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Wear Your Palm Sunday Best!

Great sights, great food great company, a recipe for joy

sunny 33 °C

Today is Palm Sunday and it has been another wonderful day in Sweet Salone. It started with a surprise wake up to Joseph standing beside the bed laughing, he has learned how to unzip his kinderkot and waddle out in his sleeping bag it would seem, very clever, shame it was 6am! We made the most of our early wake up and went into town to have a look at some of the sights. First stop was the Cotton tree, an enormous tree that stands in the middle of a busy round about close to the centre. The story behind it is that in 1792 a group of african american slaves gained their freedom by fighting for the British in the war of independence, walked up from the shore and held a thanksgiving service under the tree (thanks Wikipedia!) Regardless of whether the story is true,  the tree is an important symbol and place in Freetown and people still leave offerings and pray there. 

Stop number two was St Johns Maroon church just down the road but not before some breakfast of tapalapa bread with sardines, sadly my much anticipated sardines turned out to be ONE relatively expensive sardine hidden away in the bread with the remainder of the tin tucked away safely in the seller's Tupperware container to quadruple his profits! Lucky it was a tasty sardine! The church was lovely, a little white building with pretty plants around the outside and big palm leaves on the door. Inside were a pile of bibles, ladies with lilac skirt suits and matching hats (think driving miss daisy style rather than traditional African style) and rows of wooden pews with a backdrop of large arch windows with lead light features. We would have loved to stay for the service but Master Jojo was almost falling asleep and he would not have lasted another 45 minutes. The church is another reminder of Freetown's history, built and named by freed slaves from Jamaica and allegedly containing timber from slave ships.

Before heading home, we had a quick walk around and Ismail pointed out the hospital, police barracks and told me about where they used to live down near Kissy rd. We even saw a couple of white people walking around but they ignored my attempts to make eye contact and smile, I must have looked too threatening! The share taxi home was fun in itself, we ended up sharing with a family of four which was a little crowded but the bit that bummed me was I couldn't reach my camera to sneak some snaps of the masses of people on their way to church wearing their absolute Palm Sunday best traditional outfits. It was truly an amazing sight, a sea of colour against the often dusty and drab construction sites of the city. Though the major of people in sierra leone are Muslim, there is also a significant Christian population and today was an important day.

So important a day, we ended up having a look at the Pentecostal church next door to our hotel, we couldn't resist the music drifting across and Joseph wasn't looking like sleeping anyhow. So we attended the service! We sang, clapped, danced, listed to the Word, chased Joseph around the back. It was more fun at church than I've had in the longest time and I can honestly say I was really moved. It might sound crazy but I felt like dad was closer than he had been in a while and that feeling continued for the rest of the day. I could almost hear him saying "so Ismail really is a Christian, thats good, but he isn't one of those Pentecostals is he?"

Late afternoon we ventured out to visit Aliea. I had been so looking forward to meeting this inspirational woman behind the Hope Academy for Girls that we have been fundraising for. The shared taxi over was even more fun than normal, the road she lived on, if you could call it that, was steep, dirt and full of bumps and pot holes. At one point I told the taxi driver it was ok, he could drop us off at number 11 and we would walk to 31 but Ismail disagreed. I'm glad he did because it was a long way up, but I was so nervous the car was just going to slide back down. Ironically the road was called UN drive, was it a metaphor for what the UN had done? Surely not! The driver tripled the original price and complained bitterly about the damage to his car and all I  could do was giggle, perhaps out of sheer relief we made it. I was indeed grateful that he braved the road and his price was very fair.

It was wonderful to finally meet Aliea and she is just as warm, intelligent and passionate in the flesh as she has been in our communications online. We were so blessed to have a home cooked meal of salad, rice, chicken and soup which was incredibly tasty! We learned more about the girls high school she is building in York, her vision and also of the hoops she has been forced to jump through in order to get this far. She even told us that some people have laughed at her which reminded me of the quote "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." said by Mahatma Gandhi. And she will win, she is dedicated, driven and has a dream supported by good people behind her. To learn more about the project, aimed at educating the most vulnerable girls on the peninsula, have a look at the website http://www.hopeacademy.sl/about-us/Aliea herself is living proof of the lasting impact educating a girl in Sierra Leone can have.

Joseph made a dear friend while visiting and had time to run around in some big open spaces. The look of pure joy on his face melted my heart. The neighbour's little boy wandered in and Joso set upon him, giving him cuddles, shrieking with laughter at him and trying to feed him. Sheku took a little bit to warm to this strange boy accosting him but soon they were thick as thieves running around playing, jumping on couches, climbing stairs, blowing each others nose, teaching each other naughty tricks. It was an absolute joy to watch and just what they both needed. It was a late night and by the end Joso had given up asking us to go home and simply brought us his shoes and went and got our bag!

The perfect day ended with some good news and a beer on the balcony listening to the sounds of horns and music. I'd like to say the beer was the local Star brew but it's pretty ordinary, I really wanted to love it but I struggle to swallow it. Can't win them all.

Posted by T.L.C. 00:09 Archived in Sierra Leone

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