I kind of surprise myself when I tell people I’ve been in Sierra Leone for 5 years. Has it really been that long? Yes, it has - I arrived almost 6 years ago and took an 11-month break. In many ways this feels like home, but in some ways it does not because no matter how long I am here, I am still a “white man” and don’t blend in with the crowd. People still ask for my number all the time, ask to be my friend, beg for money, etc. And sometimes I wish it would stop. Honestly, there have been expats here for years now, you think Sierra Leoneans would be used to it by now and not have to call out “white man” or “white women” or “hey you” or “baby” all the time. But they do. And I should just get used to it staying like that. (sigh)
So, although I’ve been here for a while, I still discover things all the time. Here are some of the most recent:
There’s a little shop at the petrol station just down the road, which I’ve gone to in the past to buy cornflakes or oats when I run out and can’t get to the supermarket. Just last week I discovered that they sell both fruit juices and chocolate bars. Yum. And the chocolate bars are cheaper than at the supermarkets. As you can imagine, my chocolate intake has increased over the past week and I love it.
I’ve also discovered the weirdness of cravings and about three new popcorn stands. Last week after work we drove past a popcorn stand on Fourah Bay road the smell of popcorn lingered and was amazing. All of a sudden I had an intense craving for popcorn but we had already driven too far. Then we hit traffic. My craving got worse and we weren’t moving. I actually rarely crave foods, so this was quite bizarre but I really felt like I had to have popcorn then and there. It wasn’t going to happen. Finally we were moving again and passed another stand. Seeing as we were finally moving along, I didn’t want to stop traffic and we carried on. My craving got worse. Then a little while later we spotted another stand and pulled over and my driver hopped out and bought two bags of popcorn for Le 1,000 (25 cents). O happy day. It must have been the salt I was craving on a hot and sweaty day. I bought popcorn three days in a row.
Something else I found out is that my last name is also a Sierra Leonean name, found mainly in the Magburaka area. Go figure. Funnily there’s even a doctor at the maternity hospital with the same last name. The Lako’s are from the Temne tribe, so I think I better start learning some Temne.
I also tried a new snack I had never seen before, a snack that looks like a bracelet but is eatable and made out of groundnut (peanuts) and spices. It is crunchy and has quite a taste. The lady in triage at the registration desk actually showed me this snack for the first time since it is her sister that sells them. It’s always nice to try a new snack.
I also discovered the awkwardness of sharing the front seat in a taxi. The taxis I take to Regent are often quite full. Regent is a little ways out and so the taxi drivers want to get the most out of the trip. Understandable. Up until recently I always ended up on the back seat with 3 or 4 other people. However, recently I have been stuck in the front seat with another passenger. It’s not bad at all if you’re on the car door side, but when stuck in the middle it is terrible. How awkward to be squashed up against someone on your right and to be right up against the gears, with the driver resting his arm on your leg as he shifts gear. Not so pleasant. I guess this was a discovery that taught me to sit in the back seat to Regent from now on.
That’s it for now. I’ll be on the lookout for more new and exciting things in Salone.