18 September 2007

Loitering With Intent

August 26

Freetown, Sierra Leone

This morning I walked up Tower Hill on an intended trip to Fourah Bay College. It's a well-known university that, prior to the war, played host to many students from other West African countries. Indeed, my Gambian friends from U. of Ghana only came to Legon after the war started and they were airlifted out by U.S. Marines. So they finished their studies in Ghana. On the way up I saw lots of people and families in their Sunday best on their way to church.

On my stroll I left the road and came upon a memorial to Milton Margai, first prime minister of independent Sierra Leone. While reading his biography, I was accosted by a pair of middle-aged men. It turned out I had wandered onto the grounds of the national parliament. Officer Conteh and Izwe took me to their office, where they announced that I was under arrest for "loitering with intent." I was told that ignorance does not excuse the crime, which was documented in an ad hoc report. I was then offered a brief tour of the grounds with my hosts/captors angling for something in return. They pointed out Fourah Bay College - up another hill and not especially pretty so I decided to give it a miss. We returned to their office and I joined them for breakfast (the universal staple - rice with cassava leaf sauce). Afterwards, having abandoned their requests for soft drinks, they escorted me down the hill and expressed the hope that Peace Corps would soon return to Sierra Leone.

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