Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dating Sierra Leone Style...

I’ve debated on whether or not to write this blog.  As you can see by the title, it could raise a lot of questions that, in an effort to be diplomatic to all sides, I can’t really answer well.  However, because the last few of my posts have been a bit… well, in the Debbie Downer category, I decided to go ahead and tell a story that wasn’t nearly as dramatic

As the title of the blog suggests, a couple weeks ago I went out on what would most likely be classified in our culture as a “date.”  With a Sierra Leonean guy.  I won’t go into the specifics of how or why I ended up going out with this guy but let’s just say that he is the close friend of one of my co-workers at the hospital who is also a big guy in the community in terms of his relation to the Paramount Chief. He is also very persistent.   And before you start marching me down the aisle I will say that he is a nice guy and will be a nice friend.  So there you go. 

He called to ask if I wanted to go watch a soccer game with him.  I told him that I have this little four year old that I can’t seem shake and wants to go everywhere with me.  He said it would be fine if she 
came with us.  Alrighty then.  Sounds like a hoot. 

Because I was afraid to put Kadi on his motorbike, we decided to meet at my co-workers house at the edge of town and he would show us how to get there.  When we met up with him we both took one of Kadi’s hands and began walking down the road into town.  Begin my nightmare.  Or if it’s not my nightmare, it’s at least one of those dreams where you wake up and you don’t really know what happened but you just don’t feel good about it.  Yeah. That starts now.  See, I do NOT love going into town.  (And by town I mean the four intersecting streets that have nearly identical booths selling nearly identical things).  That’s our “town.”  I pretty much do whatever I can to avoid going there because whenever I do I feel like I’m on a stage with the spotlight pointed directly at me.  As I walk down the street all the kids yell “White! White! White! Hello! Hello!”  All the people milling around their shops stop what they’re doing to watch me pass.  I feel like a freak of nature.  And I hate it.  In fact, I’ve come to realize that one of my absolute favorite parts about being home….even more than the delicious food, is the fact that I can walk into Target and absolutely No. One. Cares.  It’s awesome!

So here we are, walking down the street.  This time, instead of just me, it’s me....and a guy.  Let the rumor mill begin!  We were walking down one of the main streets when all of a sudden a man about 50 feet ahead of us coming towards us started shouting.  I strained to hear what he was saying and then realized he was pointing to me saying “I HAVE SEEN MY WIFE!!!  I HAVE SEEN MY WIFE!!!!”  He proceeded to grab onto my arm and tell me that he wanted me to stand there, talk to him, and then marry him.  Um….awkward.  I kept telling him sorry, I have to go but he was still holding on.  The guy I was with was also trying to talk to him, telling him that we needed to go but he wasn’t having it.  He’d definitely been knocking back the palm wine and it seemed to be impairing his reasoning abilities.  Fortunately I took a self -defense class when I was in high school and was able to do a quick release to escape.  His parting remark was “It’s ok. If you’re staying with my brother, you’re staying with me!!”  Whatever that means! Buddy, I’m staying with a 4 year old who often doesn’t quite make it to the potty and tries to steal my pillow every night! 

So anyway……..  We quickly reached the place where the game was being held.  As we walked through the door my friend handed him some money and I was faced what appears now to be the universally awkward dating question…who is paying?  I paused, not sure if I was supposed to pull out some money, not sure how much it should be even if I did pull out some money.  What about Kadi?  Did it cover her?  I stood there for a minute unsure and then just walked in.  They could come arrest me if they wanted. 

As we walked into the room, my heart sank.  The place was pitch black but with enough light for me to realize that it was full of men all yelling at the two TV’s at the front of the room.  There was not a single other girl in the entire room.  Well, aside from the four year old in a frilly dress that was clinging to me.  Lord give me strength. 

He found us some seats and as we sat down I started taking in my surroundings.  I realized that the place was so dark because all of the windows were shut so that the TV’s could be seen.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Africa, but it’s hot.  And Africa with zero air circulation is….really really hot.  Fortunately, as the sweat started pouring down my face, arms, back, etc. I had a four year old who was pointing it out to everyone.  “Emily! You’re sweating!!  You’re sweating a lot!!!”  Yes, thank you little one.  Perfect date attire.  Cute shirt, dressy capris, and buckets full of sweat. 
Shortly after we arrived it was half-time.  Everyone started standing up to go outside. Because did I mention how hot it was in there?  My friend offered to go get us some drinks so he left and we waited there.  I debated getting up and going to wait outside… know, so I could breathe for a second…. but couldn’t decide which was worse.  The suffocating heat staying of staying inside, or the curious stares and attempts at small talk with a large group of guys if I was to go outside.  We stayed put. 

My friend came back with our drinks and the second half began.  I was now faced with the question of how to keep a four year old entertained in a dark room that didn’t allow for a lot of movement. Oh, and how do you keep her from shouting and continually kicking the guy in front of us?  For awhile, she was content drinking her soda.  But as she was happily chugging away, I began worrying about what I was going to do when she inevitably told me in a little while “Emily! I need to PEE!!!!!!!!”  You see, even after having a child for two months, I have not yet mastered the whole “where is it appropriate to let kids pee” question.  How do you know which bush is appropriate and which will get you angry, condescending stares from your neighbors???  As I sat there mulling it over, Kadi started getting restless. She wanted up, she wanted down. She wanted to sit on my right side, on my left side, on my lap.  Apparently 4 year olds aren’t great at sitting still??  Finally she noticed some trash on the ground and started playing with it.  I let her.  She was happy.  I’m a horrible “mother”. 

She started playing the game we liked to play at the hospital which is “Making a Fire and Cooking Lots of Food and Yelling at Emily to Eat!!! Eat!! Eat!!”  As she was cooking, I was dividing my time between trying to pay attention to the game and then pretend blowing on her fire, eating her rice and drinking her water.  Oh. And still trying to keep her from kicking the guy in front of us.
How long do soccer games last?  I played when I was younger but since then have had little to zero interest in the sport and was wracking my brain to remember.  I got it in my head that it might be 90 minutes and started watching the clock more than I was even watching the game.  Please, please, please just let us make it through without something horrifically embarrassing happening.  As the time reached 90 minutes and kept going, I was distraught.  For The Love!!!   How long are these games?!?!?!?!   Fortunately, a few minutes later everyone started standing up.  Sweet relief it’s over!  And best of all, with minimal humiliation!

As soon as we walked out of the building, Kadi told me she had to pee. Shocker.  I was really unsure of what to do so I asked my friend. He pointed to the place we should go and she went fine. I didn’t notice anyone giving me a death glare, so I guess we were ok.  He said he wanted to take me up to show me his office and then we would loop back around to go to my house.  As we were walking up to his house, it turns out that he knows everyone.  Every single person in this town.  No flying under the radar with this guy. 

We reached his office which also turns out to double as his house.  We went inside and were chatting.  Kadi was wandering around, picking up stuff that wasn’t hers, interrupting our conversation, you know, generally just being a four year old.  At one point she came up to me and told me she needed to go toilet (that’s #2).  Oh dear. That’s even more of a dilemma than peeing!  I asked her to wait.  Fifteen minutes later she came up and asked me again.  Wait please.  She wouldn’t be put off though and kept coming to me, now with a look of pain on her face. Poor kid! Finally I just said, “Do you have somewhere she can go to the bathroom?”  He pointed me to the adjoining bathroom.  He did have a toilet but there was no seat so I stayed in there with her to make sure she didn’t fall in.  She proceeded to have the largest, longest bout of diarrhea that I have ever heard.  Very romantic.  As she was..ah hem, finishing, I started to think about my next quandary.  Toilet paper.  They don’t use it here. And while I am almost never without it for just such occasions, I was utterly unprepared. 

No toilet paper you might ask? What do they do?  Well, at the hospital whenever you see someone walking with a little plastic tea kettle you know that that tea kettle is filled with water and they are off to have a bowel movement and will use the water in said tea kettle to wet their hand and…clean themselves, splashing large amounts of water on their bums.  That’s just how it rolls here.
I really really didn’t want to do that.  Especially because I didn’t bring my hand sanitizer either and there’s all this cholera going around…..just NOT what I wanted to do!  Fortunately my friend came to the rescue and asked if I wanted water or tissues.  Tissues!! Tissues!!!  Thank you Jesus for tissues!!!   See how much Jesus loves me???

After her exhausting time on the toilet, Kadi promptly fell asleep (it was 7:30 after all!)  We chatted for a little while longer and then headed back to my house where we called it a night.  PHEW!!  I made it!  In closing I will say, “Thank you Lord for a new cultural experience. And please never make me do it again!”  


  1. Well, that made me snort. It was like a sitcom. If it makes you feel better I'll tell you about my youngest having a bout of diarrhea in his pants at the Vet, while I was picking up our dog and her five, day-old puppies. I wasn't on a date you win.

  2. Seriously, a book, write it!! Have Liberty University publish it and use the proceeds to fund your work. This is great stuff.