The people at Awoko newspaper were kind enough to grant me a week off to attend an important wedding, in which I was the groom’s best man, last week. My travels back to the states (U.S.) came just a few days after returning from Pujehun, so one can imagine how hectic those few days were.
Anyway, I managed to pull through and today’s edition of Through the Eyes of ‘U’ will be about my travels back and forth to the states.
The flights back to the states were manageable – considering the fact that I knew how to better handle the long periods of sitting – and the helicopter flight to the airport was a pleasant first for me.
However, waiting for my 2 a.m. flight to London after arriving at the airport just before 9 p.m. was a painfully agonizing delay. There wasn’t much to do other than watch the news or read a book, and after an hour or two of sitting, all I wanted to do was crawl up into a ball and go to sleep.
But once we (finally) boarded the plane, the rest of the trip was seemingly a breeze.
I had a feeling that going back home would be a strangely surreal experience, especially after having spent a week in Pujehun, the “interior of Sierra Leone.”
Upon arriving home I did two things that I hadn’t done in over a month: Eat a McDonald’s hamburger and take a warm shower. After eating nothing but cassava leaves and all sorts of spicy soups, albeit just for a short month, the fast food burger was a welcoming but almost foreign taste to me. The warm shower, admittedly, felt great – although I’ve come to appreciate the colder showers I’ve taken in Salone.
A couple days later, as part of the bachelor party before my friend’s wedding, I played golf at one of the nicest courses in the state of Washington. I’m a terrible golfer, so I didn’t score well at all, but it was an enjoyable experience, nonetheless.
Another couple days later, I wore a slick tuxedo and gave a toast to the bride and groom at a beautiful reception – a place so awe-inspiring that after showing one of my Awoko colleagues a picture of it, he refused to acknowledge that it was a real place.
It just goes to further show how I’ve stepped back and forth between two countries that are worlds apart.
In one world, I played soccer with a child in a small village using a flat ball and a goal made of bamboo sticks; in the other world, I swung golf clubs and walked across a wide and beautiful 18-hole course. In one country I sipped on palm wine from a plastic cup with a co-worker; in the other, I made a toast in front of a large, well-dressed crowd with a glass of white wine.
During the moment, I was absorbed and intently focused on my friends, so I didn’t exactly have time to reflect on my experience as I am doing now. But looking back, it’s quite dreamlike and entertaining, even, to compare the two different spectrums that I witnessed firsthand.
The wedding ended and my short trip back in the states was over, as I boarded the first of three flights on my way back to Freetown the following morning.
These flights back were, again, manageable. It’s like my mother told me at the airport: There’s nothing like experience.
I did enjoy a funny moment, though, while in London between flights. I needed to take a bus to another terminal for the connecting flight; I boarded a large bus with just three other people and the driver took off for the terminal. Knowing that taxis, buses and (of course) poda-podas cram as many passengers as possible, I just smiled and whispered to myself under my breath, “Even at an airport, this would never happen in Sierra Leone.”
Upon arriving at Lungi airport, we stuffed the bus waiting outside the plane before it took us to the airport – now that’s more like it.
As I passed through customs and the baggage claim, I remembered my first time arriving in Sierra Leone and how so many people swarmed me in the hopes of receiving a decent tip for guiding me. This time around, however, nobody really approached me. I assume it was because of the confidence I was exerting; I was decisive and assertive of where I was going. Then I laughed as I imagined how scared and nervous I must have looked the first time – in the eyes of the poaching taxi drivers, I was just fresh meat waiting to be cooked.
I guess there really is nothing like experience.
By Yu Nakayama