Throughout my first two weeks in Freetown, I have mostly just been meeting people and getting to know what their lives are like. Here are a few sketches from some of my encounters.
Lamin, a 25 year-old guy working at one of the internet cafes near my house, is an aspiring professional golfer. His family lives in a rural village far from Freetown, so he is now alone in the capital. He has never actually even been to his home village. He lives near the Freetown Golf Club, a country-club originally built by the British offering golf, tennis, and squash. He started caddying for the golfers at the club when he was younger to make some money, and now he has become one of the best players in Sierra Leone (or so he says…I haven't gone to play with him yet so I can't vouch for his claim). He lives in an area called Ghana Compound (although there are not currently any Ghanaians staying there), in a two-room shack with two other guys. Together, they have made as nice a home for themselves as possible, and have in a way become each others' family.
Mask and Patrick
I had just finished up a late lunch with a friend at Freetown’s new sushi restaurant when the rain started to pour down. August is the height of the rainy season, and some days the rain comes down in intense downpours throughout the day, leaving you stuck in whatever location you happen to be in. I decided to brave the rain for a few minutes to make my way over to an internet café where I could wait out the rain and get some work done at the same time. But of course the power in town went off just a few minutes after I arrived, leaving all of us in the café with nothing to do for a while except chat with each other. Two guys came up to me and introduced themselves as Patrick and Mask (I thought I heard him wrong and that his name was actually Max, but then he wrote his contact info on a sheet of paper and it is indeed Mask). Patrick and Mask both come from Kono, the diamond rich region of Sierra Leone, and run mining companies. Patrick is actually the son of a chief in Kono. They have traveled all over the world to such places as Miama, Lesotho, and Europe to meet with their business partners. They both said that they are extremely happy right now because business is good and they are making a lot of money.
My friend and I had to make a quick stop at the beach on Sunday to meet someone before heading into the downtown area to do some work. We decided to splurge a little and have lunch at a nice restaurant along the beach. As much as I like cassava and potato leaves, a decent meal was sounding pretty good. So of course we made our way over to Chinatown. Yes, there is a Chinatown in Sierra Leone, or rather a Chinatown complex, complete with a Chinese restaurant, grocery store, guest house, wine bar, and even a sauna! As I was eating my vegetable fried rice, a Lebanese man came over and introduced himself as Mussa. We got to talking and I learned that Chinatown was a creation of Mussa's brother and sister-in-law. Mussa works with a construction company in Freetown, and has no desire to go back to his country. He has been in Sierra Leone for over 20 years now and has made quite a nice life for himself here.
And now for another funny few lines from a conversation I recently had during my first meeting with a random guy who lives near my house.
Random guy: “Are you married?”
Me: “Yes. I stay with my very over-protective Sierra Leonean husband.”
Random guy: “Oh, because if you were not married I would have told you that I love you.”
Note: I am not actually married, especially to an over-protective Sierra Leonean husband. However, I have spread this rumor around my new neighborhood so that the men leave me alone.