Ten Things I Miss About Sierra Leone By Robert Jones

I had been musing about the idea of listing the things I missed most about Sierra Leone since the inception of the TNFC Blog but never really knew how to prioritise the items that made it onto the “short list”. This was primarily down to the fact that each item had a snug place in the very fabric of my being and for different, and sometimes obscure yet unique reasons. I must admit that one took all these things for granted until……they were……well…..absent! Why list these? Why not? Why not balance the discussions of the pressing issues that face Sierra Leone with light refreshments? Call it a break of sorts.

So, without further reflections and/or justifications I give you the following:

1. The smell of the soil during the first few drops of rainfall – it is hard to describe the smell but, to me, it is unique and uplifting in a very earthly way.

2. The Sounds of Early Morn and at dusk – although it cannot be unique to Sierra Leone but I really love the sound of the cockerels, and the call to morning prayers resonating from the local mosques across the cool morning air. In the evenings, it’s the buzz of people recounting their days endeavours by candle light or lantern glow; a beverage to their lips or other. Later still it dies down to the hum of generators, the occasional barking/growling of dogs, the screech of bats and the constant droning of insects predominantly the crickets. Even later, it will be the drone of hungry mosquitoes in your ear that heralds an end to your day and a hasty retreat to the safety of mosquito netted beds. I could go on but the sounds after that point are personal!

3. The Vegetation – ever since we returned to Sierra Leone in the 80s, I was always struck by our lush, dark green vegetation. I always used to wonder during the journeys to and from Freetwon and Kono what fauna thrived in such rich, thick foliage, and dreamt of trekking into what I felt was deepest, dense jungle. Looking at the hills of Freetown now, from Lumley beach, in comparison to 10-15yrs ago, you realise that there is no ” green agenda” in the country.

4. The jubilation felt when the electricity supply is restored – as a developing nation it should be a priority to establish constant and stable utilities but after 20yrs this has not improved; whether it be water or electricity supply. That said, I felt a real sense of nostalgia hearing “light don kam”!!

5. The Beaches – the country is blessed with so many lovely beaches, and the citizens and government should resist the urge to over commercialise these areas. In my opinion it ruins the natural beauty of the area and makes it look tatty and our of sync

6. St George’s Cathedral – During my schooling years, my Sunday mornings usually involved a trip to SGC. We used to sit behind the organ player and left-hand side choir pews. From this vantage point, one used to admire the aesthetics of the holy structure, and all the church goers – naturally!

7. The night life – I have lived in the east and western area of the country, and whether it was Dukane Club or 55 Spot in the East or “Hells” or other in the western area (pre-1993!!!) or simply the bars along the beach or private club affiliated gatherings Phasajef, Kilmanora, etc, there was always a choice in where to hang or end up in Freetown or the eastern province. I know things have changed drastically since I left and I observed new developments along Lumley beach and close to the hotels. These I am yet to experience, and will provide the critiques later!

8. The food – our cuisine is one of richest in the world. Hence the heart attack and hypertension stats in the country! But who cares when those leaves bathed in palm oil hit ones palette. Whether it is the various leaves or fried fish and plantains or boiled tubas and stew, etc, I miss the fresh, spicy, and wholesome nature of our dishes. Has anyone found out what the western name is for “cutting grass”? When steamed and spiced it’s a lovely snack for long journeys up and down our “turnpike” of sorts.

9. The Cotton Tree and Law Courts Building – iconic landmarks. One steeped in folklore, the other the seat of law for folks. There was always something positive emanating from these two landmarks and it is still true today. I always get a tingle down my spine when driving to this central point.

10. Natco biscuits – its strange this made the list because when growing up in Sierra Leone it was always about custard creams or Nice biscuits or short bread (that wasn’t really short bread!). But my appreciation for this snack, grew when I coupled it with some Anchor butter. Mmmmm. Not more can be said.

I hope this piece has taken you down memory lane and I am glad I refrained from using the terms “top” or “most” in the heading because when i consider the items on the list and some that did not, I can honestly say, I miss them all equally. Please comment or add to the list as you see fit. Until then.

The Beginning…!

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