26 April 2011

Golden Jubilee

There are often times when racked with boredom in my village, I take to watching young toddlers being toted around by their mothers or caretakers tied to their backs by lappas or any other kind of blanket or cloth. I am more interested when the child being toted already has the ability to walk, albeit not proficient enough to warrant excursions beyond the watchful gaze of their caretaker. I also watch these toddlers when they are free from the confines of the lappa and observe the level of wide-eyed curiosity and wonder with which they explore their immediate surroundings. It's one of those  moments that truly makes me proud to be a human being. It's only in watching that toddler, awkwardly ambling about overturning rocks, exploring in the bush, maybe looking for something yummy to chew on, that I get impressed upon me, a sense of raw, unadulterated hopefulness for the future. Everything to that toddler is novel, fascinating and there's the expectation that things will only get better with time. I'm inclined to make a comparison of this particular scenario to Sierra Leone's upcoming celebration of their independence from Great Britain, but not in a condescending way.

Tomorrow the 27th of April will mark the 50th anniversary of Sierra Leone's Independence from Great Britain, and right now, especially in Freetown, the air is just thick with excitement and celebration. Sierra Leonean's living abroad are coming back to their home(s) to get married just so they can say that they got hitched on this special day. The streets and beaches of Freetown are full to maximum capacity, in a city already overpopulated due to the prior mass migration of people from the provinces during the civil war. There are parades and marches occurring all over the city and they are quite the spectacle. If there is a particular occasion to celebrate that warrants a parade, ordinary people will congregate on the streets, often in matching attire, and will march in long lines, in excess of 100s of meters sometimes, and strut or bluff  (Krio word for showing off). It's awesome to watch because these people will not be walking casually, oh no, dis na Africa mi padi (this is Africa my friend), and here, every occasion must be accompanied with music, song and dance. So in these parades, the people will be marching behind a vehicle or truck of some kind with HUGE speakers blaring music for all in the immediate vicinity to hear and dance to including the people marching behind the truck. Everyone will be doing a kind of march-jig, dancing to the beat of the music. It's like one big dance party except everyone dancing is walking in one direction, just enjoying life and being happy to be alive.

Sierra Leoneans really do have a good reason to be happy. Sierra Leone is a young republic, a republic that has had its share of serious problems in its short and sometimes turbulent history since independence on 27 April 1961. Wherever I go though, I get the sense that the only direction people are looking is forward, something that I  really find admirable considering the muck these people have had to pull themselves out of. A couple of days back on Easter Sunday, I along with a friend of mine participated in the Golden Jubilee march. We marched from Aberdeen street all the way to the National Stadium in Freetown where there was singing, dancing, performances, speeches by important government dignitaries including the president himself, and praying, lots and lots of praying. That was my first time participating in a parade of that kind since being here in Salone. We all wore matching white shirts with the logo: 50 years forward, celebrating a new Sierra Leone along with white caps. As I was standing there amidst all the jubilant people celebrating both Easter Sunday and their upcoming independence, I became a bit emotional because my mind flashed back to that toddler I spoke about earlier in this post. I mean here you have Sierra Leone, a young republic with big aspirations, for example, of one day being a donor nation. Despite all of the problems they have had and are currently having, they are still exploring, searching, for their respectable place in the international community. There will be bumps and scrapes along the way, but they are really trying. They really want to be something, do something meaningful with their lives, its just that the opportunities are not always there. What happens when that toddlers falls and scrapes his knee? His mother or caretaker will faithfully come and pick up the crying child, comfort and mend him, so that he can dutifully begin exploring the world and find his place in it.

The path to development for Sierra Leone has not been easy but considerable progress has been made with the help of donations from the international community. At this point in time, real development will require assistance from other developed, wealthier nations. Already outside nations have given financial and material assistance in various sectors of the economy in Sierra Leone. But soon, across all sectors of the economy, Sierra Leone will have to be able to support itself and not depend on outside aid for development. Nonetheless, this nation is moving forward. I guess that witnessing the parade scenes two days back really made it clear to me, more than it has ever been in the 10 months I've been a PCV in this country. Heres to many more prosperous years to come. Now I'm going to get some rest so that I can fully enjoy the independence day festivities tomorrow!



Temi said...

I enjoy reading this blog. It's really great.

I'm curious to hear what your motivations were for joining the Peace Corps.

have your experiences (so far) lived up to your expectations?

Emilio Fernandez said...

Good morning how are you?

My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of used stamps because trough them, you can see pictures about fauna, flora, monuments, landscapes etc. from all the countries. As every day is more and more difficult to get stamps, some years ago I started a new collection in order to get traditional letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately it’s impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

For all this I would ask you one small favor:
Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Sierra Leone? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Sierra Leone in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and an original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

Emilio Fernandez Esteban
Calle Valencia,39
28903 Getafe (Madrid)

If you wish, you can visit my blog www.cartasenmibuzon.blogspot.com where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

Finally I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

Yours Sincerely

Emilio Fernandez