Salone Catchup: A Text Message, Two Wedding Anniversaries and Some Retail Therapy

I’m not saying Sierra Leone is behind on showbiz gossip, but I just walked past a shop that had a huge poster on display – of Rihanna and Chris Brown together as a couple. I wonder if I should tell them…?

It’s Tuesday (yeah – I know you’re reading this on Thursday or maybe even Friday, but I wrote it on Tuesday). We’ve just got home from taking Tina to see the hospital where she was born. Fiona and a few helpers have been packing books and stationery into bags to hand out to children in a school somewhere. And I’ve been sweating a lot (have I mentioned that it’s hot over here?). A lot’s happened in the past few days. But first I should probably update you on how things have gone since Independence Day.

In true African style, I am now the proud owner of two mobile phones: one on the Airtel network and one on Comium. I’ve only made a couple of calls, but somehow the Government seems to have got hold of my number. The minister of Information & Communications sent me a text message the other day. It read:

“The Government wishes to inform the public that there is no scarcity of petrol. All queues around petrol stations are created by unscrupulous people to create confusion. The public is assured that there is enough fuel in the country to serve the public for the next three months.”

Ah, those queues! They’ve made travelling to and from the East End a real nightmare! Someone needs to pass on the news that there’s no fuel shortage on to the National Power Authority. After enjoying continuous electricity all throughout the Independence celebrations, as soon as the big day was out of the way, we went back to having day-long power cuts again. Ah, well, whatever…

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my last two trips to SL were for family weddings. The last of those was in 2006, when my cousin Liz got married. So on the 29th, while Ol’ London Town was rocking with street parties and Sky News pundits were analysing the Royal Snogs (as indeed they were when I popped into an internet cafe to do my routine Hotmail clearout), I was with Liz and her husband Kai, celebrating their 5th anniversary and having my first Star beer of this trip.

Speaking of Star beer, I should tell you about the time I had my first ever one. It was on another of my trips back here; the last time I saw my paternal grandmother alive. It was her who offered it to me – which at the time was kinda surreal, given how strict she was with her grandchildren when we were kids! You know you’re officially a grownup when you go to visit your grandmother and she offers you beer!

Liz and Kai aren’t the only ones celebrating wedding anniversaries. Mr & Mrs Buckle (the couple in whose home we’re staying) got married 30 years ago (also on 29 April; what is it with that date?), and on Saturday, there was a little party in the house. Friends and family all came to pay tribute to the couple. Through the speeches, we learnt of how the house we’re in used to be the Scripture Union’s old office (the Buckles were both heavily involved in both SU and YFC). We also heard of how during the 90s rebel war, the house had miraculously escaped being destroyed when rebel forces torched the length of Liverpool Street. The Buckles then opened up their home to 70 people who had fled from where they lived during the worst of the fighting, caring for them through the worst of the conflict.

Before our hospital visit today, Tina, Mum, Afia and I went to ‘Big Market’ to do a little souvenir shopping. Tina proved to have mad haggling skills – so much so, some market traders said to her, “Tina, you run this city!” That Swedish girl drives a hard bargain! She helped me get good prices for the things I bought for myself – including yet another little bata (a djembe) to add to my drum collection.

And that’s how things have been here in Freetown over the past few days. I’ll sign off for now, as I have a text message to reply to…

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