A few weeks ago I decided to go to the beach on a Sunday, and it was an absolutely beautiful day! I had the weekend off and didn't feel much like going anywhere on Saturday, but didn't know who was doing things on Sunday. So I went and checked the "join us" binder in midships. There I found a group going to "River #1" which if you ask most people, doesn't actually exist. Can't even find it on a google search for river number one sierra leone. (believe me, I tried) I decided that it was very likely the group knew where they were going and so long as they provided me with an interesting day, I was up for it!
It was also a rare opportunity to be going with a group that was driving one of the ship vehicles. This meant no walking down the street with beach gear, trying to find a poda or taxi and negotiating a reasonable price. Instead, we just piled into the landrover and took off for the day. And found out that River #1 does exist, otherwise known as Lakka Beach.
We spent the day sunbathing, swimming, watching the local fishermen, reading etc. And they made us lunch of fresh-caught fish. Everyone got a different fish. I think mine was barracuda, a small one. In the early afternoon, a bunch of us decided to go for a nice walk down the beach. Two people were walking in front of me, two behind me, and I ended up with two new friends...
Moses and his "brother" (sorry, can't remember his name anymore... I know, such a bad memory for names, I should write them down or something!) walked with me. Moses is 10 years old and in Class 3. His brother is 8 and in Class 1. (Classes are like grades) They have different mothers, and Moses' mother died when he was small. Their father makes boats for a living.
When we passed this structure, Moses kept telling me the soldiers did it. His english was more Krio than english, and I didn't quite get any more of the story out of him, but I'm guessing this is one of the casualties of the war.
We walked for about 45 mins in one direction, and the boys walked on either side of me, holding my hands almost the whole way. They dragged bits of wood tied to a string and carved into vague boat shapes. We chatted about random things and they would randomly dart away and come back. Eventually, they decided they needed to turn around and head back. About 10 mins later, my friends and I decided to head back in the other direction... after a short dip in the ocean. The boys weren't too far off, and as soon as they realized I was returning, they were back at my sides.
I pointed out the crabs that were darting in and out of the waves and asked them if they were fast enough to catch them. They assured me they were, and then grabbed one of their blocks of wood, ran at a crab, and crushed it with the wood. I was a little shocked, but figured maybe they would eat it. So as Moses returned with his dead crab in his hand, I asked him if he would eat it. No. I didn't figure out what he said after that, but he proceeded to throw it back into the ocean. I wasn't impressed.
The boys met some friends and wanted me to "snap" them with a fishing boat. While we stood there, a young man joined them and asked me all about where I was from, and told me how he wanted to go there, and maybe he could be my boyfriend. This is a common occurence here... men try to propose to us white girls in hopes of a better life. I tried to tell him I wasn't interested but that doesn't go far here. So then I told him my father wouldn't like it. Which got interpreted as "he do beat you?" "ya, he do beat me if I get african boyfriend" Somehow, that he could believe. Sorry dad, I put words in your mouth. It's all about damage control. Of course, then he offered he could just be my boyfriend here. Nope, dad do beat me for that too. And then I said my goodbyes and continued walking.
While I walked with the boys, I contemplated how friendly children are here. You walk down the street and they yell and wave at you, smiling the biggest grins. They run at you to shake your hand or touch your skin (apparently there's a rumour that our white skin wipes off), or to hold your hand and walk with you for a while. Their whole face lights up just from being acknowledged.
I kept wondering what makes children THIS friendly. How come they are so eager to meet strangers here, but at home children are more stand-offish and shy? Do we teach kids that? Have we made so many taboos on their lives and their relationships that they fear approaching new people? Or am I just meeting all the most outgoing kids here and missing the fact that some are hiding somewhere and don't make an effort. I just feel like, in general, the people of all ages here are more friendly. They have no qualms about pulling you out of the way of a moving cart/vehicle in the road or helping you if they can. We were in a small town one day and a child walked with us for half an hour to show us the place we were looking for, not expecting anything in return. People happily go out of their way to help. It is truly amazing. I love the cultural concern for those around you. There's a lot we could learn from these people!