Would it be too harsh to say that Magburaka was a terrible place and I never want to go there again as long as I live?
OK, maybe that is a bit too insulting. Magburaka wasn’t completely unbearable, if only because my colleague and I had decided we could only tolerate a night there. It was the next stop on our upcountry excursion after our wonderful 2-day stay in Kabala.
Perhaps I’m prejudiced because Magburaka was the place where I got ants in my pants. Literally. While walking through a forest, a black ant had managed to crawl up my jeans bite me on the inside of my thigh. I felt an instant surge of pain, and as I was in the presence of three men at the time, I couldn’t exactly drop my pants right there to check out what was wrong. I wish the shock and fear I displayed when I realized what was caught on camera; it would have made a great tableau for my friends and family in the States.
As if that experience wasn’t bad enough, my room in the guest house we stayed in was infested with bugs. After dousing it with spray, my net and my floor were littered with writhing bodies of all different kinds of insects. In this country, we foreigners must lower our cleanliness standards.
For many locals, sleeping with bugs appears to be the norm and not a big deal. For someone like me, if I so much as see a tiny ant crawling in my personal space, I’m on the attack, especially after my previous run in with ants in the woods.
My colleague was quite amused when I shrieked at the sight of a huge spider on my wall. I think most of my colleagues at Awoko laugh at my strange American mannerisms such as my fear of bugs. I’m glad I can provide them such entertainment. It makes me feel like I’m actually a useful asset for them.
The white color of my bed sheet was freckled with the bodies of tiny little bugs that I desperately tried to swipe off. After managing to clean off at least half my bed, I gave up caring and went to sleep. If the local people don’t mind sharing their beds with bugs on a daily basis, I figured I should be able to handle it for one night without crying about it.
The bright side was that we had a great guest house attendant named Patrick, who provided wonderful service and was attentive to our needs. He went above and beyond for us, accompanying us into town to make sure we could find Okada drivers to take us to our destinations. Sierra Leoneans provide great service, despite the lack of development, and their hospitality will be one of the things I will miss most when I leave.
Like Kabala, Magburaka is a farming community with little development. But also like Kabala, the farmers we met were kind and hard working people who progressed through their days with little complaint. Farming is a way of life for many in this region. If asked to trade my easy and far too pampered American life with one of theirs, I could never bring myself to do it. Spending hours picking at crops, getting filthy in the mud and not even getting paid a decent wage for it – I would rather kill myself first than to be reduced to such a life.
This is not to insult the people whose lives are like this. On the contrary, getting a brief glimpse into what their daily lives were like only increased my admiration for the work ethic of the farmers and laborers I met in Magburaka. The people I met are capable of accomplishing things I could never dream of doing, from cultivating hundreds of acres of farmland to withstanding hours of physical labor in the most horrible weather. It is not a life I would ever choose for myself. But for the people who choose to live it or who often have no other choice but to, I commend them.
It is experiences such as these that make me more appreciative of the comforts I take for granted back in America. Getting ants in your pants is quite the humility lesson as well. I recommend that everyone go through it at least once.
By Judy vue