ACCIDENTAL TOURIST - Sierra Leone part 5

There are things that keep people awake at night...
bills to pay,
sick kids,
a barking dog...

for me, I ignore all of those things and lay awake thinking about finishing my Sierra Leone blog posts.

I hope you aren't like me.
I hope you are able to accomplish goals and finish projects
like any reasonable, capable person.

So.......where did we leave off? Oh yeah I was in Sierra Leone, West Africa.
Confused? start here --> Sierra Leone; Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

After Elder Massey's dinner that Saturday night in Freetown, 
we were back at my mom and dad's apartment getting ready for Sunday.

Getting ready for Sunday included a haircut for Josh, emailing home for me, printing pictures for Brooke and lesson preparations for my mom.  

The next morning came almost as soon as we shut our eyes.
We woke up to rain again. Torrential, thunderous rain.

We pulled through the security gates at 8:45 for 9 a.m. church, I jokingly said;
 "where are all the cars?"

My mom said timidly "we are the only ones with a car."

We waited under the awning of church, and then one by one we began to see the boys walking in. Their pants rolled up, flip flops on, carrying their scriptures and shoes in their hands or in backpacks.

It was quite humbling to see.

Josh helped (and teased) as the boys shook the rain from their pants,
changed into their nice shoes, and finished dressing for church.

I gave myself a little reality check as I was sitting there waiting.
Here I was; 
...a world away in Africa, 
on a Sunday morning, in a small white chapel, 
holding hands with a little eight year old girl named Adama, 
and listening to the sweet sound of "God be with you till we meet again" 
as the rain continued to pour down outside.

It was a moment I'll never forget.  

(VIDEO: a rainy drive to church; practicing Krio for our talks in church; checking out the new draining system by Elder Neves; singing 'High on the mountain top,' while Brooke holds the book and wipes her tears; the boys singing 'God be with you', closing hymn.)

The minute church was over, the day was bright and warm, 
and the earth had absorbed all the rain leaving no trace of the 
bucket fulls that had just fallen from the sky.
(My dad delighting everyone with his rain dance)

I would be exaggerating if I said that we were treated like celebrities...
                                                         actually we were treated more like royal dignitaries.

After the meetings, everyone spontaneously lined up for handshakes and pictures.

A local celebrity in his own right, Elder Moss just shook his head 
and laughed while watching Brooke, Josh and I act like silly tourists.

My Dad, looking at his watch finally pulled the adoring little kids off of us 
and we waved goodbye 
and headed South out of town.

The plan of the day was to leave the noise and heat of the city
and drive out towards the serene, quiet, rural areas of Grafton.

Early in their mission, my parents spent several months in Grafton teaching and baptizing. 

By the time we reached the outskirts of Grafton, 
it was about 3:00 in the afternoon, and I didn't want to complain,
 but admittedly I was a bit hungry.

I kept looking for a McD's...
nope -
a Taco Bell? 
nada -
a 7-11?

Soon my Dad pulled the rickety truck over on the side of the road and he walked over to a small roadside stand that sold produce and rolls. 

The next best thing to a Taco Bell...I guess.

My dad inquired about the small cucumbers and bread, 
and no doubt practiced his Krio with the people as they gathered his items. 

I was hoping he dad would come back across the road with a Snickers Bar for me, but I knew better. He came back across the road with just a cucumber and a few rolls.

Josh was thrilled with his cucumber and butter sandwich. 
Pretty much our only meal for the day.  

You would love Grafton. It is everything you think about when thinking about Africa.  

Lush, green hills...thatched roofed houses...
                           trusting, barefoot, barely clothed babies along side the road...

...and beautiful cascading waterfalls.

See this bridge here? The one that barely fits a motorcycle?
We drove over it in our truck.

Just before we crossed the bridge, 
I called out through my open window to a bunch of men sitting under the big tree, 
"owe de body?"

They all hollered back and cat called and yelled for us to come back.
I waved and blew kisses.

I was too busy taking pictures as we crossed the bridge.
This was the view to the left; a swimming pool of sorts. 

This was the view to the right as we crossed the bridge. A waterfall washing hole. 
My dad parked the truck at the top of the hill and encouraged me, Josh and Brooke to walk down to get a better look and take more pictures.

We met this sweet mama at the top of the hill on her way down to the water.  
The three of us made our way towards the bridge.
Of course, we stuck out like three neon flashing lights.
We rounded the hill, trying our darnedest to not look like tourists, and to just seem perfectly comfortable taking pictures and walking along the foreign hillside.

As we came upon the bridge, the sweet mama with the baby on her back stopped. 
We thought she was just letting us go first, so we smiled and went ahead of her. 

Just as we were about halfway across the small bridge,
a large, beat up old cargo truck, 
piled high with large boxes came speeding down the hill towards us.

There was no place for us to go.

Without slowing, the truck headed straight for us.  

Josh held out his arm to push Brooke and I up against the rickety railing.

We sucked in, curled up our toes,

pressed ourselves against the edge,

  grabbed on to the railing
and screamed as the truck barreled passed us.

It was just a few mere seconds that we were trapped there on the bridge like screaming, scared, sitting ducks
...but it felt like an eternity.

As the truck zoomed by, coming within inches, 
my eyes went cross-eyed as it passed. 
It was so close that I could feel my body being sucked in
by the force of the speeding truck. 

The truck headed up the hill, and we were checking ourselves, surprised to still be alive. 

Oh ya, remember these guys?  
They all watched the whole event unfold. 
I looked up on the hill and the group gathered under the tree 
were laughing, pointing and shouting and shaking their heads at us. 

Silly tourists.

We re-told the story to my parents who were waiting in the truck
 and they weren't a bit amused.
 They told us that pedestrians have no right of ways in Sierra Leone and they shuddered to think of what could've happened.  

Moving on, we made a quick stop to see the local missionaries. 

It was humbling to see them hard at work on a Sunday afternoon, 
holding church in their little part of the world. 

We seemed to gather a crowd everywhere we went.
My mom talked to this little girl about her school and what books she liked to read.

This young man wanted me to see and take a picture of his two week old daughter. 

Before we knew it, it was time to pack it up and call it a day.

However, the quickest way home was up over the mountain pass, 
and right into the hands of the road bandits!

These little kids spend their days making rock and stick barricades on the road 
and only let you pass when you pay the price.  

(VIDEO: being held up by the cutest little road bandits you'll ever meet - 
they let the U.N. people go only because they don't pay anyway)

The road bandits recognized my parents though,
and joked around with us and thankfully let us pass. 

Up and over the mountain dropping down into Freetown.

We finally made it home safe and sound around 11:00 p.m.
The next day was the first day of Ramadan. 
Everyone was heading to the mosques.

We headed to the market. 

It was our last full day in Sierra Leone. 

As "tourists" we needed to do a little souvenir shopping.

We were joined on our shopping trip by "the boys"
Albert, Messi, Pete, Amara and Mohammad and of course a few salesman. 

After shopping we went back to Home Flavors restaurant with our homies.

A little cassava anyone ?

An after-dinner cheer - and then the boys went on their way.

One last slow drive through Kissy allowed me to see these amazing sights.

Little kids looking down on their brother playing with a home-made ball.

This little guy stole my heart and made me for a second miss my babies back home. 

A long walk home at the end of a long day. 

With my camera in hand I felt like a visitor, a day-tripper.
Although in my heart I was longing to stay. I wanted to become a local. I had gone native.  

I spent the rest of the drive around town wiping away my tears.
(VIDEO: Messing around with Messi and Amara at the market; 
driving through the city; and a curious cutie) 

Early evening we stopped in to see baby "Di Di" my own mother's namesake. 
Here is my mom presenting her namesake with a blessing dress and other gifts we had brought.

I think my dad and mom could sense our sadness and so a quick phone-call to the boys, 
brought them back to the church to give us a little more time together. 

And by the time we made it through the horrible traffic...

... there they were, waiting for us. 

Sweet Albert entertained everyone and Pete claimed he was going to
 stow away in our luggage, so Josh decided to help him out. 

None of us really wanted to talk about the fact that we were going home the next day.

These boys had become our brothers, our long lost friends.

I wish every single one of you could meet them.  

We spent the rest of the night talking in the dark, 
telling stories and riddles, and jokes; 
and finding out that this world of ours is really rather small. 

I went home that night to pack my suitcase knowing that the next day I would be saying goodbye to the most kind-hearted, patient, funniest, most wonderful human beings 
I've ever known in my life.   

I couldn't imagine how it could be done.

That night I prayed for courage. 
Truly the courage to say goodbye.

Last installment...(the one where we almost create an international incident) coming soon. 


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