I woke up the next day and walked around. I met with Seinya, and her lovely one year old daughter Fati, who fluttered around in a lace dress. Seinya was not fluttery at all, I could see something was worrying her, making her spirit heavy. I was wondering what it was, but it did not seem appropriate to ask someone you knew so little. She introduced me to her friend Simpson, another local NGO worker, an electrician who worked for Caritas. He was a cool guy, relaxed, and not pushy, and I felt comfortable in his company. I wandered around the town. There were so many disabled people, people with limbs missing, on crutches, sitting around, not doing much. Most of them too young to be invalids. The massacre and devastation of the war seemed still so fresh, the consequences so vivid.
I had seen this before, I thought, when I was in Bosnia, the first time two years after the war there, and then several times later. And Bosnia I knew from before so I could compare. The first time I drove through Sarajevo from the airport, I started to cry uncontrollably. Just at the look of the blackened skyscraper skeletons, big holes in the walls of buildings, numerous small holes done by snipers in the still lived in buildings, the burnt down National Library. Deserted villages. Even worse in the charming Mostar with the collapsed medieval bridge. The atmosphere was just dead. I was depressed. Then I met people, friends, colleagues. We went out, and they spoke of horror, fears, hunger, pain. And then the survival strategies. About those they spoke with so much black humour, and on such a positive note – on several occasions - in the end we all laughed to how they all fought to find a small chunk of a tinned sardine in a big pot of boiled rice, the food that landed out of the sky as UN help to civilians, to save them from starvation. The spirit can basically survive anything.
You could see that in Zimmi as well. The life definitely went on. People cooked, they farmed, they went to work, and had children, they travelled, played football, and joked. Their lives continued, however scarred they had been by the deaths and losses of the beloved ones.
I went to the market, which was lively, and bought a pineapple, I had some more tea. Then I went to the school next door to my compound, and wanted to take some photos of the children. All of a sudden they swarmed around me, several classes of children of various ages. They were lively, some a bit wild. I had to use my teacher authority to make some order, they all wanted to stand right in front of me to be in the picture, all wanting to be in the front row. I spoke louder, in a more determined voice, showing them with my hands where I wanted each of them to stand, the smaller ones in front, the bigger at the back. If I moved back, they followed me like a big hive, giggling and chattering. A teacher came, helped me control the crowd, and posed for the picture as well. Wonderful pictures of children with so many different expressions, brown faces, big eyes, all in blue uniforms. Great colours!
I walked on, and on the other side of the street further on watched a football game played by local boys, all in copies of shirts of the famous football players such as Zidane, Ronaldo, Beckham, Essien. They were all aspiring to become good football players one day, maybe even make a career which would take them abroad. Football a ticket out of poverty, the chance for a better life, a wish of many African boys. I am sure there were a lot of young talents among them to be discovered.
In the afternoon Simpson came over, and accompanied me on my walk out of the village, and down the road, that led further on to Liberia. Everyone asked me, if I was on my way to Monrovia. I wished I was, we were not far away from the border crossing. It suddenly seemed so easy, accesible, a normal way to continue the journey. But I had a single entry visa, and a return ticket from Freetown. We got to the first police checkpoint outside the village, and I sat down with the policemen to have a talk with them. There were five or six of them, just sitting there, not having to do much. The local people were walking back and forth from their fields on the other side of the checkpoint, carrying bundles, vegetables, firewood, and tools. There was very little traffic. Actually none while I was around. I told them a little about Slovenia and myself. They listened with interest, they wouldn't mind talking longer. But at this point I was with Simpson, and followed his guidance. I knew he thought it was enough. So we said farewell.
I took pictures everywhere. The countryside was beautiful, it was deep green, and fertile. A lot of people, adults, and children came back from the fields with their hoes or sometimes vegetables, as the day was approaching its end. In Zimmi it rained more often than in Freetown, so I spent some time just in the house, and read a thick book I brought with me. When the rains came, that was a wonderful excuse to idle in bed. I loved the sound of it heavily pattering on the roof, the feeling that the time had stopped. Just being by myself, and taking a nap in the middle of the day. I really was on holidays, and left everything behind, work as well. What luxury!
Simpson came by again after work, and we went out in the afternoon. While watching another football match by adolescent boys on the local playground, someone came to introduce himself. He was a medical nurse for Caritas, his name was Kanei. I could see Kanei had a strategy of approaching. He did not encounter me by accident. He was following me around for a while, down the couple of streets Zimmi provided, waiting for the right moment to meet with me. The football field seemed to him to be the most appropriate. He was really trying hard to be my friend, much too hard. Saw in me an opportunity of a better life. The more I casually tried to explain him, I was not the right person to help him come to Europe, just because I was from Europe myself, the more persistent he was. Simpson smiled to himself, I could see he found it amusing. I invited both guys for a drink, but declined to accompany the medical nurse around, to visit his patients, and see, how he gave penicilin jabs. My father was a doctor, and I saw him work many times, I apologised. I wished him good luck, also in finding someone for a life companion. That's how desperate men sometimes get, not having the right opportunities, I thought. I had to hide sometimes from him in the next days, as he was a persistent felow, looking for me all around. We laughed about that with Simpson. He was one clever guy, and knew how to stay near me, no propositions, just offering his presence. And he also spoke openly of his family, his wife and children.