After a sudden and productive day journey to Freetown and back (my first this year), the chief and I and M.O. found ourselves on the Makeni highway last night headed home in a thirty year-old vehicle with headlights that finally gave up the ghost. Not so much fun. Living in a country with virtually no electricity means, though, that we were well-stocked with flashlights and the rest of the journey was dimly and shakily lit with my light held through the roof window and the chief and M.O. holding theirs out of the side windows. It was a slow trip home passing the occasional surprised sheep and Mapaki was a very welcome sight. In Freetown I was very happy to discover that it is possible to buy solar panels and pleased to meet with the director of the library board, who is interested in coming to see what we are up to up country. I also managed to find, through the library director, a “book trust” and came home with an armload of books for the class one teachers to borrow. Also managed to buy a can of peas, a can of carrots, and a can of beans and….a Mars bar which was quickly devoured as it turned to melted mush in the hot sun!
Today the big find in Makeni was…three canned chickens! Apparently there has been a big shipment of canned chickens from Italy and the cans are everywhere. Turns out that this is also the food that the Maso teachers were lamenting about and, happily, they finally did receive their consignment. Mabinty has already distributed her dozen chickens to the various women of the household and the Mapaki teachers are now the only ones left to lament. Hopefully theirs will arrive soon.
Tonight, a Saturday lit with an orange sliver of a low moon and stars that really do twinkle, I spent some time sitting in the growing dark with the women who were out cooking late over the five or six fires that were in various stages of burning and dieing down. Through the smoky fire-lit dark, I could see three young boys carefully roasting a few roots of cassava they found, a rare sight in a community where few men cook. Abdul, a small boy from Freetown, told me that he really does like to cook and offered to help me next time I venture in this area again. As the fires died down and women and boys headed off with kerosene lamps and bits of burning wood to various sleeping places in the compound, I headed off to share some Saturday-night palm wine with Mabinty. Have just left Mabinty and am now holed up in the guest house for the night, as the latrine for the house I share with a dozen or so others has been overtaken by millions of flesh-eating ants and I don’t want to risk becoming a late-night snack for a gang of ants. C'est la vie!
Photo by Kouame - Heading home from the eye clinic