Brian Micklethwait has a post up about Sierra Leone. It’s opposite of the sort of thing many of journalists would write about the place, being politically incorrect, interesting to the casual reader, and crude but accurate—as opposed to sensitive but misleading. It’s the sort of summary of the place you might get from a mate down the pub, fresh off the plane—and I mean someone who has just been working abroad, not “travelling” there. It reminds you what marvellous resources blogs are. Not everyone has mates who have just got off a plane from Sierra Leone.
My mum’s from Sierra Leone, but I’m no expert. A girl is indeed “titi” in Krio (and a boy “bobo” with short two ‘o’s). The photos on Brian’s blog aren’t just posed for the camera: people do indeed carry stuff on their heads—when I was a little boy it was a favourite parlour game of my dad’s to balance things on my big hair and get me walk around for guests. The phrase “Black Man’s Time” is in common use and not just by White Men—as in: “The trouble with you, Damian, is that you work on Black Man’s Time”. The stuff about mobile phones rings true. And yes, many of the locals would be happy to see the British back in control. Sorry, Tariq, they’ll get over it soon, I’m sure; they’ll take a bit longer to get over the amputations.
Sierra Leone has only recently stopped being the poorest country on the planet, partly thanks to the fierce competition between various thieving thugocrats in control elsewhere around the World to take their own countries to the top of the table, and partly for other reasons that I’m not going to go into here. I’ll just say that fairly recently Sierra Leone stopped hosting a UN peacekeeping mission for the bizarre reason that it had worked.
Brian does get a bit of a ticking off in his comments about his description of the Lebanese as being the local Jews. My black cousins are half-Lebanese and some of my best friends are Jewish so I’m not going there either.
You’ll be hearing more about Sierra Leone soon, when the latest DiCaprio movie [for that is how it will be described] Blood Diamond comes out. I’m not optimistic about it. The featured preview on IMDB complains plausibly that it’s a good film likely to be ruined on release by the existing lousy ending. Also, despite being set in West Africa, it was shot on location in South Africa.