Vickie Remoe Institute of Digital Communications

Sierra Leone One Year Later…Who invited you?


One year in Sierra Leone came and went with much anticipation. I had planned to have a barbeque/party to celebrate the day but that never happened. I woke up to a text message from my friend Yeniva wishing me a happy one year and I smiled and thought “she’s amazing”.

It was a Friday so I had to go to the shop. My weekly routine consists of work at AccessPoint Africa on Mon-Thu and Fri-Sat at Aschobi Shop. Back in February I turned down a job to work for UNAIDS to work as Sales & Marketing director of an ICT company owned by a friend. At the same time Adama and I have registered Aschobi Designs and are now NRA tax paying small business owners. We opened the shop on 17 Pademba Rd a.k.a fifth avenue. Our clientele is growing and have had several local & intl press opportunities. Most recently Aschobi Designs was featured in Premier Media, Peep, SLmtv base, South African MNET Studio 53, the Huffington Post and UAE first English Paper The National and just yesterday BBC Outlook. We have very big dreams for Aschobi and we’re getting there slowly and surelyJ

When I came to Salone last year it was my intention to stay for one year and head back to the NY in the summer and enrol in a graduate MBA program. One year has come and gone and I am still here with no return date in sight. Instead I have decided that Ghana’s GIMPA might be more suitable than toting loans for a US degree I may never be fully able to pay back. There are definite doubts as to the value of an African master’s program that lay in the back of my mind. I don’t know who put them there but the fears that an African education will some how leave me a bit lacking are for real.

Freetown is a very very interesting place to live. The stress and frustrations though different surpass NYC for sure. There isn’t a day that goes by that u wont wonder how u manage to get thru the day when there are a million and one things that seem like disasters waiting to happen. But somehow someway another day rolls by and tomorrow is here…and u do it all over again.

Recently as I’ve thought about me and my aspirations, I find myself wondering whether or not I came to Sierra Leone too soon, asking myself When Is The Right Time To Come to Sierra Leone. Would it be better or less frustrating if I were in my 40s, filled with more life experiences, possibly more money, and better understanding of life?? Or maybe in my 30s a bit more established but with some of the energy I have now. And the funny thing is people (mostly foreigners) ask me all the time why I moved back and I respond with an irritating Why not? I guess they like many others can not see many logical reasons for us to just jump into the status quo mess…

I’ve looked at others who have recently returned and on average I think that regardless of age, we’re all pretty much in the same boat dealing with the same types of issues. These issues range from having low skilled workers, dealing with people who have no regard for time, GoSL/govt bureaucracy, u bohboh dem day syndrome, “ Sierra Leoneans have bad Hearrt” negativity, status quo of things that do not function properly, lack of rule of law, fear of falling ill and going to the hospital, adapting to a more responsible low budget lifestyle until you start earning enough to maintain your pre-returnee lifestyle..and so much more.

But overall I do not feel as though I am less happy or more unsatisfied with my life here in Sierra Leone regardless of the constraints and limitations. I think that regardless of where we might find ourselves, that the issues do not disappear rather they are different taking other forms and sizes.

Let’s take for example what happened to me on June 19th 2008, three days after I officially marked my one year anniversary in Sierra Leone. I was invited to a reception at Lagoonda by Theo Nicol a columnist from Premier News, one of the local papers in town. He told me that he was inviting people from the private sector to a cocktail celebrating a new mining company owned by a very wealthy Isreali man. The starting time for the cocktail was 6:30pm. Adama and I had spent the entire day at the shop and we closed late so we rushed home and reluctantly got ready to go to the Cocktail. The only reason why we had gone in the first place is because we had given Mr. Nicol word that we would be there and my phone with his number to give our regrets was dead. So we wore Aschobis and we left. When we got to the reception it was clear that we were very very late. People were still there but the official part of it, seemed to be over. We looked around for Mr. Nicol so that we could show our faces but he was no where to be found. Leavin Adama by the table with the drinks I took my phone and charger to the Wine bar to get it charged. When I returned to the cocktail area Adama was talking to a white lady who I initially thought was talking to her about her dress. But when I got closer she was interrogating Adama about who she was and what she was doing there.

White lady: Who invited you? What are you doing here?
Adama: astonished….uhh we were invited
White lady: By whom?
Vickie: Theo Nicol ( I said with a tone of lady u better recognize)
White lady: Where r u’re invitations
(before we could answer Theo Nicol arrived and joined us in the examination)
White lady: Did u invite these people
Theo Nicol: Yes I did
White lady: Can I speak to u over there
( we couldn’t quite make out what was being said but this white lady was clearly unhappy with our presence there)

We walked out of the cocktail area to the wine bar where I had left my phone on charge. The anger and “What da Fuck” feelings came over us gradually as it dawned on us that this lady thought us unfit to be at the cocktail. Two attractive young ladies at a cocktail and this heffar thought we were prostitutes. Can u believe two up and coming starlet entrepeneurs like ourselves…considered prostitutes? You may wonder well maybe u were dressed inappropriately but u would be wondering wrong. We were in proper decent cocktail attire. After we tossed a couple F words between ourselves Mr. Nicol joined us at the bar.
He was full of a million and one apologies… “the lady was just worried that the cocktail was almost over and more people were coming and blah blah blah.”
I was like bullshit…u know damn well she thought we were some hookers…
“ you have my sincerest apologies, She doesn’t even work for the company, she is the MD’s girlfriend” “I don’t give a damn, this fucking white bitch who cant even speak English just disrespected us like some common whores…Oh hell no” “ Mr. Nicol, if not for the fact that I respected you and u invited us, I would have made a scene and told her some serious words” Mr. Nicol realising he had no chance apologised profusely and tried to bell us “I know I am so sorry”. He asked us to stay longer and have some drinks with him but we were sooo not in the mood. We walked out of Lagoonda pissed off ass hell…saying all kinds of shit…like who the fuck gave her a visa….and we’re calling Olu Gordon in the morning with our story….we want an official apology from the company.

After we slept on it…we were not as upset in the morning just still in shock that she actually had the nerve to speak to us like that. Did she know who we were?? Clearly not…but then again it is precisely for that reason that she should have been polite and respectful. I could have been Earnest Bai’s daughter…and I would have told my daddy on them and just like the VP had some people arrested and thrown in jail for Mammy cussin his mother, this lady could have been in deep kaka too.

My point is, this same scenario could have happened in NY…maybe not mistaken as prostitutes but someone not knowing who were might have thought of us as unwanted or uninvited guests….and it could have been some white lady again….and we would have most likely dealt with it in the same way. Similar issues different location

Living in Sierra Leone is not a romantic fairytale…of the African Perfection….and at times I do long for certain luxuries like hot running water, and the ability to lay on my sofa and flip thru channels with a gooey chewy double chocolate fudge brownie. When I cant have that I buy a 20 in 1 DVD collection from one of the boys selling films on the street and I come home and make guacamole and eat it with Lebanese bread while I pray that Koroma light stays for the time it will take me to watch at least one film.

Sometimes it does, and other times it does not. But when it does, I relish it and watch two films at a time and cool my chest with home made ginger beer or tombi juice and spray myself with mosquito repellent and fall asleep with the fan on. When it does go out, I light three candles, spray myself with a lot of repellent, open the windows, and sink into a new book recently purchased from Diaspora bookshop and fall asleep to the local natural sound bites…

I sleep peacefully and awaken the next day still in Sierra Leone and still in love and appreciating what I have and grateful for my life.

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