Deer at the breakfast table

Some things you never expect. Like a small deer licking your toe while you are having breakfast. Or the fact that the road to the airport does not exist. Straight out of the terminal, you head into a dirt road with potholes flanked by the Africa you see in a newspaper. Waving kids, small huts, bigger concrete houses, unfinished, finished, men and women sitting, carrying things on their head. Oh, and you find yourself packed in a minivan, between African travelers, the familiar Chinese and mostly aid workers. I already counted about ten on the plane and made friends with one of them quickly as we were slightly anxious about this rather strange trip into Free-town. The minivan ride ends on the beach and you have to take a speedboat to cross the bay. At the other end you will find the city of Freetown. The boat ride lasted about 25 minutes, and I can safely say I do not get seasick easily as that was one bumpy ride.

Strangely enough, I am quite convinced this is one of the minor things to be impressed about during this visit. Freetown is an experience. The amount of people and their incredible diversity, movement, traffic, dirt on the road, the mix of neighborhoods with two story houses and shanty towns, polluted plastic rivers (in which you find men, women and children looking for metals) beautiful rainbows, amazing views, the constant honking, the aid vehicles with their satellite phone antennas sticking out 2 meters high, the pothole roads (and the ‘jumping’ around in the car as a passenger), every inch of your senses gets stimulated with smell, sound and a constant stream of visual stimulation. Watching the flashing light of a stroboscope would almost be like Zen meditation in comparison.

In other words I am impressed or better said, overwhelmed. Even more so after a visit to the community yesterday. I was taken to a girls’ club. Girls of Integrity come together every week, to discuss how they can be strong and bold, and develop creative skills to be able to have their own economic independence, but most of all stay away from violent and abusive relationships. They were really shy at first, but after some encouragement by Aunty Hawa (the wonderful woman that took me to show her work!) they performed their own theater with the different issues they face: child marriage, being taken out of school to work at the market, child labor for fishermen, sexual abuse and violence. You might be living in Freetown, but you certainly aren’t a Free Girl.

The contrast of it all was highlighted by the amazing view that I was witnessing. We were sitting at the water’s edge, tranquil, peaceful with a colorful fisherman’s boat in the background. A rainbow came out, and all I could think was: “We would pay a fortune to live in a place like this, and here people are occupied only with one thing: survival.” Let’s hope that one day they will have the same free spirit I tried to convey in the little I could say to them, so that they can truly say: I LIVE IN FREETOWN, being my own FREE WOMAN!

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