Tag Archives: Bunce Island

Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it infamy

That’s a fat wean you’ve got there


I’m with Sam and JJ in a restaurant. A man comes in with his daughter, she’s around seven, I would say, and a little chunky. Sam says ‘that’s a beautiful daughter you have there’, the man smiles.

“Hello sweetheart! You want to keep fit, eh? Not eat so much or you will end up veeeeeery fat.”

The man doesn’t smile.


Foreigner top trumps

When I run in Bo, all the kids shout puh mei, which is white man in Mende, I’m told that it literally translates as stranger. In Makeni, the people are Temne so they should opoto which apparently derives from early Portuguese traders in that area. From Porto.

When you run near south east Asians, they all shout Chinese, as they seem to win the battle for rarity points.


I’m here all week, try the cruin cruin

Ernest Bai Koroma is temne limba so I guess he gets annoyed really quickly and then spends hours apologising…


Well, it is a massive imposition

I hate when people in work make a massive deal about asking for something really small. I feel like saying, come on guys I’ve been here for six months surely you’ve worked out by now that I’m not a total dick.

Mister Sow comes into the office, I love Mister Sow he’s a really funny guy. Mister Sow at a police roadblock is just amazing, slowing down then shooting off shouting ‘fuck off’. It’s amazing. Absolutely amazing. He’s asking if he can put a water in the fridge and asking it like it’s a really big deal. Why don’t you take a cold one out of the fridge instead. ‘Oh, thank you Mister Gareth, thank you so much.’

Come on guys.


Chinese whispers

An activist of the environmental action

I went to Makeni with Sam and our Provincial Salesman, I, Jospeh Jenewai. They came to cheer me on but slept in. Sam said that he saw someone that might have been me, but in my wildest dreams I wasn’t going that fast that you wouldn’t recognise me.

Anyway, I do like Joseph he’s very typical of salespeople that I’ve met pretty much everywhere. But, even so, I do like him. Gift of the gab. Standard in his line of work.

He started telling a story that he had heard on the BBC News the day before, I was only half listening but I heard something about a monkey protesting in the UK, which isn’t impossible I guess, in a zoo, throwing stones, surprised it made the news all the same.

Then I heard him say that it had set fire to itself.  It had got itself some fuel and…

I’m sure that this was all completely unconnected to the previous day’s news that a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka had self-immolated in protest at the killing of cows.


Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it infamy

Hi, I’m John

Hi, I’m Gareth

Oh, you’re the guy that got his head burst open at the Gaelic football!

Really? Still?



A beginners guide to eating monkey…and human.

monkey stew


Sam’s not a man to make a wahala

I’m going to see Fanta because she had something to eat and then she drop.*

Was it something that she ate?

Well, either that or she’s pregnant.


* Was sick


If it takes one man an hour to paint the fence, how long would it take two men?

One hour.

Louise comes round the house and cooks and cleans for us while we’re at the factory. She comes round for asks us what we want, takes the money for the ingredients, does the shopping and cooks dinner.

All very nice.

Whatever you ask for the ingredients cost 30,000 leones, OK we’re not painting from a very broad palette here but even so there must be some price variation. Surely.

Especially when there’s a variation on the number that she’s cooking for…

So, I’m just on my own I ask for jollof rice. 30,000. But it’s just for me. Lemme say 25,000. But it’s just for me, Louise, I can go to a restaurant and get a plate of fish and rice for that. 25,000.

Which is exactly what I do. Country Side. Fish and rice. By the pool. Lovely.

And that’s fish and rice, groundnut and cruin cruin are only 7,000 in there. And only 4,000 at Palamino, where I could definitely go as I haven’t yet used up all the antibiotics that I brought over.

I just don’t get it, obviously there’s a little bit of creaming from the top, but surely by not being reasonable you’re killing the goose.

Now if it’s only two in the house we don’t bother asking her, next stage is to replace her with someone who can cook for less than it costs to go to a restaurant.


What were you doing ten years ago Sam?

Always worries me that when Sam meets a friend in the pub he greets them by shouting “SOJA”.


Zen burgers

All the white people eat at Sab’s. It’s a small café that sells European and Lebanese food- schwarma, falafel, burgers, fried chicken that sort of thing. Most importantly it’s air-conditioned to a fridge like temperature and has a toilet that actually flushes.

I try not to go too often, it’s not expensive but within my slightly fictitious budget it is- a really large burger that has loads of coleslaw and chips in the bun is 20,000, so that’s less than five bucks, less than three quid.

But if I’m having a frustrating day and I’m over heating sometimes I just feel the need to leave my oven like office get on a bike and treat myself.

My standard order is a falafel, a vanilla milk and changing the channel from the WWF or a movie to Al Jazeera. It actually feels like my little bubble of calm.

And if that isn’t the name of a really shite book it certainly should be.


Go on then, just a little one

People keep trying to get me to try the monkey soup (stew), apparently it’s a really sweet beef (meat). I’m quite tempted but I’m definitely not doing it. Not quite sure why, is it endangered round here? I’m not sure. Is it because they’re cute little guys and a little too much like us? I can’t answer that either.

I guess I am tempted.

But not quite tempted enough.


Sole food

There’s evidence that a lot of humans were eaten during The Great Leap Forward. What seems even more tragic was that there were cases of people eating their own families. Nan’s popped her clogs get a fire going, that sort of thing.

Anyway, the story goes that the real treat is the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.

In case you were ever wondering…


He’s the Chet Baker of restaurateurs

What’s wrong with Salone

In the UK we occasionally get a lot of snow, roads close, schools close, factories close and everybody moans. Why haven’t we planned for this? In Denmark/ Canada/Russia they get much worse weather and the world doesn’t stop.

They miss the point.

It’s worth the investment in infrastructure in these countries to compensate for the climate and, so, the investment is made. In the UK it’s, simply, not, or they would do it. It’s just not worth it for the sporadic bouts of exceptionally bad weather that we get in our temperate little climate. To illustrate this how many people in the UK do you know that buy snow tyres or chains for their tyres? How many people do you think have them in Norway? I would guess, maybe, all of them.

We should just moan less and get the sledge out the cupboard. The one we don’t get to use every year.

In Salone there will always be problems with the lack of infrastructure, or at least there will be for the foreseeable future, but sometimes I feel like everyone is planning as if everything is perfect.

Or not planning at all.

The UN were in town for some team bonding, they hired out an entire hotel. The Dohas hotel. The best in town. It’s 400,000 per room per night, that’s a months salary for a lot of people in Bo.

My friend James asked me to come down and watch the Spurs Chelsea game with him, they have a lovely TV poolside, it’s really nice. Really, really nice. The game kicked off and then the TV went off. The staff knew that we were watching it but no-one came to explain or apologise. We had to go and ask. No apology was given but the explanation offered was that the generator needed maintenance so there would be no power for an indeterminate length of time. Generators ALWAYS need maintenance. You’re charging a king’s ransom for a room buy two. Sod it, buy three.

Sometimes you just think, ‘come on guys, is this shit really, really this difficult’?!


He’s the Chet Baker of restaurateurs

Maurie runs Mars internet café, he also owns a restaurant called Kama. He’s spent a lot of time in San Francisco and he exudes West Coast cool. Does he? Or am I just making shit up. You’ll never know… Anyway, I was told in January that it was the best restaurant in Bo but it’s never actually been open. It’s closed for maintenance. It’s been closed for maintenance for five months.

Don’t get me wrong it’s getting there- “Small small Gareth, small small”- but the Easter grand opening became “Lemme say April, Gareth. Lemme say April” and we’re now quite far into May.

I don’t know if I’ll even be here long enough to get to eat there.


Menu for reference only

Most restaurants will only have light during the day so you buy most of the stock for the restaurant on a daily basis. If you go for food later on you might have to take what they have not what you originally wanted. Sometimes the giving out of menus with long lists of available dining options feels like a formality, a nod to what a restaurant is rather than any guide to what you might actually be having to eat that evening.

Often menus will be laid out orders taken, drinks brought and then after what can sometimes be a lengthy wait the waitress comes back to say that they don’t have what you ordered, this can also be followed up by a further lengthy wait to find that they don’t have choice number two either. If there’s a large table of you then this can take some time.

If you’re dining late at night in Bo my advice is to wander in cut out the niceties and say:

“OK guys, what have you actually got?”

I love a nice pear

Pageant season

I got invited to Miss Djalla University Beauty Pageant at the Rio Cinema on Friday night. I didn’t think I could make it but as my friend pointed out ‘when is the next time that you’ll get asked to a beauty pageant’.

Saturday came and I managed to gate crash the UNDP team bonding weekend, a nice Lithuanian chap gave me some beer tokens so I was upscaled from Star to Carlsberg immediately.

Then I heard that someone had slaughtered a goat and was having a shindig, there’s not a man alive (sorry Mozza) that’s knocking back an offer like that. So off I went.

Rolled home at four in the morning having had my fill of beer and goat, forgot all about the pageant.

Saturday got invited to the Miss Dohas Hotel Beauty Pageant.


Awright bawbags.

I met this really amazing doctor, Irish paediatrician called Niall he used to work in the RAH so he knew where I’m from really well. He said:

“I can’t believe someone from Paisley is running the Bennimix factory. Rock and Roll. Turning up in the morning saying awright bawbags, let’s get to work.”

A phrase that I rarely, if ever, employ. Well, certainly not nearly enough.

He’s been here three weeks and I’m meeting him tonight to watch the Arsenal Wigan game. Well, hopefully.

The thing is with Niall he’s so dedicated that he’s been working seven days and he doesn’t like to be too far away from the ward as he’s worried that if he is a child will die.

My concern is that if he tries to keep that up for a year he’ll kill himself.


Malaria optional

I know of a girl, a Scottish girl, who is waiting to be flown home. They think that she has meningitis. If she does a doctor I know (who, thankfully, no longer has braids) will have saved her life. She wasn’t taking her anti-malarials (the Jock not the Doc) and malaria massively affects your immune system.

Did I mention that she was Scottish?

A lot of ex-pats will tell you that anti-malarials are dangerous, they do your organs long term damage.

All the doctors I’ve spoken to tell you to take them.

I’ll leave that particular decision up to you.


I love a nice pear

It’s funny living in a community. It’s so different from London. I lived in a flat in London for six years and didn’t know the person next door. Our front doors were half a metre apart.

When I go to the well in the morning I say hello to Alpha Rogers, through his bedroom window, lying on his bed, in his pants.

This morning a woman shouted me over because she had nice (avocado) pears and she knows I often buy pears.

You don’t get that service in Tesco.

Why always us?

Chimp magic

Now THAT'S magic

Now THAT’S magic

Went to Tacugama chimp sanctuary on the edges of Freetown. It’s about an hour out of town but it really does feel like you’re in the rainforest, staying in a tree house was pretty special as well; lying in a hammock on the balcony listening to the chimps talk to each other down below.


No early release

Of the estimated 5,000 chimps still in Sierra Leone 104 are in Tacugama. Most of them have been rescued from being pets and the theory is that the chimps go through stages from quarantine, to introduction to a small group, to introduction to the larger group and then released back in to the wild.

The problem that they have is that the market for bush meat is still massive either as a delicacy or as an important source of protein so it’s difficult to see how they will get to the point of releasing them, they spoke of increased help from the government as regards protection, post release, but it’s hard to see how feasible that is given the expanse that chimps in the wild roam across and the difficulty of telling a hungry man what he can and can’t eat.

Why always us?

Tacugama was started when an idiot ex-pat Jock abandoned a pet chimp that they didn’t know what to do with…

Man strength

Chimps in the wild have a fear of man (probably unsurprising, we have guns) but growing up in Tacugama they have no such fear, I guess as man is bringing them food they see man as sub-servient. This is an issue as a fully grown chimp has the strength of five men so any release would have to be well away from any villages

There was a big break out from Tacugama a few years back and when a taxi driver got out of his cab five chimps tore him limb from limb.


I’m a soul man

Chimps are incredibly close to humans as regards DNA, think that they said 98.4%, it’s amazing to see how similar their facial expressions are, they look like wise old men. And when the stand erect they really do just look like quite hairy men.

The taxi driver that took us up said that chimps are EXACTLY the same as us, except that they have no soul.


Not big, not clever, not legal

Monkey Mitt

Monkey Mitt

Some guys I know run a company (that I won’t name) and all live in one big house.

There’s a lot of testosterone in that house.

A local came round to sell them a monkey called Mitt. They bought the monkey and now have a monkey that they don’t know what to do with. If you knew them this wouldn’t greatly surprise you.

Of course the monkey wasn’t called Mitt what they were being sold was meat.

So they now have a pet monkey called ‘meat’.

Could they not get hold of Champs League tickets?

There’s a competition to win prizes with Star beer at the moment. You can flip open your bottle top to instantly (presumably they don’t just appear) win goats, motorbikes, generators, money, more Star Beer or Europa League Final tickets.

I’m almost certain that I’m going to win a goat.


Axle Folly

Someone said that they could never work out why people don’t push their cars into the side when they break down. It’s often because the axle has just completely buckled.



Diamonds not forever

Mixing at the Mix Point

My local is the Mix Point it’s run by a young guy called Malcolm, he’s a nice guy and he seems to like Whitney Houston and Cher quite a lot.

I headed up there on Sunday night for a couple of Star Beers. I’m on my own at first then a one eyed chap rocks up and orders a fruit wine. He’s a teacher called Dennis that was brought up and educated by the Christian Brothers an organisation of missionaries who educate young orphans.

So he got an education that he wouldn’t have otherwise received and is now a teacher, circle of life, Elton John and all that. Lovely.

Anyway, we got chatting and interestingly he was quite strongly pro-British and had an incredible knowledge of British history which he was disappointed to tell me has been dropped from the curriculum. He was also quite strongly against Scottish independence especially as he believed that the fact that Sierra Leone’s relatively similar, small size, was holding it back.

We moved onto the local education system, I was especially curious as a nice lad on our street has written us a letter asking if we’ll pay for his school fees. It seems that here primary education (up to the age of 11) is free but secondary education you pay for. I asked him how many girls go on to secondary education- not many. He then explained that there are forms that you can get to apply to have your fees paid for from certain funds (the UN has a fund) so I’m going to see if I can help Musa instead of just paying for one term for one person in a street of people that need help.


Is ma 10% not good enough for you?!


I’ve been told that missionaries over here don’t speak to other white people, I’m not sure why but it definitely feels like an instruction rather than personal, individual rudeness.

It makes me really tempted to doorstep the Mormons round the corner.

One of them’s a particularly fat American that I always see chasing weans about the place.

Might see what he thinks of my ‘99 Problems But A Mitt Ain’t One’ t-shirt.


Pub orienteering

It’s a pretty small path across a small bridge and through a small wooded area from mine to the Mix Point, if you hit the paddy fields you know you’ve gone wrong.

The thing that always makes me laugh is that the at one point my major ‘location marker’ is some termite mounds and I always feel like I’m in a cartoon as I desperately shine my torch around looking for some termite mounds to guide me home.


Checkpoint Charlie

Beside some of the nice beaches you pay for parking (5,000 Leones) which is fair enough as you’re basically parking in someone’s backyard. You also get little pikin checkpoints where little boys stretch rope across the road and ask for money.

At the beach beside Franco’s the little boys dance which is really funny all these little boys dancing in the street enjoying the sunshine. You really think that, at times, even with all the problems it must be a great place to be a kid.

But where are the little girls?

Oh yes, there they are trudging around with massive jerry cans of water on their heads…


Diamonds not forever

One thing that’s been confusing me about Bo is that there’s loads of diamond dealerships but no real signs of obvious wealth; certainly not wealth that you would associate with such a lucrative trade.

So I asked Dennis about it.

Seemingly at one point there were so many diamonds around that in the rainy season it wouldn’t be unknown for a diamond to wash up on the street but excessive mining to pay for weapons during the civil war has meant that the money made that could have been used for infrastructure was used for arms and that one off chance, for this area at least, has gone.


That seems fair

Someone with an import certificate will give you $700 for those diamonds that you’ve spent hours, days, weeks, months or years scrabbling in the earth to find.

Someone with an import certificate will sell them in on for $1,500 as soon as you’ve walked out the door.


The importance of semantics

You don’t need Batman to clean up a city if everybody does their bit


I went for a run early on Saturday morning, I run up the hill beside my house onto the back streets and onto a dirt track. I run until I can see the construction of the Bo Rangers football stadium and then I run back. Sometimes I stop at the Mixing Point for a water or, if it’s evening, I treat myself to a Star.

When I got back Bob was a bit frantic as he had been tried to call me and was worried that I would be getting hassled. Hassled by the police!

For the simple reason that every two weeks in Bo you are not allowed to leave the area around your house until after ten and everyone spends that time cleaning the area round their house, the pavement outside and, even, clear out the guttering that runs alongside the pavement and acts as drainage.



I’ve heard that there’s something of a cultural taboo around begging in Sierra Leone, unfortunately there’s also a tremendous stigma and, by extension, very little support for people with mental or physical disabilities.

As a result of this the people that you do see begging are people on the very margins of society with no way to support themselves and not much, if any, support given to them beyond the small sums of money given by people as they pass.

The only way that this can be stopped is by giving them the opportunity to make money for themselves and giving them the dignity that goes with this.

I know that the police employed three disabled people recently to man the phones and there are some charities providing computer training to people with physical disabilities, which is a start. Sounds like small steps but, I guess, small steps are initially required to help with this big problem and it must at least provide a little hope that the problem can be eradicated in time.

Sadly, this is an, almost, perfect analogy for how the developed world treats Africa small hand outs are given out to enable the people to keep going but trade barriers are erected and subsidies given out to stop the continent being able to compete equally with the rest of the world.

It’s like there’s a vested interest for the west to keep Africa disabled…



Blindcraft closing was a real tragedy, surely they could have worked with some cool young designers to come up with some products that were viable to make with the production infrastructure that was already there but were nice enough that people would want to buy them.


Cyrano De Bergerac

I couldn’t get Airtel to work and I wanted to text Gill to tell her to have a nice weekend with her parents who were over from Scotland. So I asked Bob to text her as he’s on Africell.

He went with ‘Have a lovely weekend with your mum and dad. We both love you and miss you very much. Bob and Gareth.’

She had been gone all of half an hour…


The importance of semantics

They call tug of war tug of peace here. No more war.