That first night in Africa, a world away
I dreamed a typical American dream.
...Something about driving madly through town to get some Tupperware back
to my neighbor before she told the police on me...
However, the next night and every night since then I have dreamed brightly colored, lovely, happy African dreams.
Before I tell you about our second day, there are a few things you need to know about Freetown.
First; the people are beautiful, most of them stunning.
I have never struggled with my self-confidence in my life like I did while seeing some of the women in Freetown. (OK maybe the first day of school in 7th grade was a close second... when I showed up sporting my new feathered mullet hairstyle.
(my self-confidence was at an all-time low back then.)
I had similar feelings standing next to the very thin, very athletic, naturally beautiful people of Sierra Leone.
My mom said the people of Sierra Leone actually love our pasty white skin
and soft, pudgy bodies.
I kind of doubt it, but thanks anyway mom.
Another thing you should know is that everyone carries things on their head.
A whole country worth of commerce and livelihood is carried in big buckets and bags
just atop the head.
It's something that I will never get used to seeing.
After about the thrid day or fourth day in town I was still amazed at the sight of these head acrobatics.
I asked Pete why people carry stuff on their heads instead of in their hands.
Pete replied,"Because their hands would get very tired."
Another amazing thing to see was that all babies are carried on the back of their mothers. No fancy sling, or trendy wrap from Costco.
Just a piece of material called a Lapa wrapped strategically around both bodies.
The babies seemed happy, safe and content just laying against their mother all day.
We once visited a young mother who's baby was fussing. She picked up the little guy, flung him on her back and started tying her Lapa. The second he was wrapped up tight, he calmed right down.
Josh even liked the idea of a Lapa to carry around our friend Ali. Josh said it fit in all the right places.
Typically when a woman was walking towards us with a Lapa wrapped around her waist,
you would see two little pinkish feet sticking out on each side.
I had a hard time not wanting to play "this little piggy" with those little toes.
(probably would translate bad in Krio.)
Speaking of Krio, I already knew from my parents letters that everyone speaks Krio (an English based dialect.) I assumed it was something I could just pick up while I was there. Wrong.
It was like nothing I had ever heard before. Most of the time I could look in their eyes and see that they were talking to me, I just had no idea what they were saying.
Apparently Brooke either.
We did learn to say "ow de body?" which means "how are you doing?"
or "I gladi fo see yu"
meaning "nice to meet you."
"whetin ni yu name?"
which means "What is your name?"
or "Usai yu dai?" meaning "where do you live?"
which means " fat, white, wimpy, American girl who must not ever do any physical exercise."
(...I heard that word a lot.)
Our first morning in Sierra Leone held a lot anticipation.
We were up early not suffering too much from the major time-change.
Our midnight is their 6:00 am.
My parents had a full agenda of people to meet and places to go.
My dad called his friend Santos to the apartment that morning to measure us girls for some custom-made authentic batik African skirts. Santos thought Brooke was the younger sister, which was amusing to everyone...but me.
Hey, those are child-bearing hips there Santos, just so you know..
We loaded the truck up with water and....well, I'm not sure what my Dad loaded his truck with every morning. Spare parts...cleaning supplies...smuggled diamonds.
Soon we were back down the mountain driving across town heading for Mt. Aureol.
We had an appointment with "the Happy Family."
(anything look familiar here?)
Mt. Aureol is a beautiful hillside with a cluster of humble homes connected together between a maze of tiny mountain paths.
The Utes (Pete and Albert) met us at the top of the mountain.
And even for a few thousand Leones (40 cents) you could buy a pineapple or cucumber.
We walked these mountain paths up and down, through front yards,
walking past little fire pits with rice cooking, under clotheslines...
All the while greeting people along the way by saying;
"ow de body?"Always they would answer with a smile. "de body fine.."
At the top we reached Helen's home and were met with open hands and bright, curious faces. The Happy Family as they are called, are a group of neighbors who meet together once a week with my parents and the boys to hear a Missionary lesson. Some are baptized members, some are not but they happily participate anyway.
I have never felt so loved in all my life. The girls were touching my hair and skin and begging me to choose which one I loved the most.
I looked over and Brooke and Josh were being paraded around as well.
The other Ute boys Sam, Messy, and Amara showed up and leaned against the open window listening to the lesson and joining in on the songs.
We sat in Helen's house and made introductions, listened to a lesson by sweet Helen and sang a few songs. "Nearer My God To Thee" will forever hold a special place in my heart now.
After pictures and hugs and promises of eternal friendship,
the Happy Family escorted us all back to the road.
One final group hug and "cheer", I wish I could remember what we yelled.
The next stop was the missionary favorite restaurant called "Home Flavors."
The Ute boys met us there and were anxious to have us try a little authentic Sierra Leone food.
So Jollof rice it was.
A little spicy and foreign tasting, but definitely edible.
(Josh is trying to finish off the bones, just like the boys.)
After lunch we were given our first real glimpse of what my parents have been talking about
for a year now.
Also known as Kissy Road.
An amazing, just gotta experience it for yourself kind of road.
Two lanes of traffic...
Vendors packed shoulder to shoulder on each side,
Thousands of people,
Mototcyles by the hundreds,
all packed together on a street the size of the Salem Canal road.
Motorcycles steady themselves on the cars as they wait to move,
and frequently hit mirrors as they pass.
People haul large loads down the middle of the road. nobody gets upset, they just wait and go around the person. Do you think we would see that kind of patience here in happy valley?
Often men stop right in the middle of the road to fix their cars, or unload people.
No big deal. We'll get there when we get there.
And finally we got there!
The brand new Kissy branch chapel.
This is the old one. (top level)
We arrived just in time for "Outreach."
A sort of weekly YW/YM activity for the young adults in the area.
First a song and a prayer and devotional by Sam and a beautiful talk by Sistah Neves.
But after that it was time for the big talent show.Next time I'll be sure to upload a video of Sam and Solo dancing to amaze you.
(Can you spot the Apato?)
Later on Brooke and Josh led the crowd outside to play Volleyball and American Football. Watching Josh try to teach thirty or so anxious young athletes the rules of American football was so hilarious. Josh said he finally just gave up and let them kick the football to each other and hit the ball with their heads while they yelled "touchdown!"
Brooke taught the fine art of volleyball.
Can you see the group of people gathered just outside the church gates?
White people playing sports was sure to generate a lot of curiosity.
As it was getting dark, Elder Neves tried to shut the Outreach down for another week.
Everyone lingered past eight and finally left the church compound
heading for their homes in the hills.
We also packed it up and took the long drive on Kissy road towards home.
Shortly after we got there, Santos showed up with our brand-new hand crafted skirts.
He even specified which skirt went to the "younger" sister. I called home that night to tell Dean and the kids about my big day. Without ability to describe what I had seen or heard that day I just listened to Wade go on and on telling me of the fun I missed at the Fiesta Days parade. I had forgotten all about my life at home.
That night I laid awake thinking of how we could to sell everything we owned and move the family to Sierra Leone. I thought that day was the best day I could imagine. Little did I know what awaited me the next day.
(* to be continued)