Tag Archives: mende tribe

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?”


Titty ye not

Emerging markets

For big corporates the markets in the more established ecomomies are basically flat or flatlining, there will be some ups and downs some new products that do well but, broadly, if you’ve been hawking your wares in France, or Germany or Japan or the US for the past fifty years your probably selling less. You’re definitely looking to sell more. You’re most definitely looking to sell or sell more in Africa.

I’m not saying that this is good or bad, as a middle class emerges they want iPods and tablets, Nike trainers all the things that the see on the TV really. Just like everybody else.  That’s just human nature,

But there’s what people want, what people think that they want and what people are told that they want that they really, really don’t.

Formula is the obvious one, Save The Children estimate that 1.45 million babies die globally by having powdered milk instead of ‘titty water’ in the first hour of life. That’s quite well known, maybe not the specifics but certainly the concept.

One of the worst I’ve seen out here is the quite aggressive marketing of sanitary towels by giving them away. I think that’s quite aggressive, that’s trying to create a market by giving things away to people that clearly don’t need them and telling them that they do.

I don’t know (or want to know) exactly what has been done here for the last millennia (I don’t really know what goes on at home- what the fuck is a moon cup?) but the point is that you’re trying to make money by fixing a problem that doesn’t exist without caring about the massive problem that gets created.

People are struggling to feed their children properly and you’re telling them they now need sanitary towels. Rubbish get’s taken away once a month, people here don’t buy many packaged goods, a bottle will be reused and recycled because a bottle is useful and valuable. Up country sanitary towels would end up on the street, on the coast they would end up in the sea. It’s totally amoral but totally understandable multinationals in a capitalist society will be amoral- it’s basically their job to take things to the edge of the law to increase shareholder value. To blame them is like blaming Jimmy Carr for the UK tax legislation being shit.

It’s not his job any more than it’s the job of BP to protect the Amazonian Rainforest and it’s preposterous to think that they will care unless you provide incentive for them to care.

Corporate Social Responsibility for multinationals, most specifically, in the, less protected, developing world needs to start to affect share price or they will be fixated on increased sales at the expense of everything else and to blame them would be to misunderstand the nature of capitalism. Governments and the major NGOs need to start insisting on a better environmental audit of a more onerous code of conduct but it just doesn’t seem to be the case that this is taken seriously in any way, shape or form.

It might let you down

Hassling the Hoff.

Hassling the Hoff.

Mitcham need to have some country exclusions on their 48 hour claim.

The Beach ‘Road’

When you head out west from Freetown you hit Lakka Beach and then after that, as you go down the Beach Road, it’s just stunning beach after stunning beach after stunning beach. People here argue over which beach is better or worse but it’s at the pedantic level of ‘the sand is too fine at that beach’ or some other ridiculous observation. They’re all amazing. Burrah is better for surf, John Obey has the lagoon, Tokeh is slightly more developed but they’re all completely, completely amazing.

Occasionally you even find yourself on a completely deserted beach, four of us went to Baw Baw (yeah, Baw Baw) one Sunday and didn’t see another living soul for the entire day.

But this won’t last. And shouldn’t.

One of the main issues is the fact that the Beach Road isn’t actually a road, not all the way anyway. A taxi driver will charge you around 20,000 per hour in Freetown but treble or more to go to the beach as, eventually, it will break the suspension his car. You actually think that the beaches are much further away because it takes so long to get there going at 5 or 10mph.

It’s quite clear that this road project won’t get completed this year as the rains are almost upon us but it must be high on the agenda. Equally important is controlling the tourist industry along the peninsula to try and protect what is there within the bounds of helping more people to earn a good living. It’s going to be incredibly difficult to balance.

I thought Jesus sorted that out years ago…

My kind of people

Bo is home to the Mende tribe which should make things hard for me as Mende is their first language, Krio is second so any English is third.

What makes this not such a big problem is the fact that they are by far the friendliest most helpful people in the world.

Genuinely, nothing is too much trouble for them.

If you ask a Mende to bring you an amphibious flying car I’m sure that you won’t get one but I’m, equally, sure that he’ll have a bloody good go at getting you something similar.


The Gazette

If you want to know how much you should be getting paid in Salone you consult the Sierra Leone Gazette. You simply find the pay bracket for your occupation, say, miller, go down the column for the amount of years of experience you have and there you have it.

Might pop out for a Senegalese tonight. Fancy it?

A few people have told me that the best restaurant in Freetown is Senegalese. I don’t know if it’s the best but it’s really, really good. You get barracuda or snapper with ‘Irish potahto’ chips or achieke. I like the achieke, it’s somewhere between couscous and bulgar wheat and comes with a really nicely dressed spiced salad on top.

Makes me wonder if African restaurants will make more of an ‘impact’ at some point back home.  It’s certainly odd that a continent of such a size with such diversity of cuisine hasn’t really broken out of small restaurants mainly serving the ‘ex-pat’ community in London.

If you feel like trying it I would recommend the groundnut soup, or maybe some cruin cruin, or the snapper with fried rice. Or anything really, it’s all good.

I thought Jesus sorted that out years ago

The 27th of January was the 60th World Leprosy Day aimed at stamping out discrimination against sufferers of leprosy.

I really, really did not think that this was still a problem in the modern world, I don’t know what causes it and I don’t really know what needs to be done to stop the problem.

And I don’t know where they live now but if we’re not allowed to have colonies anymore…….



Wallace-Johnson Street

If you walk down Wallace-Johnson street you get to a statue of the man himself, Isaac Thephilus Akunna Wallace-Johnson.

It’s a great statue, I think that it looks a little like a statue that Herge might have sculpted had he not been too busy with the cartoons. He has pen aloft and a natty little double breasted blazed atop a jumper, shirt tie combo.

If, like me, you had never heard of him look him up he’s got one helluva story to tell.

My brother from another mother

Like Scotland the motto of Sierra Leone is ‘if it moves, fry it’; it’s like we’re in a competition to see who can fry the most ridiculous things. “Mars bars, you say? Fuck that I’m frying coconuts.”

So Hamid’s been doing me a fry up in the morning, plantain rather than square slice but still, it feels like a home from home.