This country is addicting. And heartbreaking.
Strolling along the beach between River Two and Tokeh is addicting…if you like sand the colour and feel of cornstarch between your toes. And if,looking back, your footprints are the only ones for a mile. Occasionally a young boy will approach, adding his story to yours. “Who you support?” he asks. It takes a moment to realize he means, “Manchester or Barcelona?”
With a few greetings in Mende or Temne or Krio the smiles become infectious. “How di bodi” they ask. “Di bodi fine,” you say. “And you?” “Thank God,” is always the reply. I have met people suffering in the throes of malaria and still they thank God. As the Mende say, ‘if you have life, you thank God.’
The heartbreak is everywhere.There is rampant inflation in the country…a few years ago you could get 4500 Leones to the dollar…today you can get 7500 Leones. An ugly war followed by two outbreaks of Ebola and the price of rice has doubled in a few years. The government is still dependent upon foreign NGOs, and foreign NGOs continue to provide ‘programs’ that take the place of government. Many tell me the NGOs often pay more for cleaners than teachers receive, so why become a teacher? For those who do receive ‘distance learning’ to receive a teacher certificate it is often three to four years before they are paid.
There are NGOs here with larger budgets than some African states and there is no sign that any of these have plans to wean themselves of the countries they serve, or vice verse. More about that in a future post.
Having said all this, I continue to love this country and her people. It is a place where, despite the heartbreak of it all, smiles come easily.