I've tried to write of my thoughts about this trip to a place I came to love five decades ago. The strong feelings persist.
Time enough for just a look To refresh a memory grown old To experience again this culture And reflect on its history so bold
A civilization developed here so very long ago Despite invaders from land and sea Conscription by traders mercenary Stealing people and treasure Colonized, dehumanized And finally let be
Mid 20th century, a period marked by freedom’s call, At least nominal independence was achieved, In theory only, For in practice, not really
Cast into a global community Trying to come to terms with that They ask, and we do, too Who, indeed, is teaching whom?
It’s a question with no answer We struggle to comprehend As they do, too
They who teach from far away are those from whom we also can learn. Learn from people, try to understand, Keep our solutions in reserve, Let them work it out in their own hands in their own lands
FREETOWN Busy, crowded, congested, noisy traffic horns and beeps Scooters, motorcycles, bicycles and threatened pedestrians on their feet Victims of the civil conflict Limbs missing, crippled, blinded Orphans from Ebola stalk our conscience And plead for our attention
Dogs in every town and village Walking, limping, sleeping, scavenging Roads paved and not Chinese were here (but not for beer) They pave so they can plunder
So many tiny stalls and shops Looking for buyers all the day A big hotel in places Fancy houses too But most inhabitants have little to show Scarce are the jobs they know
Greetings freely given, With hands outstretched And smiles broad Palms against the chest To signal warmth Solemnity and joy are juxtaposed
Such is the Community Also at a crossroads Culture is deep, hard to suppress Which way to go? To do what has been custom? Or to find a path unknown?
Walking, walking to and fro Roadways rough and narrow Baskets lifted high on heads Children trained to follow
Volunteers and NGOs Spread across the land Projects begun with fanfare loud Lay empty in the sand
Star Beer is king, Palm wine abounds in tiny shops, a table or a stool Roasted corn, goat, chicken, fish Cassava or potato leaf chopped fine The selection’s not exhaustive But promised to suit you well A smile, teeth exposed, comes with delivery The object soon consumed
How de body? Greets you early in the day.
De body fine, you say
The sky is clear The sea serene My thoughts rise high
The country is unchanged, I see Despite the troubles that passed by
Friendly, helpful, appreciative They want us to be happy here Grateful for our visit Hoping both our prospects turn out good
Oh, Salone Sad and happy A culture shock for many A love affair for most