Around Town, 7/3/2009

Sierra Leone Week Two Kambia 070
Weekend, International Market
Weekend, International Market
Kambia Anti-Drug Parage
Kambia Anti-Drug Parade

Jonah: Yesterday primary and secondary students, teachers, policemen (and the police band), counselors, social workers, Chiefs, Paramount Chiefs, imams, priests, extremely pregnant mothers, and small naked kids took part in anti-drug parade around Kambia. Everyone first met up at the soccer field a few hundred yards from our office. The parade was to begin at 9:00 and in true Africa fashion, people were still rolling in around 10:30. At around 11 the band began to play and suddenly all the school children and lined up with banners and posters and began marching through the street. I spoke to a few of the children about the purpose of the parade. The children were well informed; many had handouts and brochures explaining the dangers of marijuana (called Jamba here), cocaine, LSD, and a fistful of other drugs. Kambia remains a hotspot for drug use and trafficking, notably to and from Guinea. The open-aired meeting following the parade was meant to make it clear that people possessing or using drugs would be arrested on the spot. As with many “laws,” “ratifications,” and the like in such poverty-stricken places like Sierra Leone, enforcement is dubious at best. Alcohol is illegal here in Kambia, truly against the law, despite the fact that every shanty kiosk I the neighborhood sells plastic jugs of gin and rum by the gallon. This perhaps explains why the police force, for the most part, looks fat and happy.

Last night I visited Hasan’s little shop to return a few Sprite bottles and an empty canister of fuel. I walked slowly past the neighbor’s small rice plot (who, on our first day in Kambia, was quick to point out was his “special experiment” while rattling of the chemical vagaries of rice production), past the house with an ancient man with one silver, cataract-covered eye, into the dirt football field with burnt out spectator benches, past a small grove of spindly palm trees, alongside a few destroyed houses, and into one of Kambia’s main dirt roads. As usual, Hasan was listening to BBC and jumped to his feet upon my arrival. After a prolonged greeting and a few questions about my health, he slumped down in his chair, lit up a cigarette, and continued listening to a story about Russia’s recent laws against gambling. A few moments later an old man arrived and removed a flask from his jacket; Hasan obliged him with a top off and the man drifted off into the darkness. Rain began to fall on the metal roof. I thanked Hasan, walked back into the dirt road, past the roofless houses, through the grove of palm trees, alongside the soccer field empty now except for two languid, starving dogs, next to the cataract-eyed man who greeted me this time in Arabic, past the rice experiment, and back home to the office.

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