Returning to Sierra Leone: Elemental Africa

Marina Goldman travels back to Sierra Leone, a destination she holds deep in her heart of memories. Describing living and working in such an environment being a “blend of fatalism and optimism,” Goldman decides it is time to assess the needs of the Sierra Leoneans. Find out more about their conditions and what Americans sometimes take for granted in Goldman’s article.

Village Boy
A village boy carrying water.

After twenty years I returned to Sierra Leone to keep a promise I had made. My son Noah and I spent a month in Kabala, Sierra Leone, West Africa. As we headed home, Noah looked out the airplane window at our last glimpse of the African coast. I got that tight feeling in my chest and hold back the tears. I tell Noah, you can leave Africa but it will never leave you.

We are home; My son Noah is optimistic as he reunites with his buddies, telling tales, looking forward.I am looking back, yearning for Merah’s cassava leaf and wanting to return to my friend, Peacemaker and his evening palm wine to drown my sorrows of this crazy, unfair world we live in.

I struggle with the ironies and the mystery of the human condition here. Since becoming a mother I feel the bonds of birth, death, hope and fear so much deeper.

I’ll never forget looking at Noah when he was a few hours old and having the preciousness and futility of life dawning on me in a way it never had before, even in my two years in Sierra Leone.

Well, it all came back to me, this deep love, in elemental Africa; earth, air, fire and water, The diesel filled air is dissipated by the Harmattan winds as they sweep off the Sahara dessert stirring up the red dirt from the dry season mixing with the smoke from the cooking fires and the burning of the uplands being prepared for next years rice crop.

This red earth coats every orifice of my body. I find it in my ears, my nose — it cakes in my throat. I have never understood the meaning of the word ‘parched’ until now. I have no patience to wait for the well and the iodine tablets or bottled water. I suck ginger beer from a plastic bag.

Like the wind, the smells stir up memories of Sierra Leone. I smell the difference between water from the well and the waterside, and thus began my continual utterance of “only if” in this beautiful and tragic country.

Returning to Sierra Leone: Elemental Africa