Freetown was like the opposite of a ghost town. It was just after the brutal civil war that left many maimed for no reason.
The war had drawn all the villagers to resettle there. It was overcrowded, and things became extremely expensive. The poverty on the street was visible. The place was filthy, with nearly every able body begging for their living.
A few had good jobs. Those were the ones who did not see the war as we saw it.
I was discharged when my [wound] was still not healed. “Treat it at home,” Dr. Bundu advised. I had no medicine neither did I have money to buy it. But there were some old friends and girlfriends who had not forgotten me.
I had stood on the roadside in a busy crowded place called PZ wondering how and where I would be able to go when everybody was rushing for a single taxi that took five passengers.
My daughter, only three years old, was with me. She bore all the pains with me. There was no food with us or money to purchase it. I did not know where to go.
To catch up on the continuing series, follow these links:
Introducing the unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia
Part 1: The Decision That Saved My Life
Part 2: The Struggle for Survival in a Strange Land
Part 3: Good luck, bad luck, who knows?
Part 4: The Smoldering Bitterness of Enemies
Part 5: The Soccer Match That Saved My Life
Part 6: The Secret Visit to Freetown
Part 7: More Attention, More Friends … More Enemies
Part 8: The Escape to Freetown
An old friend of mine saw someone who looked like me. He did not believe it was Augustine Kanjia. He showed me an old card where they had prayed for me in church among the dead. I showed him my Point identity to convince him I was not dead. It was a great reunion. We were in the seminary together.
He put my daughter in the van and he helped me fix my leg in his car. It was hard since my leg was not healed yet. I had to manage, and I cried aloud. My friend was Edward Johnbull. We were in the same class and batch mates at the seminary. He had become a rich man and was now working for the Catholic Mission after resigning from the Brotherhood.
He had amassed money. Had his house and powerful cars and was married with a daughter. I did not know where to go because I had made no plans with anyone to go stay with. I told him my story. He then took us to his brother and his family, who had known me before. His brother and wife had both left the city but their children were left there to take care of the house.
I was given the room at the back belonging to one Augustine Musa. I felt certain that my suffering had not ended. It was, “live together but fend for yourself.” The school children will all leave for their schools in the morning leaving me and my baby alone. To make matters worse, I was on crutches and could not move to even buy bread from the shop.
Even if I could move, there was no money.
One afternoon, I managed to come to the upper side of the house from the back where I stayed. As I attempted to sit down, I leaned on my knee and my operation opened and I fell. Blood was all over the place and there was no one to help get me up. I cried within and a large tear was visible as my daughter stood by me crying as she held me by my shoulder. She cried of hunger coupled with my fall. She pushed the table and I could still not get up.
Some Muslim beggars were standing in front of the door. They started their chant and I called them for help in our general Creole language. In tears I said, “Do ya una cam hep me, a beg. A fordon.” They did quickly, and I was up with blood oozing. It was on a Friday. I could not travel to the hospital for treatment to my doctor, Dr. Bundu.
An ex-girlfriend whom I thought would help because of her excessive jealousy when we were lovers, heard about me and she came. She was a teacher, and teachers were the poorest among the people lucky enough to have work.
She shouted from outside to let me know she was around as usual. We spoke and she started searching my bag. “What did you bring for me with your big plaster?” she asked. In a disappointed and hungry voice I said, “Nothing but love.”
I explained my ordeal. She only said, “We are tired of hearing one story, ‘My leg broke, my leg broke all the time’.” Can I ask you a favor, dear? She was anxious to know what, but said she would not appreciate any request because she had nothing herself.
“No,” I said “it is only to buy us food [from] the mini market near the road.” It was cooked rice that was sold on the side of the road. Many homeless and very poor people would go to buy from them. She said she was a teacher; how did I expect her to buy such food. I apologized and prayed for someone to pass by again.
Some kids came to ask for their friends, they were all out. I asked the taller among them to get me the food over there quickly that my baby wanted to eat. I was in pain. He took a bowl and quickly rushed to buy the food for us. My daughter was relieved. It smelled so nice and its taste was superb.
As we began eating, my ex-girlfriend came close to the food and took a spoonful and entertained herself. She ended up eating the largest part of the food, as my baby did not like rice.
We sailed through the weekend and it was now Monday. I had no way to go see my doctor. My friend Edward Johnbull, who brought me, was nowhere to be seen. I began praying.
My cousin came around, he was a taxi driver. His car looked very old and needing repairs in all areas. But I had to ask anyway for a ride to the center of town for my checkup. He agreed but was scared of the center of town for fear of police around there. He risked it for my sake.
The unfortunate nearly happened near the police station, when the car started misfiring. We went away from home into the town then the engine finally gave up. My cousin, Theophillus, was prepared as he laid under the vehicle trying to figure out what was wrong. He saw no fault and the car would not move.
I had no money to go to the doctor neither did I have money to take a cab home or continue. My knee was bleeding and the sun was hot. There was no remedy but to stand and hope for better. Someone saw us and asked where I was going with my baby. To the hospital, I said. He offered to take us free, and I left my cousin there.
Dr. Bundu had travelled, he was not available but left me in his comrade’s care, an old doctor whose lenses could magnify a needle into a very big object.
He examined me and concluded that he was going to treat me because the doctor I came to see was not around. “Any problem?” he asked. I answered, trying to befriend him before telling him my pain. He saw my knee, swollen up with fresh blood oozing. He removed the bandage after I told him how I fell on my knee. He had his opinion, that he would sew it but without anesthetics.
I was in tears, and my daughter followed me in crying. I was thinking ahead for our transport fare and what my daughter could possibly eat after my dry operation.
He took his needle and I laid on the observation bed. He put his needle in and my daughter was crying endlessly. He called someone to come care for her till he was finished. At the end, my daughter asked, “Daddy, was he sewing your pants on your skin?”
When he was done, I could barely walk. I sat for a while as I pondered my next move.
Mamawa Kanneh, the lady who cared for my daughter while I was with the doctor was a very beautiful lady who had just finished her university. I thanked her for caring for the baby and asked if she knew Betty Foray, a journalist. I thought to myself that I should see her and tell her my problem.
I had to walk to her office. But I finally met her outside of their building at the Catholic Mission. I opened conversation with her and introduced myself and told her what I was going through. She felt very sorry for me and held me by my hand to give me courage. My daughter held me tightly. She said she was a bit busy but had some money that she gave to me. It was a saving point in my ordeal for that moment.
It was a lot of money for a man without anything.