It’s almost hard to believe, but my internship with Awoko and my short time in Salone has come to an end. I arrived in Freetown a nervous American kid, and a large part of me will leave a proud Salone borbor.
In a little less than three months in Sierra Leone, I think I’ve experienced just about all that I could: the African attire (i.e. my new Tolon Peppeh haircut and Africana wear), the beaches (Lumley and Aberdeen), the food (with cassava leaves my favorite and bitters with the dreaded foo-foo), the provinces (going to Pujehun… twice!) and even the nightlife (Old Skool and Paddy’s nightclubs).
Though I came here on a journalism internship, I feel as if I have grown more as a man than I ever could as a writer – which is also important to be a successful reporter. I’ve always preached to younger students and fellow journalists that it’s important to become a good “people person” before you become a good reporter, but quite frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever practiced what I preached. The past two and a half months in Africa have shown me what becoming a good people person really means.
In coming to Salone – an entirely different world from Seattle, Washington – I was placed in a situation where I needed to (was forced to, even) adapt quickly to both the environment and its people. I quickly learned that the people of Freetown have personalities that are exactly that: Free. They are open, expressive and friendly. Being a foreigner, I’ve gained a lot of attention whenever I walked the streets. I don’t think there was a single day that a stranger didn’t approach me and asked me how I was doing or said they wanted to be my friend. In such an outgoing atmosphere, I almost had no choice but to join the party and become just as outgoing, myself.
My experience in Sierra Leone has been nothing short of amazing. Seeing the world and living life from such a wildly different perspective has been as unforgettable as it has been humbling.
I’ve managed to build several relationships with different people who have touched my life. I will miss every one of them as well as every little aspect of Sierra Leone: Laughing and swapping jokes with my Awoko colleagues; watching the sunset from the office veranda; watching kids ecstatically kick a small, flat ball around for fun; waving hello to those same innocent-looking children who were never afraid to give me a shout-out, despite the fact – or perhaps because of the fact – that I was a foreigner (that kind of openness for a child in the states can be a rare thing). I’ll even miss the little annoying things like being called “China” everyday, cramming twenty people into a poda-poda and, yes, even minding my pockets to try and avoid pickpocketers. All of these things have made for a spectacular summer in Salone.
Thank you and farewell, Freetown.
By Yu Nakayama