The morning we left Pujehun, I was surprisingly a bit sad. It’s not as if I was expecting to be happy to leave, but I didn’t anticipate on developing nice relationships in such a short period of time. I met a friendly American, Mr. Dan, who had an exciting story of his own (Peace Corps 1970); I got a chance both to work and socialize with Radio Wanjei’s Melvin Rogers; I played with several delightful children and even made friends with the guards at my guest house.
It was really an enjoyable, enlightening visit to the provinces and it is an experience I shall soon not forget.
Traveling back to Freetown, however, wasn’t exactly as pleasant. Solomon Rogers and I got on another government bus that stopped three times before even getting a few miles away from Pujehun to squeeze more people in the bus than should be possible.
Several passengers brought on board live chickens, two of which were placed beneath my seat and made me feel ridiculously anxious each time one of them bawked or ferociously flapped their wings beside my feet, even though they were tied down. My seat was actually missing most of its cushion as it looked as if a hungry animal had chewed through the middle.
“Seven hours in heaven,” I sarcastically thought to myself as we departed.
I tried my best to sleep for the entire trip but the bumpy roads and annoying cock fights beneath my seat prevented any of that from happening. So I did mostly the same thing on my way back to Freetown as I did on my way to Pujehun: Enjoy the scenery.
The returning trip was, to my surprise, shorter than the first and quite uneventful; that is, until (literally) the last few miles.
As we reached the outskirts of Freetown, things started to immensely slow down. Obviously, traffic in the city is a little different on a Friday afternoon as opposed to early Sunday morning. It took us over an hour to travel the last little fraction of our trip as we inched our way through the stop-and-go traffic.
And just as I caught a glimpse of the clock tower in the city center and I thought we were home-free, I heard a large popping noise from the side of the bus. At first I thought we blew a tire, but it was in fact the other way around: The bus driver ran over a wheel barrow that was in the middle of the street and popped its single tire. The wheel barrow belonged to what I think was a street trader; he was very much upset but not as much as our bus driver and many passengers, who seemed to be convinced that the trader had placed the wheel barrow out in front of the bus on purpose.
The man forced his way onto the bus and demanded that the driver take him to the station to pay for his damaged equipment, but that only stirred the anger of the entire bus crew even more. The trader got into an aggressive shouting match between the driver and passengers of the bus – even Solomon passionately got in the action. The bus apprentice and another passenger eventually grabbed the man and literally threw him off the bus. Things seemed to calm down a bit after a nearby police officer got involved, and the passengers all seemed to vouch for the driver, saying it wasn’t his fault.
I, myself, just observed as an amused bystander. The eventful last few miles in Freetown were a far cry from the quiet pleasantries of Pujehun. Welcome back to the hustle and bustle of the chaotic city center.
By Yu Nakayama