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I always wanted to go to Africa. Like most African Americans, I grew up in an environment that idolizes everything, Africa. When I got there I realized I knew nothing about Africa. My grandmother made it clear that everything Africa is the best. However, Granny did not spend time reducing the performance of other cultures.

Growing up in Nicaragua's Latin and Black cultures. And for me there is no difference between these two ethnicities. Latinos are black and black are latinos. But this is not so for everyone who finds favor with a group.

In Africa, these differences will increase. Create a surrealistic world where an elite minority will treat others with indifference. Sometimes the stereotype can explain things if it was light as black and white. However, it is rarely black or white.


The common stereotype cannot explain Africa's ethnic differences. most people look dark to me, but they are differences; differences that go back for centuries. Sierra Leoneans often asked me, "Are you Nigerian," "American" or "Hausa", they usually came up. Chief Morsay defined Biko and me as "white". He told us that we are foreigners just like people with white skin. His index finger rubbed the top of his hand to emphasize. When the African Americans do it in a conversation, we know it's an obstacle similar to "just knowing." "You're not African," he said. In Africa, it means how you come from or from which side of the river; in the case of Congo Bushong and Lele ethnic group; Which side of the river makes a difference socially and politically.

But none of it was in my mind. I was happy to go to Africa. Regarding my grandmother's Afrocentric conviction I wanted to see for myself the greatness of the continent that launched civilization and everything that makes us beautiful: melanin, curves, rhythm, food. A list of the defense mechanism, my self-esteem used to combat the constant influx of American racist propaganda, where everything is about color and black is the hue that colors all colors.


Consequently, racism is the lens through which most African Americans see the world. It is not a distorting lens; For the most part, the lens is correct; even if it limits itself. Focuses only on one view. In a world where people have countless ways of segregating each other, racism makes this division possible.

It is clear that Belgium's King Leopold II acted in the most racist, inhuman way against the people of Congo. But ultimately, Mobutu Sese Seko arrested the ethnic group Ngbandi Patrice Lumumba of the ethnic group Tetela. I don't think ethnicity was the cause of the Mobutu Sese Seko violation against Lumumba. Thomas Sankara and Blaise Compaoré, both from the ethnic group Mossi Burkina Faso. But like King Leopold II, greed was the cause of Mobutu's treason against Patrice Lumumba and the destruction of countless Congolese lives. Compaoré did the same in Burkina Faso to gain privileges for a ruling minority; hold power at the expense of Thomas Sankara and Burkina Faso's people. Using corruption, also expropriate foreign aid to maintain power. With no permission to answer, these men were no different than King Leopold II in the inhuman treatment of their compatriots.

In Sierra Leone, (RUF) will do the same, cut off limbs and adhere to systematic rape and murder; Disperse thousands and enslave populations to extract diamonds for their personal wealth.


But poverty is a relative thing. Has grown up in the Caribbean and Latin America. I was used to the third reality. But none of this prepared for Africa.


The volume of conversations gets closer when you come to the African departure lounge. The cases are direct. Laughter strengthened teeth suck high, smiles are great.

The aircraft landed at Lungi International Airport to a large choir of bowl and applause. As a Hollywood emancipation scene, Africans are happy and grateful to be at home. You can feel their excitement. I was also excited to greet the African air. Exit from the airplane, I found the humidity familiar. What was different was looking at a crowd and seeing a shadow of black people. I didn't try to look surprised; I pretend I've been here before. The Africans looked at me as if I had been here before too.

Tarmac and runway are huge, as are all airports. But at Lungi you do not see buses, trucks or the subway that protects you from bad weather. Everything is open and wide as heaven. I didn't see commercial aircraft or business aircraft. just empty asphalt with a far away blue-green forest horizon without buildings in sight.

Going into the little immigrant building was a surprise, no crowds! I thought this strange for an international airport. Somehow I thought they could connect flights to the other part of Africa. Only the people on board on the same road on their way to Liberia. Just as you enter the building you will see some old fashion shelves with modern fingerprint recognition machines. Immigrants were easy and fast. They ask for a passport and a yellow vaccination card. Welcome to Sierra Leone!

Sierra Leone's people are friendly; They are generous with their comfort zone. They greet you, move you cautiously with a common adaptation.

Waiting for our luggage, I was attracted to two large, very impressive, standing wooden sculptures. Two action figures carved from a single tree trunk. No one paid these any mind. They walk by them as a nuisance African souvenir. I always appreciated the attention to detail in African art; There is consideration for the viewer, the user and the handling of artifacts. This association of welcoming artistic with dance, texture, food and colors was for me African art functionality.

Although it was very impressive, I didn't know at the time; the two wooden sculptures will represent the culmination of my African artistic impression.

When we leave the airport we see a sign with our names. Our host Chernor, we call him Cherry, arrange to have Lamin greet us and arrange bus tickets that will take us to the beach and ferry to Freetown. Lamin works for a company that helps travelers to Sierra Leonne. Having someone on the ground talking, Krio was reassuring. Krio is a better negotiation language; exchange of money is aggressive, some notes have preferences. So there is room to save if you can find bargains in Krio.

Outside are the young men who sell tickets together with Sim Cards. They are competitive, but not intrusive. There are lots of cash in sight and exchange of hands. We are waiting for the minibuses with air conditioning to fill with passengers. The ferry is not far away, about a mile. But it takes about ten minutes drive to get there. The road is wrong; I thought this is the way to the airport, it might be better, but no. It was just the begging of the many examples of neglect and corruption that the people of Sierra Leone live with day by day.

The beach is large and clean; I notice this because all other things seem to be rubbish with rubbish. I see some modestly rapidly constructed shanties. I was looking for colorful fishing boats but saw no one. They are small children, playing with shaggy and dirty western clothes. They paid us no mind. At this time, the small quay was full of the passenger from the plane waiting for the ferry; luggage and people under a wooden hut, with an armed guard. We waited for several hours. It will be sunset before calling our numbered tickets, the small ferry made several trips that transported us safely to Freetown.

The boat trip takes less than an hour to cross the estuary that comes to Freetown at night. The view was dark without identifying features to see. Inside, our host Cherry and his driver await Mohamed. They picked us out of the audience immediately before anyone offered help. Lamin had sent pictures. Cherry made sure that Mohamed got our luggage. Cherries greeted us with a big smile, glittering eyes, on a bright round friendly face. He immediately asked us about the flight and we are hungry. He said he has been cooking at home, "it may be too spicy for us," he said. So if we want we can go out to get some food. We choose the spicy food; It was very late for our jet lag bodies to go out. The streets of Freetown, at night, get stuck with sellers selling everything. None of it seems appealing to me. Freetown doesn't look clean. And this is a surprise. A great surprise!

We left the quay on a two-paved asphalt road illuminated with single street lamps. Mohamed focuses on his task while Cherry is talking. I'm glad he is. The road continues to be crowded the closer you get to town. They are lots of little kids selling things, everything. I see lots of baking good and fruit. Everything looks like renting. Things feel weird, anachronistic, a bit in place, as if I have traveled back in time. The people do not seem to worry about the traffic. The street is abuzz with African music. And the people just move with purpose in what seems like a chaotic order.


We travel on paved roads all the way up to College Road in Godrich. Then we turn right. And Mohamed slows down to a crawl; the road now unpaved becomes a series of hills and ridges that slowly lead to the next lap, as the bus ride from Lungi to the beach. There will be more moments like this. Mohamed tries not to pull the bottom of the car on a hill, patiently turns. Like if he has done so much time.

CHERNOR & # 39; s HOME

The car came to a stop at a large metal door, about 10 meters high. Surrounded by fencing as tall with broken bottles cemented on top. We are three bars off the main road, some of the houses have this barrier. Many do not; some houses are just boxes of corrugated metal wood and cardboard put together. It's a feeling that Freetown wasn't always like this. These homes bore the ears and remnants of political corruption and an evil inhuman civil war.

At Cherries's home, he introduces us to his uncle Mohamed, his sister Mimona, and his "House Boys". Cherry has two "House Boys" and a "House Girl". At first I thought he was talking about his children, but no, that's what they call servants or help. Although they are more than servants, they must be recommended by a family member. They call you "Sa" as yessa. As I said, it feels like you're back in time.

Mimona placed a large bowl of "krain krain" on the table. Cassava leaves pounded and shredded with hot peppers to pan fish and boiled jazmine rice on the side. It was warm; They had a good laugh to see our faces become bright. Although it was very spicy, it was good. The rice was helpful in soothing krain krain heat. We needed something to drink. Small bags litter Sierra Leone. This night while eating hot Krain Krain, we have introduced these ubiquitous water bags. According to the water project "Infections and parasites, most often found in contaminated water, leads to the biggest cause of death in Sierra Leone."

After a very long journey, the soft dance of mosquito coils, I felt tired. I needed a bath. Reacquainting myself with these standards in the Caribbean and Latin America: The open shower and cold water. Make sure not to drink the water from the pipes during my shower. I went to sleep in Africa.

The next day I saw lots of kids in uniform. The schools are out early for the little ones. Training in Sierra Leone is legally mandatory. But the lack of schools and teachers has made implementation impossible for the by-product of corrupt institutions that plague this nation. I saw a group of three on their way with a basket on their heads. They see five or six, too small to go into a busy city by themselves.


I saw a person at the back of a motorcycle who balanced a door. They are, always men, riding a little ruthless swing in and out of the traffic on bicycles with unpunished helmets. Some carry more than two passengers; I have seen four and five including children. They are many bikes; people use them as taxis. Taxis have lines like buses. The DDR had a brilliant idea for the young fighters to turn in their AK 47 for Honda track bike taxi. Although many of their rape victims and amputees would not believe it. Freetown is a brave place that can cope with a difficult peace.


That night, the dark room began to move. The curtains move like a ghost into the room with a moaning sound that became higher. The wind began to intensify, argue and move the curtains sharply. It was the annual dry Harman winds in the Sahara that made their seasonal trips across West Africa. I looked forward to them since I read about it in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's book "Half of a Yellow Sun." I wondered how all these corrugated shanties were with. The winds were as intense as a category a hurricane; I settled for a long night of wind and noise. But it ended as soon as it started. The next morning I stood up for what would be the familiar power outage. Outside, on the veranda, reminded me of my childhood in Bluefields, Nicaragua & # 39; the Caribbean coast, with large lush, blue-green mango trees. It shades the blue sky relaxing the heat of the sun as the sunset after a long day. I was surprised. Nothing seemed unharmed from the Harmatta winds. Trees stood and branches did not crush the ground.


With electricity and water always goes out. We use rainwater from tanks. Everyone drinks water from the plastic bag, for sale everywhere. Gas generators serenade the neighborhood along with the smell of cooking smoke.

Our conversations with Cherries and Uncle Mohamed focused on Sierra Leone's policy and the devastating civil war. They say that most people from the country are in the city and are looking for work. Many women in Freetown saw a different, more emancipated lifestyle, where they did not want to return to the country. "Life is hard," Cherry says.

Corruption, the decade-long war is some of the causes of the collapse. The economic policy that makes food imports cheaper destroyed the local agriculture and young men who would be agriculture looking for diamonds and caught in a vicious circle, making import products necessary and poverty inevitable.


Most large grocery stores in Freetown seem to be the own of Syrians or Lebanese-looking people (my stereotyping). In one of the grocery stores. On all islands, a Syrian person watched the Isle vigilantly. And another Syrian person is vigilant behind the treasurer, a young black girl. During the war, the Syrians were a target for elimination.


It takes a long time to drive through Freetown's stuck packed streets. Lots of people sell anything, everything. You will find something for sale on the streets of Freetown; It seems like everyone is in the street: Men, women with children attached to their backs, children. And sometimes, it often looks like grief, that survivors are their only concern. It made me feel grateful for where I live. People here fighting; It's a bit strange because everything they need is for sale on the streets. And their mineral prosperous land can cater for all their needs. Conversely, I saw the same dark skin color one after another! Block after block, mile after mile, hour after hours, day after day, work, same dark skin; This made them feel grateful to visit Africa.

The next day we travel to the province of Kono to meet the manager. It's a long drive. Along the way, I see Chinese men building a new road. Paramount Chiefs, due to divine law, own the entire country in a particular region; they are many chiefdoms. The managers decide who gets what. If you are not from the same tribe, you will probably not get land from the boss. But for the most part, the manager will let you use the property. Chief Morsay was kind. Along with his African American daughter Sia, an honest businesswoman with a nice dash. Sia donates its time and resources to correct injustices regardless of social norms. Her front door is often full of neighborhood children playing with their children's toys. They know that Sia will feed them. We witness a group of high school girls asking for sponsorship. Because of her reputation of charity, Sia receives many of these. The manager explains that this creates confusion. Things have their place in Africa. But Sia makes changes, and her father listens. They share mutual respect.

We came to Kono in the evening. After some friendly chats and introductions. The manager took us around to see his city. Kono is far from Freetown but looked equally depressing. It was dark, without streetlights and many diamond traders. But even in the dark, Kono is friendly, the people talked and was happy to see the boss. His personality is friendly. But you couldn't see, like a power outage. Did I wonder why, why so much poverty? Why doesn't the government take up important services?


In front of Morsay unpaved home passes bikes loaded with 3 to 4 people; sometimes with bundles of long grass for bedding. The blue smoke hangs in the warm air, morning, noon and night. Africans cook with cobwebs, I see them for sale on the side of the road.

The Chinese are preparing to put asphalt in this part of Kono; It is dusty, a mixture of brown and gray dust and loose gravel. Outside, everything is covered with dust. People go up and down mostly to transport water. I see lots of goats, geese, ducks and chickens who are members of the village.

Nobody pays any attention to the animals. Cars are alert not to beat them. They are not traffic police or cross guards. There is a constant honking of horns; Drivers base people they are going to pass. No one is in the rush. Teenagers go and hold hands.

Every now and then a large lumbering truck will come with muddy wheels. Some roads are like small lakes, with people washing clothes and taking a bath.

In the village they use clay bricks to build homes. People are outside doing chores. Men standing around guard against motorcycles waiting for a ticket.


Sia and the manager took us to a village where they plan to build a hospital. They tell the mortality rate is high. It is dangerous to get sick here. Driving into this area is difficult. The village chief praises Sia and gives her a blessing.

Sierra Leone has the highest degree of maternal mortality on the planet. Una Mullally reports from the Bonthe District in the southwestern southwest, where teenage pregnancy is high and necessities are scarce.

They will take us to see the mine of alluvial diamonds and coltan. The sight is so spectacular that it is difficult to describe. Perhaps hundreds of people, men and women can break individual plots on top of a hill. with hand tools. Workers moving up and staying like a marsh colony. You can hear many languages ​​spoken. The work looks difficult.


I was surprised to see two ladies panning for gold in the brown river. They were happy to show. I was entertaining the idea that I should see gold, but not really. But after a couple of swirls, the forehead had stains of shiny gold. I looked around, and everything I saw is a forest. The women with gold in their hands have nothing to show for it. Over the years, they have generated thousands of dollars.


The people of Sierra Leone are nice. The SUV we drove has a battery problem; It doesn't start overnight. The men who came to help arrived with a thread. Not a jumper cable but with a wire shell at the ends. I thought this was very dangerous. And why is there no jumper cable and why this process is the alternative. Recycled water bottles filled with gasoline are available for sale on the side of the road. They encounter gas with an antique hand tail so old that I never even saw it in the movies.


We drove back to Freetown; it looks much dirtier to the country. I don't think they get garbage here. Although most of them throw away the garbage somewhere. I saw a burning rubbish. I couldn't be sure. But I think it was dumping. It didn't look so different from the other blocks. Except for the smoke. But I don't bother you; Sierra Leone is full of rubbish and people are shouting at each other, not in a rude way. If you are soft-spoken no one is heard in Sierra Leone.


I talked to the "boy" Muhammad, he is not a "boy", it is a cultural norm. Muhammad will be 27 this month. He is a nice person who treats people with respect. I asked him "how much does he get paid?" He does a lot around the house, as well as runs everywhere. To my surprise, he told me that "this is not a paying job," he said, it was his duty to be respectful of his elder, and that is what he does. He said his uncle recommended him to come here. He said he hopes to be able to do the same for others.

We stopped at the village of Mohammad; he was happy to drive through each farm and waved his neighbors. We went to his uncle's farm to get a goat for dinner. Mohammed was exhausted, even though he wouldn't say so. He's been driving for hours. The manager negotiated us for a good course with a colleague for an overnight cabin. He did not extend this to Mohammad. He told him that the place has a secure association that he can sleep in the car. Or he can stay in the working quarters. I probably thought he would take the neighborhood, but to my surprise he slept in the car. Although we are weird, Muhammad understands that everyone has a place in Africa. Mohammed said that in all you have to do is to be respectful and pray.

Some of the main causes of the conflict were in the marginalization of young people through the attitudes of elders and traditional leaders.

Traditional institutions controlled by the village elite and the court "pay off" by arbitrary and excessive fines.

Utilization of youth work through customary law is a long-term practice in Sierra Leone and the wider region. Jim Crow was not just a racist institution. It was a system that utilized the work.


However, my thoughts were for tomorrow's supper. Cherries will get someone to slaughter and slaughter the goat for dinner. Goats are everywhere in the country. Cherry said they always go back to their pen and they never steal them.


It is sad how dirty this place is. I saw a man who swept the pavement. He had a couple of piles of garbage. It looked like he was taking it on to keep his little corner of the road clean. But the garbage was just to the side. And the people already went on it.

The people are very friendly. Despite all the things, they have to sell. No one is chasing you to buy something. But if you choose to buy something, they will rush with a competing find. I thought going at night could give me a new perspective on Sierra Leone, it did. It made me feel more depressed how sad the majority of people live.


You see some expensive cars. Here they rent a SUV for $ 100 per day. You see expensive costumes for sale on the sidewalk. They are so many who sell that you can't see the buildings. Everything, a black economy. No one pays taxes. The country is broken.

Some people even have a police escort an officer who goes with a machine gun. I have to remind myself that this place just became a brutal civil war. Lots of the young men could have been child soldiers.

The people with amputated arms and legs look the worst. $ 1 US here is about 7,500.00 Leones on the streets. Cherry tells us that nearby Liberia is the worst and that the people of Liberia and Guinea come to Sierra Leone to work because it is much better.


It is a sign that officials who take bribes are a crime. Now I couldn't blame them. They can't just pay enough. And the devaluation of their currency is no help. When governments cannot pay their debts, they write out money. According to the law, the central bank is responsible for regulating the financial sector. If, the governor would be brave enough to criticize the spending. He should remember that his successor Sam Bangura in 1980 criticized Siaka Stevens' policy of being a professor. Sam Bangura's body was thrown from the top floor of the central bank at Siaka Stevens Street.


The brutal civil war in Sierra Leone did not lead to institutional changes. A minority elite still controls the country and intensifies its political power. The state all but remains absent. The 2007 Democratic elections return to APC, the party in Siaka Stevens. Although Ernest Bai Koroma had no association with Siaka Stevens, other members of his party did. Two of Siaka Stevens' sons Bockari K Stevens Ambassador to the United States and Jengo Stevens special adviser to the president and ambassador in Germany. Lack of political centralization, the interest of the people, makes the election as volatile as the democratic election in 1971.


I like the food in Sierra Leone, especially mixed with hot peppers. But my stomach began to turn. The weather is beautiful not too hot. However, Freetown is a city I was ready to leave. At present the noise pollution was disturbing. I tried desperately to buy a souvenir. But everything for sale was an import. I was looking for a handmade doll. There was no one to see. All dolls are plastic MATTEL type. Cherry took us around to find authentic African souvenirs. I saw some beautiful African fabrics. They are all imported from China. The textile industry in Africa is just gone. The cheap Chinese imports make it difficult to compete. First, it was easy to identify false African fabric in China. But their technology has improved. Batik and Kente canvas look beautiful. It is challenging and more expensive to get hand-colored cotton baths from Ghana and Gambia. With an endless donation of clothing to Africa, they also struggle to survive.


The negotiations were intense. When a supplier quoted me a price, another supplier would hit it. If I look at a certain color or style, another will show me the same. Soon they will get a feel for what you are looking for. When Cherry arrived at the Speech-speaking Krio, prices fell even more. His eyes will bulge in shock when he sucks his teeth and screams Eh! I ask for and African doll. The seller said he would get one. He came back with brown MATTEL. I told him I wanted to do in Africa. He said he has one, but I have to come tomorrow. I'm sure he would have created one overnight.


We were ready to leave. Lamin met us at Lungi Airport again. I was surprised; Chery told him to check on us. By now we were used to the Krio sound. But I was glad for his help again. He advised to check in and have our tickets stamped later. The flight does not leave for a while. He took us to a place over the road to wait and have a drink. It was a good time to relax on a courtyard under a tree. I asked about the number of children on the street. He said any family from the country would send his child to another family in the city for an education. But many people use this or are too poor. Then send the child out to make money.

Things can get better

Can things get better? Of course they can. Corruption will not change with governing. But at least the Government can provide clean water, electricity, education, telephone, a sewage system, public health and clear roads.

Expecting a reduction in the government sector size, flexible exchange rates, privatizations, improvements in the efficiency of public service provision can be too much to ask.

But if we ask why not add a road network that links them to other cities in the rest of Africa and improve the functioning of state anti-corruption measures, and last but not least, how is it with some law and order for the government.