Got back from a short trip to Kambia – town in NW Sierra Leone where we spent a month last year working with AMNet (Advocacy Movement Network) on children’s rights/women’s advocacy – a few days ago and it is always crazy to go from the peace of the rural, ultimate country life, to that of Freetown and the insanity that persists.
In Kambia, greeted friends and families and police officers and teachers and former RUF rebel leaders (now an ordained minister), and more kids than I can count, ate food that was so kindfully made but truly strange (weird parts of goat and chicken swamped in a pool of palm oil), ran in the rain and pushed around a little naked kid on a makeshift cart, while showering saw a spider large as my hand on the wall behind me, watched a 17-year old boy give an English letter writing assignment on a chalkboard on a front porch, listened to the call of prayer and sat watching an old man next to me push his head to the ground repeatedly, walked to a village called Kassasi and saw Koranic verses tied up in pieces of paper with string hanging from houses to ward away evil spirits, saw the ills of intermarriage in all its forms also in Kassasi (disproportionate limbs, crossed, vacant eyes), watched a man cut bark chips off a tree trunk to soak in water, then boil, of which will be drank to cure malaria – a traditional medicine that works -, threw dozens of children up into the air and think I re-herniated my neck disc, watched football matches in a concrete box of a building with 50 sweaty men, saw the greatest of storms approach like an angry child across the sky, battling its way with grey fingers and then pounce on us, the goats hiding under eaves of houses, gave gifts to neighbors (mostly clothes from my drawers that they treated as heirlooms), saw billions of stars in the sky, waved to a man climbing up a palm tree to tap it for palm wine, held baby Jonah Walton Turay (AMNet staff member we worked with last year named his boy after myself and Ashley…an unexpected surprise in choice of names last year upon his birth!) and watched him alternate between fascination and terror in seeing a white person (he didn’t cry while Ashley held him, rats!),
ran through the jungle on paths walked by rebels and soldiers and now just farmers and villagers, the deep rotting smell of jungle at once alluring and repulsive, heard “Opato” (white man) hundreds and hundreds of times from little kids, shook the leathery hands of old men and women, in one instance a blind woman in her 60’s who held her hands into the air and waited for me to shake it, her nephew explaining that she was shaking hands of an Opato, sat on the back porch with Ashley and watched the wind dwindle and with it fading sounds of goats and chickens and leaves, spoke to a sweet little 9-year old girl named Senna with browning hair due to lack of vitamins and watched the night envelop us.