Next morning I decided to try have a business meeting. I dressed up, into what I could find of the few things I had in my bag, and pulled out a nice embroidered reddish shirt in wrinkled material. I wanted to meet someone in charge at one of the Sierra Leone Centres, but never managed to get in touch with them in advance. I found the location the day before on Wallace Johnson street downtown. They had an office in an old colonial decrepit but still impressive building with large windows. There was an exchange office on the ground floor. On the gate hung a sign in block letter writing with the centre's name, its missions and contact address with phone numbers and website page.
That day the front gate was open. I went down a narrow alley and mounted up a wooden steep staircase at the back. I came to an empty and quiet hall, noone seemed to be around. I knocked and tried to open a couple of doors but they were locked, then managed to enter the room at the end of the hall. Out of the hustle and bustle of city life I came into an oasis of quiet and calm, and nothingness. The colonial wooden interior together with the peaceful atmosphere made me feel like I stepped back in time. The only sign of life the fan on the ceiling slowly slashing the thick hot air. The atmosphere was powerful.
There was a desk, which was completely empty, the computer was turned off, an old display cabinet on the left, with rather empty and dusty shelves, a couple of old withered books lying forgottenly somewhere inside. No more other books to be seen, no posters or paintings on the walls. The room seemed uninhabited. Only then I noticed someone sitting behind a bureau desk in the far corner. He was deeply immersed in his work, leaning over the desk, drawing some straight lines with a technical pencil and a ruler over a big plan. He didn't mind me at all.
There was another door to the right leading from the office to the adjoining room, and it was half closed. I could see a bench, and someone on it lying down. This pencil scribbling and fan swishing silence had to be finally interrupted to introduce myself. The man behind his desk looked up, and at me, then called a couple of times to the lady sleeping in the next room by her name. Overcome with a feeling of guilt I realised, that we woke her up from a deep sleep. She got up, and literally staggered into the room, not knowing for a moment where or who she was. She was beautiful, with deer-like eyes, with an elaborate braided hairstyle, and a wonderful African printed outfit. She was all dressed up for work, but it didn't seem there was much to do around. I was one of the few visitors here.
She sat me down behind the desk, facing the turned off computer, and herself on the other side. I told her what I was there for, and presented a card. She was the centre's secretary, and explained to me the gentlemen-in-charge I was looking for was away, he was touring in Europe. She was not sure where exactly in Europe, maybe London, and other places. She also did not know when exactly he was due back. He left a while ago, several weeks, so he should be back some time soon. He was gone for more than a month now, so, maybe he would be back by the end of the month. The man in the corner agreed. So he was touring in Europe, and I was touring in Sierra Leone, my tour a bit different I thought. I gave my contact address in Sierra Leone, to call me when he would be back, and she wrote them down. Noone ever did.
By coincidence I actually met the gentlemen I was looking for when I arrived to Freetown a few weeks later, a day before I left back home. While walking around, I passed the centre, and took a picture. The guard came running out, I made him quite angry, taking a photo of the building without asking for permission. Do you want to speak to the boss, he asked? Do you want to see my boss, he repeated. I sure do, I answered. And so I came to meet the centre's Executive Secretary on spot. He was back from his tour and the Berlin conference. He sat in a different office, this one was full of books, papers, and pictures, a creative mess, as it should be. We talked a bit, I found out about their projects, about creative writing workshops they were organising, about book publishing, fund raising for everything, as they started from scratch, when he moved back from London during the war. I could personally meet some writers and get acquainted with projects, but unfortunately had no more time on me. They were definitely very busy, working on interesting projects, and doing good stuff. I met another lady there, who, I understood, was also on the board. They were both in Slovenia before, at a conference there, they spoke of my country in admiring terms, and agreed, how lovely it was. We spoke of our common African and Slovenian writer acquaintances, realised once again how small the world was. We promised to stay in touch. They would send some new short stories by Sierra Leonean writers.