed up at the airport too! He had been there since 2pm! He got me coming out of the airport, talking to the locals, and riding the boat to Freetown. His name is Samuel and it really was a blessing to have him around. Tomorrow is another day…and I believe I am learning things about myself, myself as an American the whole time. Like for instance, because makeup is a luxury, I lost my makeup bag, therefore I do not have that luxury anymore. If I wanted to experience what it is to be Sierra Leonean right now…I’m starting to feel it a bit. Since I left America, I have had mixed feelings the entire time. Happy, sad, excited, nervous, confident, worried, missed my dad and brothers and sister who I had talked to on Skype before I left, thought about how many Sierra Leoneans I had met who never knew my mother and wondered if that mattered. By the way, the luxury of flushing toilets at will, gone. Paved roads with stop lights, nil. Going to bed without insect repellent…not going to happen, Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I believe I am about to go on a journey that will change me forever. Wish me luck. Luck….Good night..

A Gracious Vendor

December 23 4:42 our time, 10:42 their time…I woke up to no power which meant hot and muggy but I slept fine…wondered why my face itched…and i was told it was just the result of the mosquito treated net that hung over and protected me as I slept. The smell of repellent and gas from the generator was strong…but at least we had power…

December 24, 2013. It’s 1:27 in the morning in the US and 7:27 here Christmas Eve. I wake up as usual…well not so usual…because as usual HERE in Sierra Leone, I wake up to the greeting calls of the roosters in the compound. And perhaps in the usual way HERE, I wake up wondering if the sniffles are my regular allergies, the rumbling in my stomach is simply normal rumbling from dinner last night and the 3 bumps I found, one near my elbow, one on the side of my face and one on my leg are normal bites from normal bugs or mosquitos or did I catch malaria and all of these simple things are no longer simple????!!!

 It’s quite daunting not knowing the answers to these bothersome questions until more time has passed. If you get sick, then you know…if you don’t, then you know. So, you sit and wait…you sit and look out the window, praying, hoping that all is well. Feeling really American right about now. And then I snap back to reality as I grab my trusty measuring cup to begin my dipping of the water to flush the toilet-my own response to the call of the roosters.

Already, families have begun their day. The children are sleepingly asking questions and I merely listen. Trying to remain a guest on my best behavior rather than rush out of the front door to capture a photograph or record some video. By the way, I’m speaking metaphorically because the reality of HERE is that I need the keys to unlock myself from the house and make my way outside…and I have no idea where the keys are. Even if I did, they would be hard to find because the power went out again in the middle of the night. The good news is that I smell the ocean and the clean air…somewhat clean because, already, someone has started their generator and the smell of gasoline is slowly making it’s way into my bedroom, into my nose and into my brain.

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I still miss my family, Dad, Aunt Jackey, Ms. Brenda, Kim, etc and America because I’m out of my comfort zone. Oh my goodness…to think of the comfort in America while in a country that is so poor is quite daunting. But, the Sierra Leoneans are only poor in a manner of speaking…they’re poor because it’s hard to find a job here in SL. They’re poor because some can’t afford to get a good education so that they can get better jobs. But…strangely enough…every night until around 4 or 5 in the morning, the Sierra Leoneans are dancing, socializing and eating…basically having a festival…laughing, filling the non-lighted streets up with life and a light of its own…

Yesterday was FUUULLL but rewarding. We went into town, saw where Ishmil worked, went to the grocery store, bought fruit from the street, and went to one of Kadia’s brothers house to celebrate his wife’s birthday. You can’t feel pity for them even as poor as they are because they don’t seem to have pity for themselves. They have all that it takes to make a party on any day,…family, good food and friends, cold refreshments (but not too cold), usually non-alcoholic because of their culture and Muslim and Christian beliefs, (and very few seem to smoke) and lots of loud music. Oh…that’s strange…the spot I was examining on my arm all morning has appeared to have vanished…good…one less reason to be paranoid. Oh yeah, I haven’t missed the air conditioning yet…but I understand this is the coolest time of the year for them…between 80 and 89 degrees. I finally got my mobile modem so now I can go online, a phone, a SIM card and a phone number. I need to pick up one more SIM card because most people here use a variety of carriers. Well, I’m sleepy again…so I think I’ll sleep until Kadia and Ishmil wake up. I’ll be able to tell when that happens because they both have their own wake up calls that even I recognize (footsteps and calling out to each other! Lol)…smiling…good night…or should I say good morning?

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12:41 am and it’s Christmas day! We went to a lot of Kadia’s family homes…met a lot of people and it was really nice. Saw how young women took care of the elders and the guests as well. They don’t want you to have to do anything. They carry your bags, everything…still waiting on Kadia’s luggage. Today was the first day I began to feel sadness about SL. How they’re being exploited and wondering is there really a viable way out without corruption? Noticed the poverty a lot. Thought about being an American going back to Africa instead of an African heading to America. Thought about what my life would have been like. Heard a story about a young girl who was brilliant (math and science) at a very young age but had to get married. Felt sad for her. It was accepted because it was the way she was raised. I guess it’s like being raised in other ways, Christian, feminist, misogynistic, etc….in other words, without awareness and choices, sometimes we are simply who we were raised to be.

Christmas day was wonderful! Ishmil had already given us the orders for the day and that was to simply have fun! No more errands or work, except to pick up Kadia’s luggage…just have fun. We dropped Kadia off at the ferry, then headed back home, had pepper soup with chicken, beef, scallops, potatoes, cocoa and yams and fruit. The lunch was given to Ishmil from some friends who stopped by. We watched a famous actor from Nigeria in a movie on TV, that we had JUST seen at the dock, took a nap, then headed out to pick up Kadia. She got her luggage, but 2 phones and 2 pieces of jewelry were missing (they never used the word “stolen”). We stopped at a very nice Lebanese restaurant for dinner which was delicious…barracuda, shrimp cocktail, grilled, shrimp, chicken wings….my treat as a show of appreciation of everything they have done for me. Today, I feel as if I need to be more gracious about everything. They, the people, are so giving … selflessly. We made our way home, after a nice drive…Ishmil fell to sleep on the sofa, Kadia stayed up and watched a movie and had peanuts and a tangerine, I posted up on Facebook for the first time, then it was time to go to bed. Ishmil kept the generator running for us so that we could watch TV, have lights and feel comfortable…oh, and able to charge our phones. He is really awesome. I’m not sure if I’m used to being catered to for simply no reason. It’s a simple life here….but I have learned that you can’t make any plans, because the TRAFFIC determines EVERYTHING! Every now and then, when I’m alone, I think of how the slaves left from these beautiful beaches and headed to another world entirely…although it was not the first time Africans stepped onto the land of America, this time, the steps would not simply be in reverse. I don’t think that made sense…sorry…but I’ve already shot through one media card and I’m bushed…smiling…good night…

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December 26 11:38 pm…

OK, now I KNOW I’m trippin….I’m laying in the bed looking at my right pinky toe and seeing how it’s brown, but this the color of the side of my foot is really pale…so I’m thinking….oh Lord, is something wrong with my pinky toe???!!!! Did I catch something?!!!! What if I look at it this way…now this way…nope, same difference…well, before I panicked, and after wiggling it a thousand times to see if I felt any pain (I wasn’t sure of the other 999 wiggles), I compared it to my pinky toe on my left foot. Same issue…so…I guess I was TRIPPIN!!!!! And I remembered that I wore sandals for the last 2 days…so I may have received a bit of a tan…lolol…Lawd…I tripped…just for a second though….lol…good night…

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Lol lol lol! How’s. that other bump!:)

  2. Thanks for sharing, Janice. Can’t wait for your next installment. It’s 57 degrees here today. Not a white Christmas.


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