I woke up in the small hours. There were some dogs barking. It was sticky and humid, and I was sweaty. There was no water but the bottled one for drinking. The fan was off since midnight together with the generator. I checked the time on my cell phone. It was three o'clock in the morning, and I couldn't go back to sleep. I sat up, took my torch and lighted the lantern. I decided to leave in the early morning. I'll go to Bo or Kenema. I started packing with my flashlight on. Just threw my stuff into the bag and closed it. I arranged the bottles, and the leftovers of food. That was for Mohamed, my young friend, and a book by Dan Brown, Deception Point, someone left at the Gatwick airport together with a note to know it was read and left on purpose. It was a fake copy, probably came from somewhere in Asia, and now I took it to Africa. It will definitely fulfill its mission.
I had to lay down and wait some more, it was too early. I got up and I stood at the window, and tried to imagine the ocean, I could see far away in the daylight, from the hill, where my hotel stood. At the brake of the day I went down. I had to wake up the receptionist, and paid for the room. He called Mohamed to accompany me to the bus station. He was sleepy, but didn't seem to mind. He was happy for the bottles and cupcakes, but most of all for the book. The receptionist immediately put himself on the waiting list for reading it as well. I thought we were going to take a taxi, but we just walked through the still quiet city, he dragged my bag on wheels behind him. I gave Mohamed a generous tip before I got on the bus, and he asked me if I was coming back to the hotel when I returned to Freetown. I said yes, but I think I already decided there I was going somewhere else. I wanted to leave stories behind.
When I came, there was a bus almost full heading to Kenema. They put my bag in the boot and I climbed into the bus walking over bags, bundles, and people to my seat at the back. When the seats were full, they put wooden boards across the aisle in between seats to squeeze in two more passengers in a row. I was lucky, my seat was at the window, and the window could be opened, which meant, I could at least get some air, and buy through the window whatever I wanted, even if I wasn't able to always climb out of the bus. This was a government bus, which was supposed to be better than privately owned poda podas. There was some difference, but honestly, not that much.
We started the journey, and soon made a longer stop in the suburbs of Freetown. The driver had to go fetch something. By now the traffic was already thick, the roads got congested. It started raining heavily. I bought some bread through my window from a vendor, who sold loaves out of a plastic bag, another bag covering her head, to keep her from getting completely wet. The bread was fresh and crunchy. I bought a boiled corncob, and some mints for afterwards, my toothbrush was packed. I had my breakfast, while the blind evangelical preacher climbed on the bus and gave a long fervent sermon. People participated, hummed, nodded, and confirmed to his loud ecstatic questions and statements. It was in Krio so I wasn't converted. In the end he sold little bible booklets some people bought.
The road was fine to Mile 91, and then it got really bumpy, my seat was hard, and we were squeezed in. People's cell phones kept ringing in different tones, every now and then someone talked loudly with the invisible speaker on the other side of the phone. My neighbour did a lot of business on the phone, he spoke English, and I understood. He pretended he was still in Freetown. I wished someone called me as well.
We had a long stop at Moyamba Junction. It was obviously a trading centre, a market. People came with their agriculture products, and sold sweet potatoes, corn, and other vegetables, rice, and fruit. There were a lot of children around the park drive selling, carrying their items on tin plates placed on the head. Bananas, peanuts, pineapples, bags of rice, soft drinks. I was thinking why weren't these children in school. They should be there at this time of the day. Their T-shirts, dresses, shorts were mostly worn out, sometimes torn. They fought for customers, it was impossible to be fair, and please all. When they didn't sell, they hung around, or followed you just out of curiosity. Annoying and sweet as children can be. I sat down and got sorrounded by them, and we talked, they looked at my bracelets, wanted to have them. There were also some shops around, and makeshift restaurants, that's where most passengers went to have lunch. I needed to use the toilet. I was sent by some local women somewhere behind the houses where there was just a small makeshift bamboo fence barely covered with a couple of rags. It was more or less exposed, and smelled of urine far around. A couple of yards away some women were making lunch, crouching around the pots on the ground. I gave up, if it is good enough for them it must be for me as well, and crouched carefully, holding my bag up.
The road from the stop was really bad, full of holes. The conductor started to collect the money when we were approaching Bo. Some people were going to Bo, but most to Kenema. The bus driver for some reason wanted the conductor to collect the fare only to Bo, and then collect from Bo to Kenema separately from those passengers who travelled further. This aroused a lot of annoyance, clicking with tounges, and waving with the heads, and finally some arguing and shouting. But the driver's voice was the loudest. His temper was bad. His face got red. He stopped the bus in the middle of nowhere to make his point. He was determined not to go on until this was settled his way. He was stubborn enough and won in the end against a whole bus of people. Someone at the back collected the money, and then we passed it from hand to hand toward the conductor. He counted it and claimed some money was missing. After some more arguing, and another counting he seemed to have the right sum. I wanted to go to Kenema, but gave up in Bo, just wanted to get off that bus in the end. I didn't mind the loud talking, it was actually quite interesting, I just wasn't in the best mood with too little sleep.
I asked for directions to Milton Hotel. The rooms had a mosquito net and a TV, it seemed a luxury, I could watch the FIFA football match, it was coming to semifinals, if there was no power cut of course, they said at the reception. It was even better when they managed to fix the broken toilet in a couple of hours, the plumber walking in, and then out to find a new spare part, back in with the wrong part, and out again, and after a while finally with his face beaming he came with the right thing, and was then able to fix it in no time, leaving a mess in the bathroom. I patiently sat on the edge of my bed with my face in my hands, trying to read, not wanting to leave my luggage unattended in such a busily frequented room.
I then went for a walk around Bo, checked out the Lebanese mineral trader shops, but mostly from outside, found an internet cafe, and had a nice groundnut soup in the nearby restaurant. There were several venues for watching the game, some big halls. In some shops they had TVs turned on. There were clusters of man of all ages standing far around to catch at least a glimpse of the game. When something exciting was happening in the game there was a huge roar, and cheering.
I decided to go on the next day. Bo was still too big for me. I walked around the park drives and asked drivers where they were going, if there were any guesthouses in the towns where they were travelling. I looked at the small map I had, and liked the name Zimmi. Someone at the bus station told me there were no guesthouses at Pujehun, but there was one at Zimmi. Okay, then I was heading there.
In the evening I came out to have a drink in front of the hotel. At the next table there was a group of people, they seemed to be around my age, two women and several men. They were obviously friends, two were definitely a couple. They were having a good time, there was a lot of laughing and chattering, and they were getting drunk. One of them kept paying for the rounds of beer, and other drinks. I was drinking a Coke, sipping out of it a bit too often, being uncomfortable all by myself. It was one of those days, when I pulled back, and just observed. People then often left me alone.
There was a night club just next door. The music was lively and loud, there was a loudspeaker in the hotel as well. A lot of young people came to dance and have fun there, it was Friday night. Young women and girls in high heel shoes in which they could barely walk. And short skirts. Heavy makeup. They were definitely dressed up, and accompanied by young and sometimes not so young men. I suddenly felt lonely. I retreated to my room. It was raining heavily that night, and it made me feel better.