This morning we went into the centre of Bo to visit the market and to also buy some rice and other food-stuff for the amputee village that we had made plans to visit later in the day. On the way to the market we stopped off at some street-side tailors who make traditional shirts. Iain and myself purchased a couple of particularly stylish designs. I look forward to wearing mine when I am presenting to colleagues and other interested parties about the work that we have been doing in SL.
The market in Bo sits behind and between the buildings that lie along one particular street front. The numerous stalls that constitute the market are huddled together under a low corrugated iron roof. The ground under foot is uneven and the route that you walk through the market is narrow and meandering. The numerous vendors and customers that are squeezed into the tight space could be likened to bees working their way around a hive. All in all the market was quite a claustrophobic spot. Add in strong smells of fish, various other food-stuffs and body odour and you start to get a sense of how rich an experience it really is.
Beate was keen to get some material to make a dress for her niece’s birthday present. As we negotiated a price, I felt a tugging at the hairs on my left arm. As I looked down my eyes met those of a young child looking up at me. He then went back to pulling at the hairs on my arm. Clearly freckles and ginger arm hair are things that children don’t get to see much of in SL. After a price had been agreed for the material, we then purchased the food for the amputee village. On leaving the market we went to a nearby tailor/seamstress. Beate choose a design for the dress and provided the seamstress with her niece’s measurements. We then made our way to a café called Sabbagh for lunch.
Sabbagh’s air-conditioned interior provided some welcome relief from the temperatures outside. Once we were fed and watered it was time to hit the road to the amputee village in Bumpe. Traveling in the jeep in SL is a myriad of sensations. The air-conditioning does little to stifle the heat, so it is better to turn it off and wind the windows down. But winding down the window and allowing the air to blow in is like putting your head in front of a hair-dryer. Waves of heat meet your face, but the movement of air prevents the temperature becoming too unbearable. Closing your eyes, allows your sense of hearing to tune in to the everyday sounds of travelling in SL; beeping horns, the sound of the motorbikes that most people use to travel on the roads, and the snippets of Krio, Themne or Mende (amongst other languages) that can be picked up as the jeep speeds past people on the roadside. Looking out of the jeep you can see the people walking along the road (many of whom are carrying large loads on their head), the dust rising from the road, and the cars, buses and motorbikes coming towards you. Many of the minibuses that double up as taxis have messages pained on the front of the vehicle such as: ‘God is Great’, ‘We Are Covered in The Blood of Christ’.
Bo’s electricity supply is normally provided by a hydro-electricity plant. This works well during the rainy season. In the dry season there is a power house in the city which is meant to generate additional power to support the electricity supply. Unfortunately this has been out of commission. This means that there is currently an electricity black-out in the city. The lack of appropriate action by the government of SL has fuelled suspicions that Bo is disenfranchised by the state. The suggestion in some quarters is that the government in Freetown want to limit the growth and prosperity of the country’s 2nd largest city to ensure that resources and development are focused on Freetown. These claims are however contentious. However, there are traditional rivalries and historical factors that may be at playing a part here.
The journey to the amputee village in Bumpe, took 90 minutes along bumpy and dusty roads. Beate had made this trip 3 years previously and has visited each time that she has visited. The rebels during the civil war had used the amputation of limbs as a weapon of terror. People trying to flee the advancing rebels who were caught had their hands cut off and they were told to go back to their chiefdom and tell their Paramount Chief that this is what happens if his people support the government.
Meeting the people of the village brought a real mix of emotions. It was shocking to see the wounds that people had sustained, but the warm welcome that was extended to us was very touching. We spent time with the villagers; learning Mende from them and having a giggle. Some of the very young children had never seen Caucasian people before. They reacted differently. Some were keen to come over and say hello, others however were quite scared. Perhaps these children were the better judges of character!
Before leaving the village we had a meeting with the local paramount chief (Joseph T. Kposowa III). It was interesting to have my first interaction with one of these local leaders. There are 14 of them in total in the southern region. He had lived in London for several years and was interested to hear about where we were from and the work that we are doing.
Following are meeting we made our way back to Bo. It has been a very humid start to the evening. The clouds have been gathering overhead and it feels like it might rain. The internet connetion in Bo is very poor, so apologies for the delay in getting these posts out.