26 December 2007
When we got there the party seemed very empty…how you gonna show off a dress with only a handful of people around? After a couple minutes we decided to leave and come later when hopefully more people would be around to see the dresses. First stop ColeFarm to buy some ‘Jeboo’ otherwise known as second hand gas available late in the night when gas stations are no longer operational. You have to be careful with them though because rumor has it they water down the already watered gas that we have in the country. Next stop…Crusin on the beach.
We drive past Chez Nous and end up at PLAN B WINE BAR where we see some acquaintances enjoying a couple drinks….some of them are wearing white as well so we assume they are headed to the same party. We make a little chit chat..order some coffee ( yes there is coffee and tea at the wine bar so if you find yourself falling asleep but committed to going out then u stop by…no milk for me please..like my coffee black…) At PLAN B I break out the camera and we have a mini photoshoot right there at the bar.
About an hour after we got there we decide that it may be safe to return to the party, so back to Murraytown we go We arrive at the party and it seems like there are more cars. We get out the car and walk to the house.
Enter through the gate and examine the crowd…looks like this party is meant to be small…I’m disappointed what a waste of time…We get a few cold stares from some of the women seated at their tables (nothing new in Freetown, where every woman is paranoid that u want their man..even if they don’t have one. Freetown titi den noh friendly to oda uman dem at all….So ladies do as I did and bring your own friends from wherever…luckily I have two of my sista girls from newyork living in freetown with me so mi no have to worry bout making paddi.) We take our seats greet a couple of our friends before we eventually say “F it” and hit the dance floor.
Welcome back to the 80s people…strictly old school dance grooves…I can dig it…especially when the ‘I will survive’ and ‘Mr Big stuff’ start dropping. Here we go singing at the top of our lungs…After about two hours of boogeying down…(almost forgot to mention that well into the party that a band arrives and plays Christmas carrols..they were okay but wasn’t impressed)
I start making ‘the guys I think we should head home’ comments…which are ignored and fall flat on the floor. Damn..i gotta stay longer than I really want to. After another hour it is announced that the cake is about to be cut..i’m glad cause whenever the cake is cut I know we’re close to the end. The birthday girl and her husband make their way to the cake and cut it…sing sing…clap clap…can we go please. Darn they still wanna stay. I put my foot down and announce that’ll be waiting in the car until they’re ready. I walk out…about 5 minutes later they follow.
We leave and head for the beach for some fresh air. About 30 mins later we head home…its after 5;30am…I’m exhausted and looking forward to rolling up in my bed… We pull up to my house and the gate is wide open…a bit peculiar cause its usually closed when I come home from a night out. I guess they left it open for me. I pull up into the back of the house and get out the car. Its almost day break and I can see my mom standing in her window…I’m thinking I guess she woke up early.
I walk closer to her window half trying to get the back door key out of my house.
“Vickie I think we’ve been robbed, your lap top is gone”
“ WHAT DO YOU MEAN I THINK…ARE YOU KIDDING”
“ No, I’m not Vickie its gone I went to look in your room and it was gone...they cut in through the window and fished it out”
“WHAT!!!” “ WHY IS EVERYONE ASLEEP AND WE’VE BEEN ROBBED, WHY R U IN YOU ROOM MUMMY”
“ Vickie wetin ah go do, u take di back do’ key” I turn to my friend and burst into tears.
Thru the tears I explain “That laptop means so much to me, my dad gave it to me for my 21st birthday. He drove all the way from Maryland to Pennsylvania to wake me up from sleep and hand it to me only to drive 2hrs back to MD to go to work”
Standing out in the dusk I felt very very naked. I’d been robbed in the house before but not something so very important. All my research, all my work, pictures, music, thoughts, blog posts, everything was in that computer. Where will I begin now??? My mom finally rings the alarm and wakes up the house explaining that my laptop has been stolen.
Ofcourse no one saw or heard anything To say I was pissed would be a total understatement. I start throwing ‘F words’ left and right…I rage into the house…back outside…pace around…no more tears…no words…I feel beaten, like I got hit with a sucker punch in the first round of a boxing match…T.K.O..Technical Knock Out Indeed!!!
By 7 a.m, I am totally exhausted and pass out on my mom’s bed. I wake up late in the afternoon on Sunday and decide that something must be done. At first I wanted to go to the local police at Congo Cross to make a report but then I realize that it’d be useless. I call one of my close cousin’s who lives at home with us and we decide it would be best to consult the local Mediceine Man to come and find the thief if indeed he/she is in our house. Multiple times before, the Witch Doctor/Medecine Man had been summoned to our house to find and catch thieves with his broom….i was told that his record was 100%
When the Witch Doctor/Medecine Man arrives at the house I am surprised…instead of an old man with greying beard and jaygay hung on his neck…Duadu shows up. A young man with a job at the Institute of Public Administration , short, brown, with fierce small brown eyes. I am informed that he is one half of a twin. My mother tells him about the importance of the computer to me and its contents etc. He says it’ll cost 80,000 for him to go to the bush to look for the medicine because of the value of the computer. I count the 5,000 Leones notes and hand them to him. After informing me that he’ll come the following Saturday at 10am I head inside. Do I really believe that Dauda the Witch Doctor/Medecine Man is going to use his broom to catch the person who stole my computer? Not really…but I know that the people in the house are scared of his broom and that might force them to confess.
There are two different traditional ways I’d heard of that could be used to catch thieves. The Broom and the Fire Pot. We were going to use the Broom.
As Saturday approaches the excitement begins to build…I am actually going to witness the broom in operation. HOW KWOOL!!!!!!!!!
Saturday morning in bed with my two partners in crime after another awful night out (we’re convinced we’re too fabulous for this country..)…someone knocks on my door to let me know that Dauda di Witch Doctor/Medecine Man don cam en im don ready fo cam catch di tifman. I don’t want to get up but how could I miss this performance de culture, paganism, whatever.
I get up, a couple slaps on my friends’ behind and we’re all three sleepy faces dragging ourselves to the back of the house. Duada is there with an assistant who is holding a small bowl containing some liquid, which I imagine is why I had to pay him 80,000. There is a long stick on the ground and Duada is standing behind the stick. He calls one of the boys, the oldest to sit on the stick straddling, so that one butt chick is on the left of the stick and the other to the right. This first “lookin gron..na fo see if na tiff den tiff di computer or if na mis place den misplace am”
I can see the fear in Sahr’s eyes as he sits on the stick his back toward Duada who is standing behind him with the two halves of the broom. Dauda dips his hand into the assistants bowl and rubs the liquid on Sahr’s neck three times. He then rubs the liquid three times on the broom
“ Sahr” “Yes” “Sahr” “Yes” “Sahr” “Yes” “Dis computer of na loss I loss, if na misplace den misplace am, if posin no take am, make di broom pass, if na loss I los, make di broom pass, if na loss I loss, make di broom pass”
Duada’s eyes are wide open, intense, piercing, with a hint of the supernatural…he passes the two halves of the broom on Sahr’s neck and nothing happens. Sahr has to stay seated. But this time he is nervous. Before Duada calls his name….he starts to yell for the other boys to stand behind Dauda in anticipation for what is about to happen. Everyone knows the computer was stolen.
“ Sahr” “Yes” “Sahr” “Yes” “Sahr” “Yes” “Dis computa if na tif den tif, if den tif am, if na tif den tif, am if den tif am, ifdentifam,ifdentifam,ifdentifam”
His words become slurred….can no longer make out the words, he starts staggering backward and forward, the two halves of the broom are covering his eyes, finally he passes the broom around Sahr’s neck and jerks Sahr backward towards him pulling him by the neck. The broomsticks ends have clasped together choking the life out of Sahr. The three boys and Dauda’s assistant grab his hands and struggle to free Sahr, who from the look of thngs is choking.
Finally, Duada lets go and Sahr is freed, he is clearly hurt. Duada falls out unconscious….the power of the broom and the medicine has overtaken him. He lays unconscious for several minutes until he is fanned back into consciousness. Now each individual person has to sit down under the broom so we can find the thief. Fortunately, no one gets caught.
From Dauda’s performance we find out that no one in the house stole the computer or knows of its whereabout. However the thief does come to the house often
At the end of the cultural experience I still don’t have a computer, I’ve paid Dauda about $50 for nothing.
But atleast I have content for the blog :-)
24 December 2007
When the APC won the 2007 elections the President clearly (and rightly) highlighted energy as one of his priorities. For those who don't know the background to Sierra Leone's power 'issues' - Sierra Leone has been plagued by very sporadic and poor power supply for the best part of the last 30 years hindering our push for investment in the country and sending the cost of living through the roof. Freetown is more or less powered by private generators, noisy and I'm not sure how good it is for the favourite buzz word at the moment - environment.
Anyhow, he appointed a dynamic lady as his Minister of Energy and Power, one Hon. Afsatu Kabbah and barely a month ago a contract was signed with a Belgian firm to provide electricity for Freetown. Critics (mostly, Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora) had a go at the cost and terms of the contract. In the meantime, most folks in the country where just interested in eradicating this power plague.
The date (now infamous) for the supply of power was set at December 20. It was stated that the machines will arrive on the 18th and this was achieved as the machines where cleared yesterday amid great fanfare. Of course, it was politicised but I guess you can't really blame them for it. Chants like: "Ernest nor dae lie".. "APC on target".. "Goodbye Kabbah tiger, hello Koroma Power" echoed from the crowds. 'Kabbah tiger' are the tiny and affordable 1KVA generators which are scattered all over the city, bringing power to the homes of many. They became popular during President Kabbah's reign.
So, will they make the 20th? It's seems a really tight deadline but we hope so. Last night, a convoy of Government officials went pas at 11pm so someone's working pretty hard. How the SLPP refused to see the political weight of solving this issue beats me, and though not the only reason they were ousted I believe it was a big part. It was a very visible failure.
I'm sensing that hope is alive once again and transforming the hope into belief will no doubt be the catalyst for better times in Sierra Leone. Maintaining the momentum will be a challenge for the current government, but come December 20 or even (December 25, allowing them a few days) if the lights are switched on they would have gone some way towards making this happen. Good luck Sierra Leone!
Added on December 24th:
As it so happens I didn't post the above when I wrote it due to limited Internet among other things. Since the above, the machines where indeed commissioned on December 20th by his excellency President Koroma. There was no big switch to 24hr power but with some of the transmission lines out there it may not be such a bad thing. The launch was symbolic and the President who spoke quite well, was keen to stress how we can achieve the near impossible with some serious hard work.
Since the launch, areas of town have been experiencing increased electricity supply a a gradual pace. In fact today there was even power at my dad's office and I heard him say he couldn't remember the last time they went the whole day without switching on the generator. "Years" he said.
So hope is still very much alive.