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Published: April 29th 2006
After paying a small bribe at the Pamalap-Kambia
border and waving goodbye to the woman claiming to be the presidents daughter, we arrived in Freetown.
A blood-red full moon shed light on Freetowns landmark - the imposing 500 year old cotton tree - as innumerable bats left their daylight refuge among the cotton trees gnarled branches.
Once again we stayd in one of my aunts apartments, right in the city centre.
Kerosene lanterns and candles compose the only streetlight in this city of no electricity - and ablaze the small popcorn/youghurt-vendours, the street-pharmacies with their phony Nigerian pharmaceuticals and the dealers in hard liqueur - selling it in plastic bags.
The decrepit, wooden colonial houses climbing the steep hills that make up the city, along with the as-loud-as-it-gets mobile sound systems - booming out music throughout the nights - creates a charming (yet, at times tiresome) feel of a discontinued amusement park, seized by Christian-anarchy-jokers.
It's jovial and melancholic at the same time, and there's a lot of atmosphere to soak up.
The Christian presence is tangible with a church on every second street corner and a guy waking us up early, every morning, by walking our street up and down
yelling: Wake up to pray! Wake up to pray!
Early in the morning on Goodfriday, kids throughout the city gather Johnks
(used clothes, "deadman's clothes) and stuff them with straw, creating a scarecrow - with pipe, hat, sunglasses and scarf - to resemble Judas.
Then they wait for the church bell to signal the end of the morning mass.
As soon as the first bell is beaten, kids all over the Freetown peninsula start the annual "Flogging of Judas"
, which means:
They drag the scarecrows along the streets, beating and bashing them with sticks, kicking them, drowning them in the open sewers and literally slaughter them. -Dis is so he must to know that he did badd to the Jissus!
I was told by a group of kids as they dragged what was left of Judas - a torn and soaked sweater - out of the water at Mama beach.
We spent the Easter weekend beach jumping the 40 km long peninsula clockwise.
After Mama beach we had a look at Kent beach
and then Bure beach.
I'd like to keep it as a secret, but it's not fair to the rest of you. Bure beach is unquestionably the
Bure beach, Freetown peninsula
best beach in Sierra Leone, arguably the best beach in West Africa.
We slept at the beach after bargaining over the price of "protection"
-including-breakfast you had to pay for staying over night.
Spent the evening exchanging proverbs in Temne and Krio with Swedish and English ones, and listened carefully to the ubiquitous stories about diamonds (no matter if you're on a beach, in a bar or on a bus, you'll sooner or later hear the enthralling stories of lost-and-found (more so often vice verca) diamonds the size of golf balls.).
Had some jugs of palm wine for breakfast and then swam to Maroon island
and back, before we continued our "tour de plage".
The long Tokey beach
, the very hyped River No.2 beach
where the expat community dwells and we got a lift with the Libyan ambassador back to town. The following days we tried the long shelving Lakka beach
and Lumley beach
, a jogging ground for U.N soldiers, leaving Sussex beach
and Black Johnsson beach
As the city got ready for the big Easter carnival set on monday, we made our own ginger beer and watched a Nolllywood (the tacky nick name of
Mama beach, Freetown peninsula
the Nigerian film industry) movie. Nollywood is huge in the anglophone countries of Africa, and most of the low budget production is for home video only.
The plot is always the same, the acting is stiff and it's totally male orientated. But nevertheless interesting to watch and a well needed break from the only two T.V.channels: One governmental with full on propaganda, and the other one - a Jehovah run private channel with intense indoctrination. - Remember, we are all covered in the blood of Jesus!
A heavy tropical rain fell and then the festivities began.
An uncontrolled carnival expanding in all directions on every little street in the city centre. The Bundu secret societies (think small scale freemasonry mixed with the use of fetishes and the practice of clitoridectomy.) show their traditional masks along with more modern attire and they all dance away to the big sound systems with rappers telling you to: - Give a big up to Jesus!
It's very colourful and so loud it even subdues the ceaseless, honking traffic jams, in volume.
We went to the "Oh holy Grace- Internet place" for some mailing, the only bookshop (Christian books only, of course) and
upset the manager of the Y.M.C.A. by being atheists. Bargained for some D.V.D.s of the ECOMOG-forces as they recaptured Freetown from the R.U.F guerrilla just after the "operation no living thing". Decided not to buy and left the tropical, hilly, Christian peninsula for the more Muslim north, and the picturesque village of Kabala.
Climbed a nearby mountain and enjoyed the mood of one of the friendliest and most appealing villages I've ever been to.
Spent a few days and then squeezed ourselves into a Nissan Patrol for an unforgettable journey to Faranah
in Guinea. 19 people altogether, three standing on the bumper, two sitting in the passenger seat up front, with a kid in their lap. The rest of us - in a jumble of body parts, domestic animals and bulky stereo equipment - in the back. Finally the driver, a mixed blessing in shaded glasses, with sweat constantly pouring off his forehead, nervously chewing on a stick as he steered along potholes big enough to swallow a truck.
At the Gberia-Fotonbu
crossing into Guinea it was the normal bureaucratic procedures.
We got away cheap but the accompanying Sierra Leoneans got targeted by the greedy Guinean border officials.
I asked one fellow passenger - a gentle salesman - why they paid. - Because of tradition.
He explained. - Oh, in Europe we call this corruption.
I told him. - Yes, but in Africa we call it tradition.
He said and we both laughed while we awaited the officials to stop squabble and settle for their hush money.
Reached Faranah in the night and slept on the street at the taxi stand.
The driver said it was unwise to unpack our bags because of thieves, but I needed a makeshift pillow of Sweaters and t-shirts.
Of course I had a bag of clothes stolen.
We saw a huge rodent tied to the bonnet of a taxi, opted for another one and went to Kissidougou,
a village that borders the largest zone of forest in West Africa. Three years back the area was described as very volatile with bandits, mercenaries, rebels, soldiers, gunrunners and diamondsmugglers. Nowadays it's a very nice little village with a busy market. In the afternoon we witnessed some striking electrical phenomena as a storm approached with some natural fireworks.
After another full day journey on dirttracks
we entered Kankan,
the second biggest city in Guinea. It's more accurate to describe it as a splitting-at-the-seams village, with clusters of round traditional thatched huts separated by long mango tree lined avenues.
Another very nice place, excellent for buying cloth that's way too colourful for ever wearing back home.
We felt sad about leaving this untouristic region for the bottleneck of the West African tourist trail: Bamako,
the capital of Mali.
After waiting for eight and a half hour in Kankan for the shared taxi to fill up with passengers (ten inside a Peugeot 504), we departed for the border.
We drove in silence, no music, no talking, only the clattering awareness of the coming rainy season hitting our windshield. Everyone seemed to contemplate over the pristine beauty of the region we where leaving behind, and have apprehension for the country to come. KRIO PROVERBS:
Faes ful neto ful, baet sekaen ful, na in-na ful.
If you're fooled once you're not a fool, but if it happens twice, then you're a fool.
Daeti wata sef kin aet faia.
Even dirty water can put out a fire. The wider meaning is, "Any port in a storm," but it is often used as a sexual allusion.
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