Close your eyes and think of the best day of your life... 

( be fair, the day your children were born and the day you got married doesn't count.)

just try to remember the kind of day that was so enjoyable for no particular reason,
so lovely in it's simplicity, 
so excellent you hated to see the sun go down,

A day you vowed to never forget.  

For me, that perfect day came less than forty eight hours after arriving in Africa.

It was all planned out, right there in my mom's agenda that she emailed to us a few weeks before we arrived.

Day one: Happy Family and Outreach
Day two: go to Aberdean or Lumley Beach, eat dinner at Roy's restaurant.

So the morning of day two we packed the sunblock, charged up the cameras, and I reluctantly put on an oh so flattering swimsuit.  
        Driving down the roads in Freetown towards the beach,
                                was a second by second feast for the eyes.
It was as if we were right in the middle of a National Geographic documentary the whole time.  

                How this guy is keeping a hold of his goods I'll never know.
                          "look ma! no hands". Amazing.

  We were stopped in traffic and watched as a man with an old, rusty chainsaw attempted to cut down this huge cotton tree to widen the road. Just one guy working for "the man" offering back breaking manual labor. "Hey Obama; in Sierra Leone this is what they call a "shovel-ready" project!"   

We thought about going down this road to check out what it feels like to be in the middle of a riot. However, the bold black letters spelling out MISSIONARIES on the front and back of our truck made us think twice about getting right down there in the action.   

The local UTA

And did you know, Robert Matthew VanWinkle (aka Vanilla Ice) is alive and well running a little shop here in West Africa? word to yo mutha.

It was comforting to know that if our living accommodations didn't work out with the 'ol mom and pops that we could always rent ourselves a room for the rest of our stay.

On our way down to the beach, my favorite thing was to wave to all the little children along the road through my open window in the backseat.
They all called out in response "Apato!" or "white uman!" or "missionaries!"

  As we neared the beach I started to feel bad for indulging in such leisure when we could have    been back up on Mt. Aureol or back to the church to hang out with our friends
that we had met the day before.
The beach was amazing. World class.
It was a glorious, beautiful, sunny afternoon and yet no one was there;
just us five white people on an all but empty beach.  
Empty, except for the fishermen and those on hand ready to haul in the morning's catch.

Oh, and empty except for the ladies following me around wanting me to buy peanuts, or eggs, or beads from them. I pretended they were my entourage.

Empty beach otherwise. Just us five, miles of empty beach
 and the Atlantic Ocean as far as the eye could see.

I thought about the significance of us standing there at Aberdean beach.
Digging our toes in the sand as the warm Atlantic ocean washed up over over our legs.
Here I was basically letting my feet dangle over the edge of Africa.
It felt like the edge of the world.

 A place that I have looked at a million times in textbooks and remember gazing at on the
 big chalkboard map in Mrs. Tenny's Kindergarten class.
Little old me, a small dot on the world map.
Thousands of miles away from home.  

As we stood in the sand and surf contemplating the vastness of our universe, Brooke, Josh and I looked up to see all "the boys" coming towards us from across the beach.
It was like opening presents on Christmas morning to see them walking and even some of them running across the sand towards us smiling from ear to ear.

And as peaceful and enjoyable as those first moments with my parents and Brooke and Josh were,
having the boys there with us made the day 100 % better.

They all came carrying their swimming attire in their backpacks and kicking the soccer ball.
We stood around in the tide just talking for a while,
 asking questions about Sierra Leone and telling stories about our families.
The boys even brought their sisters. Who quickly became 'our sistahs."
Josh (or Joshwa) as they so sweetly pronounce his name, promised all the boys that he would teach them how to play "American football." Here he is explaining the game.
As I was standing there on the beach,
 with the waves rolling in,
the sun on my face,
and the wind in my hair,
 I was feeling young again...

I thought:

 "Yo, it's about time Hilary get her MoJo back baby!
oh yeah!!"

I wanted to impress my new friends.

well, here's what it looked like.

Yeah, not a pretty sight.

I think I tried that in first grade.
 Didn't look so hot then either.

So instead of acrobatics, I decided to impress my new friends with my athletic skills.

Are you ready for some football?
 Lines were drawn.

Teams chosen.

and I went about the business of showing off my athletic prowess.

Pete, obviously acknowledging my ball handling skills,decided to toss me the ball,
do you think I caught it?
nope, but wow just look at my concentration.
We all ran around in the deep sand and the heavy humidity for about an hour trying to keep up with "team Sierra Leone."
I tried to smile all while I dripped with sweat and gasped for air.

Thankfully the football game eventually broke up for lack of real competition. 

 The boys messed around doing tricks, and showing off.

 and then they all wanted to "snap" pictures with us. 

We were feeling like celebrities, so Brooke and I wanted to show off a few tricks of our own.
and for some reason we spontaneously decided to... 
leg wrestle each other-
yes, leg wrestle.
just us two girls
on our backs
in the sand
while everyone stood over and watched.

Probably one of the poorest decisions of my life.

Brooke and I ended our leg-wresting display both of us upside down and backwards, faces smashed in the sand with Brooke's shirt and my skirt all twisted up around our heads.

Again, not a pretty sight.
Even Josh walked away wishing he hadn't seen that.

Thankfully the Sierra Leone boys offered to show us how they play "Futbol."
We opted to just watch them play.
Brooke and I fell in love with our little fifteen year old Musa. He was such a sweet boy.
Musa was a goalie,  it was funny to watch him stand by the goal then, run in the water, splash about and then run back to be goalie again.
We found out later that our friend, Messi is actually a famous futbol player in his village.
He is named after the famous National Futbol player Lionel Messi.


Albert would give David Beckham a run for his money. In fact, our boys didn't even know who David Beckham was. They had their own Sierra Leone Futbol heros.

                                    The game continued for a while as we looked on.
                              I was so impressed that not one of those fifteen boys playing
                                     got aggressive or overly competitive with each other.
     After a while Pete took the first plunge in the water and the rest of us followed.
The first moment or two of being in the water I got knocked down by the big waves before I figured it out. A mouthful and noseful of salt water does wonders for the nasal passages.

The ocean water was bathtub water warm. I could've stayed in it all day. 
Although these boys living so close to equator, 
thought the water was cold and were shivering and had goosebumps.

 Fatu, Sam's sister was so worried that I was getting too far out in the deep. She would say, "'...illary,(leave off the H) the water is so deep here in our ocean, please come back closer to me."

                          We sat as the tide washed in and talked about all things Sierra Leone. 

 I'm glad my Dad took a picture of Brooke and I washing the sand off our rear ends. So flattering. So glamorous. All our friends must have thought we were royalty.
My Dad organized some relay races in the sand. 
Run down, hand your stick off to the next person, run back. 
Ali smoked me in our leg of the race. Well, everyone smoked me.
Even my Mom and Dad ran against each other in the final race.   As we cheered for my Mom and Dad, in the distance behind my parents we could see a large group of people running towards us.
It was the Happy Family! (from the day before at Mt. Aureol!) They had somehow made their way to the beach to join us. They live far up in the hills, many miles from the beach. I was so touched that they came.
The Happy Family was just that.
After they hugged us and said their hello's,
they played about in the water and showed me a few games on the beach.
No one argued, no one made fun of anyone, everyone was kind and generous.
For some this was their first time ever at the beach.

 The delighted in just being together.
Things were very chill for a few hours, the boys tossed around the soccer ball,
the girls walked around looking beautiful and everyone just enjoyed the day.
The boys couldn't get enough of Josh.
They followed him around and quickly picked up on the fact that he is just a really cool guy.

There are three beverage choices in Freetown;
bottled Coke, bottled Fanta or a water pouch.
(you simply poke a hole in the pouch with your teeth and just suck out the water.)
Elder and Sister Neves talked to Ibrihim (Jombo B.)
about his entrepreneur ideas and his spiritual philosophy.

Little Abdul who is an aspiring artist, sat all afternoon and devoured the book
"the Hobbit" that my Mom had asked me to bring in my suitcase for him.

Amara jumped up in the tree and swung around one handed as if he lived there. 

The rest of the boys taught Brooke and I and Josh some words in Krio, told us of their conversions to the church (my parents taught and baptized most of them), they told funny stores about my Mom and Dad, and then tried to show us how to balance things on our head.

Here is Sam admiring Josh's Boston hat while Pete tries to do a one-two round house kick to the face.  (Pete is so cool, he gets Napoleon Dynamite jokes all the way in Africa.)

Pretty good eh!

Then without really realizing it, the sun was setting and all the Happy Family was gathering their things to make the long journey back to their homes in the hills.
                           One final picture before all my new little brothers and sister left.
 The boys each wished us a goodnight and gave us the "Sierra Leone secret handshake" and and with a wave and a smile walked off together down the road. 
My Mom and Dad, Brooke, Josh and I loaded in the truck and drove a hundred yards down the beach to Roy's restaurant where my parents ate Christmas dinner last year.
Dad ordered for all of us; Chicken Swarma. Again, it was edible just a little too strong tasting.
       Possibly it was that I hadn't really eaten all day, but for some reason, I wasn't hungry. 

We all sat in contemplation at the end of the day trying hard to enjoy our dinner      
       while wishing we could give all our new friends everything that we have here in America. 

We had just spent the last nine hours with the absolute brightest, kindest, most talented and most pure boys and girls we had ever met. Each and every one of them had forever branded themselves in our hearts.    

                     That day at the beach was reminiscent of the kind of day
                  only written about in books or envied in movies.
All day long I kept asking myself "How will I ever say goodbye?

It was one of the best days of my life.

             And maybe I didn't get my MoJo back.
                              (Dean said I look like I am wearing an adult diaper in this picture...)

 and so what.

those few hours at Aberdean beach with "the Boys,"
I wouldn't trade for all the MoJo in Africa.
Day three on the agenda: Looking Town 
To be continued...


Anne said…
Sounds like you had an AMAZING experience! I am so happy that you were able to go over and visit.
WOW! What an experience you will NEVER forget! I am so glad you were able to go and have such an amazing time no matter the sacrifice. I can't wait to hear about the rest of it!
Ang said…
Hil I loved every moment of that post. It brought tears to my eyes. I NEED to go to Africa. How amazing the entire thing was, and I loved how you were able to capture the whole experience because you'll never be able to remember it all looking back in a couple years. I am so happy for you and Brooke and Josh.
ps I know I would have wanted to try to show off my goods and try a leg wrestle too. That really made me chuckle.

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