Reise nach Sierra Leone im Juni 2011
Sierra Leone, Moyamba, 2011
17. 6. 2011 Aberdeen
We have arrived here yester night, Markus from Germany and me from Accra. My flight was much shorter; actually it took me only two hours to get here but I had another whole day getting from Kumasi to Accra. We are now sitting around after breakfast and getting things organised: credits for the mobile phone, transportation to Moyamba, without moving a metre. In Africa you just have to spread what you need and others get it done.
The hotel has been a disappointment. On the website it looked fine and situated right on the beach. That was a real cheat! It is somewhere located at a bumpy road where not even taxis pass by and it took us a whole bottle of insecticide to get rid of the mouldy smell in the rooms!!
Our transport delays us. Alternative arrangements have to be made because the first driver doesn’t turn up. The time we are setting off it is already getting dark (around 7 p.m.) As the Forex bureaus have closed by this time, we change money somewhere in the street with a guy that the driver called on the way coming to meet us. In the same way we also top up credits for the phone: by voucher, i.e. from phone to phone as there is no card available. All in all it takes us 1½ hours to get through Freetown. The traffic is thus less insane than in Ghana.
It starts raining and we take another road than last year because of the rainy season. It is a bit longer but it is a real, fine road. No potholes at all! Only the last 37 km from the junction to Moyamba are bumpy dust roads. We arrive Moyamba in the night. Emmanuel, Rosalyn’s brother welcomes us, busy guiding everyone to the accommodation and offering foods and drinks. I get a room in the children home’s guesthouse, where two volunteer girls from UK are lodging. The mattress is very soft and spreads an intense scent of wee wee, probably it had been used in the dormitory before. I am surprised: there is electric light and a little running water.
I wake up by the noise of the children. I stand up quickly because I can’t wait to see them.
I am amazed that the children recognize me after more than one year, and they all ask for Auntie Susie. Before breakfast I go to the kitchen area to greet Mammy Deborah. She is sitting there as usual, supervising the cooking and the bathing. The bigger children bathe the smaller ones. Agnes, called Kadiatu by everyone is busy cooking. The atmosphere is very lively. Mammy Deborah gives orders softly and they are followed without any hesitating. Her word is a rule!
Markus arrives at the children’s home. It is his first time to experience live the setting and the kids.
We are having our breakfast. We can’t believe our eyes: Mohamed, who last year was just sitting in his wheelchair, walks in on his own feet, only supported by the helping had of Rebecca!
After breakfast we have a tour of the children’s home. Apart from new solar panels which provide the place with electric light, so that also the children can read and play in the evenings, the well has been partly mechanized. Fetching water has become easier due to a lever which has replaced the rope and there are also tanks on a tower which enable some taps to be provided directly, especially the toilet flushes of the nursery. I though suggest that apart from that the tanks only supply the guesthouse and Deborah’s house, as I still see the children busy fetching water at the well and carrying it to the kitchen and bathing area in buckets.
The toilets attached to the nursery have been finalized. There are three of them and a shower.
The beds of the dormitory now have bed sheets and the place is also net smelly any more. Most of the girls are wearing earrings, their big wish of last year.
We measure the children and distribute the gifts from their god-parents. The children are all standing in a row, impatiently waiting for it to be their turn. They are however quite shy when it’s up to them, so we decide not to interview them because their answers are in a very small voice and seem unnatural.
In the evening Rosalyn returns from Bo. Again we are amazed, seeing how the children respond to her. They run towards Rosalyn, screaming Mummy, Mummy, hugging her and being hugged back.
The seminar in Bo was from the ministry of social welfare, gender issues and children’s rights. It was about setting up standards for children homes. Fine. But it was also discussed to give children in foster families. We would definitely not agree with such an idea, having heard too many stories of children being maltreated in such families, misused as working slaves…
The morning starts with church on the compound. The first service starts at seven and is in Mende. Rosalyn is the priest. The second service is in Krio. All our children are nicely dressed and proudly wear their new clothes and rucksacks and some girls even take their dolls to church. Rosalyn has to rush to town to give church service on the radio. So others take over and then they just turn the radio on and do a kind of tele-churching with Rosalyn. The children then go to one of the class rooms and have their own Sunday school there. Two small boys drum and the others sing and dance, especially Jofred, who jumps around as if having drunk kangaroo petrol.
After Sunday school the children really enjoy themselves because on Sundays they needn’t study but get their good toys for playing.
In Moyamba we spend a lot of time sitting around, as it is usual in West Africa. While you hang around, the things happen around you and you are left commenting and discussing them, avoiding to move too much because of the heat. You could burn too many hard earned calories. So we watch and play with the kids, eat, talk, play, eat…
In the morning I visit the nursery and the school classes. The atmosphere in the classes is friendly and joyful. The children are tidily dressed and proudly use their new rucksacks. In the afternoon we meet again with Rosalyn.
Those children who used to wet their beds are now trained systematically not to do so anymore. They all sleep in Deborah’s and Rosalyn’s house, mammy Deborah waking them up several times in the night to send them to the washroom. Rosalyn thus sleeps with the other children in the dormitory.
This day the package from Germany finally arrives. Markus also has more things in his suitcase to be distributed. Unfortunately we start distributing with Rosalyn quite late so that it is getting dark. Again the children stand around in excitement, impatient to be it their turn to get something, and then to jump away with their treasure and a big smile.
Tuesday 14.6./ Wednesday 15.6.
We set off in a big landcruiser of Actionaid which Rosalyn has organised for us. Emmanuel has to accompany us to make sure that we get settled safely. He really seems to be happy about this task and walks around proudly with his white crocheted hippie-like handbag. (Next time we must bring him a handbag as well, not only for the ladies). It is hard to say good bye. There is a deep pain. Mummy Deborah is crying.
We go to Sussex in the Western Area to have the Wednesday to recap and take notes. Having arrived there, at Franco’s Hotel which is a blend of Mediterranean style and African worn-out flair, but quite nice, we invite Emmanuel and the driver for lunch on the beach. Though invited, they are reluctant to order, because according to them it is extremely expensive, round about 10 $ per dish, for pasta as well as for lobster or barracuda.
The place is quiet, idyllic, ideal for recapitalize, rest and saying good bye to Sierra Leone, eating lobster with beer and chips and swimming in the Ocean during heavy rains.
It is time to go. We have a transport arrangement with Bailor, my driver of last year, who is reliable and arrives punctually as a German bank clerk. This is why we arrive at the speedboat junction very early. Never mind, we do what all do in Africa most of the time: hanging around. There are new speedboats now which are quite fast. It only takes around 20 minutes to get to Lungi. Markus, the controller calculates the revenues of the boat owner and comes to the conclusion that he has earned his Mercedes jeep in only 30 days.
It is low tide and in Lungi the boats cannot get close to the jetties. I cannot believe my eyes! There are men who carry the entire luggage and the people to the jetties. The tall ones are taken on the shoulders like small children, when they are carried by their fathers, all the others like brides into their nuptial chambers!