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Sierra Leone News:CHETANYA’s View: Exploring West Freetown (but not the touristy parts)

CHETANYA

CHETANYA

Halfway through my time in Sierra Leone, I’m still getting used to Sundays here. People tell me it used to be a busy day of the week, but when ebola struck Sierra Leone, authorities enforced a Sunday curfew to prevent the spread of the disease, and since then no one works or goes out much on Sunday. Nothing is open in my area  not supermarkets, family owned shops, or even a single street hawker. The only places with a regular stream of visitors are the churches. It’s as though the city’s been deserted all of a sudden.
Since most everyone in the city seems to stay at home, I’ve usually been spending Sundays catching up on my reading and writing. But this time I went out with Awoko employee Michael to explore some of the city. From downtown, we took a taxi to the transit hub near the popular Lumley Beach, but instead of going there we headed to another, less touristy beach. On the way we walked over a vehicle bridge over a shallow stream. On the banks of the stream below, people in simple houses hung out their clothes to dry. Parallel to this bridge was the older one, just wide enough for a single car to pass. Beyond, the green hills overlooking Freetown looked unusually vivid as the sinking sun bathed them in light.
We passed a military base near the beach, and the adjacent primary school for military children. The roofs of the school buildings were all made of simple tin sheeting.
When we arrived, the beach was mostly empty, but we saw about a dozen people heaving a colorful fishing boat over the sand toward the water. Michael explained that this beach was mostly used by fishermen, and not recreational beach goers. Fishermen go out on the water all times of day and night to try and make a meager profit from their fishing. Sure enough, out on the grey water five or six wooden boats bobbed in place.
The beach was scattered with fishing boats, some of them broken skeletons. There were shacks above the shoreline where some fishermen lived and processed their early morning catches. Near the shacks, I saw some young pigs rooting around in the sand.
At the end of the beach we reached the fisherman’s wharf. Dozens of painted boats filled with nets, were parked in some shallow water, and the route through the area required walking over them. We entered a small settlement for fishermen, the place where the day’s catch was usually processed. Michael told me this community was similar to the Kroo Bay slum which I visited a few days before. There were more pigs, and goats, their snouts leading them to scraps of food. As it was getting dark, not many people were out.
We took a short ride from the wharf, and Michael briefly met with a friend. We drank some non-alcoholic palm juice, which is used to make palm wine. It was white, and after shaking a plastic bottle filled with the stuff, I was told to be careful opening it, as it could be mildly explosive. The palm juice tasted plant-like and a bit citrusy, with the sour harshness of vinegar in the background and a strangely savory aftertaste.
It was raining by the time we headed back downtown, taking a poda poda decorated with flags of Sierra Leone, the United Kingdom, United States and Manchester United. I’m glad I got a chance to explore another corner of Freetown.
*Chetanya Robinson is a journalism intern from the University of Washington in Seattle. He is the 7th intern in as many years in an internship program with Awoko Newspaper
Tuesday August 09, 2016

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