“Aporto, Aporto” Sierra Leone - August 31st 2013

First thing I go to visit the Grandfather of my son’s primary school friend Imaani who lives in Freetown and we chat about Imaani and his daughter Barbara (also my friend who gave me lots of advice prior to my trip – thanks Barbara!) Then we say goodbye to the staff at Hotel Mariam, everyone has been so lovely I find it quite emotional. I give everyone tips – small to me but, Alfred tells me, probably half a week’s wages to each of them. Wow. I also visit Alsuine’s family again, chat to the staff in his hairdressing business and he oversees me buying African shirts at Victoria Market (adjacent to Victoria Park – very different from our London one despite being named after the same Queen). Alusine rejects one design I like because it is Nigerian – it’s important I get authentic Sierra Leone designs he feels, I agree of course and am glad he is there to show me the difference.  Later I buy some fabric from a man in the street carrying assorted reams on his head (definitely from SL).

I am not sure how I feel about the fact that, African fabrics aside, the only clothes shops and stalls I see all sell second hand European clothes. Nobody wears anything new. It makes our life full of endless stores and shopping malls seem so very selfish. Alsuine tells me he is going to drive us around the bay so I get to see some of the Sierra Leone countryside. I do. There are lots of small villages along the way, I notice some signs to the mining areas (very emotive discussions in the car), we get to see the President passing in a big cavalcade and stop to buy bananas and roasted cassava root (I love breaking pieces off and eating the warm floury inside). We stop at Alsuine’s home town and everyone except me eats meat on skewers. On the road again I tell everyone in the car I am pleased I have learnt one word in the Sierra Leone language - ‘Aporto’ the word for hello I say. I know this because all week people have been waving at me in the car and shouting “Aporto, Aporto”. I have been waving and shouting “Aporto” back. I wonder why everyone in the car is laughing. It’s because ‘Aporto’ is actually the word for white person…

6pm – we arrive at Lungi airport to drop off Alfred and the wooden crocodile off for the flight to Brussels. I am sorry to see Alfred go, I really enjoyed working with him and admire his joyful nature and his calm way of working – his insight really added something to the course.  It has been a very full on African day – I feel as if my head will explode. The driver returns me to the guesthouse for my last night (first time I am alone – I am a little nervous). Alusine promises someone from the Immigration service will arrive to take me to the airport promptly at 8am. I tell him I will be calling both him and the Head of the Airport Mr. Bassie (he was also on my course) at 8.01 if nobody arrives! I remember this hotel. I don’t shower.

Buying Sierra Leone fabric in Freetown

Buying Sierra Leone fabric in Freetown