Thursday, April 19, 2012

No Comprendo!

The title of this post is a shout out to the Peruvian doctor who will be coming on the medical team with us (and is staying with us right now) as well as Chilean family who will be joining our team in a couple weeks.  Time to bone up on my Spanish.  Oh, and my Krio. And I should probably start learning some Limba too.  Too many languages, too little time....and brain.  I digress.

I've been in Sierra Leone for over a year now, but I'm afraid that for every new thing that I start to understand, I become confused by 2 more.  I don't understand why, with all the white people running around here, I still cannot go outside my bedroom (my place of solace) without hearing "White Girl! White Girl!"  My standard reply is "Hey, my name isn't White Girl! Is your name black man????"  I usually get a chuckle to that and then

"Ok, what is your name?"

"It's Emily."


"Yup, Emllskjfee"

"Emrlksdjfee.........give me money."

Oi Vey

Oh! I should say Oio Veyo.....Bring it on Espanol!

One of the things that I really don't understand, are the secret societies that are here.  Literally. I don't understand them. I've asked lots of people about them and always get very veiled, mysterious answers.  This is what I know.
They are in one, women in another.
They like to drum at night.  Oftentimes, all night long.
The female societies are the ones responsible for the female circumcision.
They are very secretive.
If certain societies are out during the day, the other gender needs to go inside when they march past.  Otherwise, you will die.  They won't kill'll just die.  I'm not sure how you know which societies you need to do this for.....but I haven't really had to deal with that before.

Well, before yesterday.

I'm in Freetown right now, getting the final preparations for the medical team coming on Sunday.  The house that I stay at while in Freetown is on a hill and has a balcony that looks down over the street. Every once in a while we'll get to see some cool things.  A few weeks ago we saw a huge number of Sierra Leonean soldiers doing their drills while marching past the house.

Yesterday we were in the house when we heard some yelling and drumming.  We went out to the balcony and saw a "devil dancer" (that's what they call them) walking by with a big group of guys.  We were just watching them (as I feel is pretty normal when a big group of people is making a lot of noise).  They noticed that we were watching them and kind of stopped in front of the house but they didn't appear to be angry.....just stopped to watch the white people watch them.

One of our visitors pulled out her camera to take a picture and that's when they freaked out.  They all started yelling and I quickly told her to put the camera away.  They threw a big rock that hit a pillar right where we were standing.  The visitor didn't get a picture.

Our daytime security guard started yelling at them and then went outside to yell at them.  They took that opportunity to come inside our gate and continue yelling.  We told them that she didn't get a picture but they wanted to see the camera to make sure that she didn't get one.

Two of the men of the houses went down to talk to them. I don't know exactly what was said, but we gave them the camera and they flipped through a couple pictures, didn't see a picture of their "devil dancer" so they left.

I was mad.  I felt very bullied.  THEY were the ones that went down the street doing things to draw attention to themselves in the first place!! Yes, I understand if they don't want us to take pictures (although there were no signs posted so I'm not sure how we were supposed to know).  That's their prerogative. We're guests in their country.  But the way they went about it, throwing big rocks, yelling and storming our just didn't seem nice.

Like I said before, I don't understand these societies...especially the male societies.  I talked to a friend of mine who is in one and asked  him what they do. What is their purpose? I don't understand. He smiled at me and said, "Even if you give me 5 million leones, I will not tell you."  I offered him 10 million (as a joke) but he just laughed and said No!  He said that "yes, they do some bad things...I don't do those things, but yes, some do."  I have no idea what he meant by that.  Bad things? Are we talking tax evasion or human sacrifice?  Both are known to occur here......

It was my first real interaction with a society.  There is so much fear associated with them here, and now I have a little glimpse as to why.  I was a little afraid myself.  

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