Thursday, August 25, 2005

have i mentioned the view?

okay, so right now i'm sitting in this little internet cafe just down the road from our house. this is a really surreal environment. downright bizarre actually. directly arcoss the road, literally 20 yards to the right of where i sit, is an amputee camp for people who lost limbs during the war. and directly to my left is the back door which is standing wide open, breeze blowing, the beautiful atlantic in plain view. a young girl just walked past with a basket of bananas on her head, and a sweet old man just called "hello madame" and tried to sell me something from a white box in his hand. i don't know what it was, but i passed. someone is blarring TLC's "unpretty" from their computer. a few minutes ago it was that "get down on it" song. and then there are 3 of us "white guuurls" sittin' in a row typing away... i wish i knew how to hook my camera to this computer. it's a sight worth seeing.

i feel like i have a lot to say, but i'm not really sure if i can communicate it yet. i usually need to let things stew for a while, but i'll try to get this all out...

we finally found our guides and went on the walking tour on tuesday. before we left, the 4 boys who served as our guides asked what we wanted to see on this tour. i replied that i wanted to see whatever they thought would help us understand freetown... well, they definitely showed us that. we paired off so that each team member was getting the tour explanation from one boy. first we walked through "big market" which is a definite tourist stop (or would be if there were toursits in freetown :)). all kinds of wood carvings and fabrics and beautiful stuff...

then they walked us to "king jimmy market" which is pretty much the opposite of touristy. there were people everywhere selling every kind of vegetable and fruit and fish. we walked out on this long pier and one of the boys explained that this is where the ships stopped to release the freed slaves that first settled freetown. it was one of those weird moments where time and space sorta collapse in on you.

from there we walked through a few other markets close to the water and over to the government warf. across the street from the warf is a government building that was bombed or burned (???) during the war. the structure still stands, but it is all soot-covered and there are no windows and it isn't used anymore. the boys explained that after the war, an NGO used the building to house street-children. it eventually came out that at least 2 of the 4 boys walking with us had lived there for a while. the boy who i walked with most of the afternoon showed me or told me about a lot of the places where he had lived after the war. small buildings made of scrap metal, large barn-like buildings that housed hundreds of displaced people, burnt buildings, the soccer stadium...

we eventually came to an important intersection on the east side of freetown. my guide explained that this was a very tense place when the conflict reached the city. he told us that fighters collapsed in from every direction and met in that intersection. he explained that he had lived very close by and told stories of people he knew who had been killed in the area... then he pointed up one street and told us that was where the rebels captured him and took him with them. we started to walk up the road to his old neighborhood. as we walked, we talked about his family and friends. then he pointed ahead and said "that junction is where they caught me." another weird time and space thing... years ago, but at that very place, a young boy's life changed in the matter of a few seconds.

i won't go any deeper into his personal story from there because i'm not certain of the details. i don't speak any Krio, and his english is accompanied by a strong accent. what i do know is that he was a young boy at the time, and while he was gone, his mother was told that he had been killed. upon escaping from the rebels and returning home, he was not allowed to live with his family because they were afraid that the rebels would come looking for him. his friends would not associate with him because they were afraid. but he wasn't alone. he was surrounded by the hundreds and hundreds of boys just like him. boys who were taken from home, given drugs and weapons, and forced to fight. i do not know for certain that this boy was a combatant. i do know that somewhere in sierra leone, if not right under my nose, there are thousands of young men and women who were stripped of their childhoods and left to recover on their own. no that their families didn't care. not that their friends and churches were indifferent. but no one knew what to do. everyone feared that at any moment they could lose another child or their own life.

please please please keep this country in your prayers along with the individuals that make it so alive and beautiful. it is hard not to think about that instant when this young man's life was changed. i can't help but wish that he hadn't been outside -- that something or someone would have kept him from venturing out that day. but it happened. and now i have to trust God's redemptive promise for my friend. it is an honor to hear his story. i hope you feel the same way.

4 comments:

jarabeara said...

stephanie, stephanie, stephanie. i feel a bit weird leaving comments on this little blog thing because it's a bit out in the open! but i know you and the whole email response thing. i'm so happy to be reading your experiences right now...i can't wait to get to freetown. your writing is amazing and you're doing a great job at conveying such deep emotions and stories. it was an honor to read this. i can't wait to read the next. love you girl, jara

Allison Sarracino said...

Steph! You are amazing and I praise God for how He is working in Freetown and your heart. You're in my random thoughts every day and it reminds me to pray! Oh and the next time someone plays "Get Down On It" in an internet cafe, get up and shake that booty! Love you! Allison

Anonymous said...

I am sorry, that I interfere, but you could not paint little bit more in detail.

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