in freetown, it’s thanksgiving every day [photos]

Okay, every Sunday. From January through May.

Every Sunday afternoon from January through May, some school or another holds a thanksgiving parade, thanking God for the blessings of the previous year. This transcends religious affiliation: my Muslim driver’s son’s school had its celebration last week, and I attended the parade of a Methodist school.

The Methodist school not only had its own band playing, its own children marching, its own alumni marching, but it also hired a host of other marching bands from other schools. The results was thousands of happy young people celebrating their education. It was marvelous!

My friend RK, who took me, is closely involved with the school’s music program, so he knew everyone at the parade. Marching bands would stop and play for him specifically. We watched the parade past, then drove somewhere else to watch it again, and then drove to his house to watch the end from a second-story balcony. AWESOME! Here are some photos. [Sadly, I loaded the photos in reverse order; I think it doesn’t matter so much in this case.]

flying on a non-existent airline

This morning I stopped by a local travel agency to confirm my flight for tomorrow from Freetown (Sierra Leone) to Banjul (The Gambia) on Slok Air International. 

Travel agent: “That airline isn’t flying.”

Me: “What?”

“They haven’t flown since November.”

“But I just bought this ticket ten days ago.”

Shrug.  “You would have to fly Gambia International Airways on Wednesday.  Can I book you the ticket?”

Lesson: Always confirm your ticket.  In case the airline is still selling tickets but not actually flying anywhere.

jogging buffoon, dirty water, & racing from the naked boys

This evening I went for a run.  My hotel is near a stream, and I love being near running water.  I ran on the road for a while, then starting jogging by the stream, sometimes on a path and sometimes leaping from rock to rock.

I of course have no idea where I’m going, so I repeatedly run into dead ends.  There are many people around – homes are built on all sides of the valley surrounding the stream (the Congo Valley Red Pump is the full name) – and every time I run into a dead end and have to backtrack, people laugh good-naturedly.  The only way to respond to this is to embrace it: I raise my arms in victory at every dead end and turn around to re-try my luck.  It’s my one chance to get laughs, since my irony tends not to fly here.

Jogging along the stream is eye-opening: trash is scattered around every bend, yet people are washing their clothes, bathing, fetching water (I imagine for cooking, but maybe just for washing), and yes, even defacating (i just saw a couple of kids doing this, like peeing in the pool).  This may be the only source of water around.

People are in every state of dress and undress, but no one exhibits inhibitions as I go charging past, waving and saying hello or how di bodi in Krio when I’m feeling brave.  (I don’t know what anyone’s feeling, obviously.)

At one point, a group of naked six-year-old boys started chasing me up the river.  I ran faster.

the complete lack of cinemas in Freetown

I love going to the movies.  Anywhere.  I saw Elektra in Manila (bad movie), Miss Congeniality in El Doret (good movie), Never Been Kissed in Kampala (bad movie), Dear Frankie in Cape Town (I fell asleep), Charley’s Angels 2 in Seoul (it seemed really good at the time), Spider-Man 3 in Beijing (mediocre movie)…

People have been able to name at least three cinemas for me here in Freetown: the Odeon, the Globe, and the Strand.  Closed, closed, and almost closed.  The Strand – according to my cab driver – has replaced its big screen with a simple tv screen and just shows football (soccer) matches.

Sierra Leone recently came out of a long civil war.  Now I understand what it means to win the war and lose the peace.