I waited to recuperate a little while living at Kissy Lowcost [Editor’s note: A complex for low-income residents of Sierra Leone that is more encampment than public housing, and is often referred to as if a separate community], but time was running out. I had to move fast while the little money I had lasted.
I moved one evening with my daughter’s tiny bag. I did not have much to carry because I had only the shorts and sandals I wore during my operation. The shorts belonged to Florence Suluku, a childhood lover who had dated my best friend. She knew my story and was very kind to me.
I left the place at Lowcost and tried to see my cousin, who had become a very prominent radio manager with Citizen Radio, which broadcast a much-listened-to program named “Monologue.”
My cousin was revered as the program manager at the station and in the town. Seeing me was not a priority for him; he had his own agenda and never thought I was suffering for anything. We talked about how we hunted rats and recalled how he was nearly killed by a snake when he dug in for rats.
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“Well, T-Boy,” I said, “I am needy. I have no money to feed on until I get my own money, and I want to go to Lungi because I have no place to stay.”
He did not respond in any sensible manner. I decided to leave and use the money Betty Foray had given me. As we walked away, me dragging my painful leg, he entered his vehicle and drove in the same direction we were heading.
We eventually arrived late for the ferry, but we had to go because we had nowhere to sleep. There were boats ready to go, but it was quite dangerous and I was travelling with a 3-year-old child.
The boat men were ready to go. They told us it was the last boat for Lungi. There was an accident the previous day, which I had read about in the paper I was holding. I read that the sea was rough and the boat was jam-packed.
Our boat was nearly jam-packed, some at the edge and others at the two ends. I did not say a word until the boat started moving. I asked the captain how many passengers they normally carried. The captain replied that there was no set number, only that the boat would leave when it was packed full.
As we started moving I realized my hand could touch the sea. I began praying for my daughter and our safety.
My daughter loved the sea and the ride. I loved it, too, but I thought of how painful it would be if seawater hit my leg.
I could swim and could do it with my baby as we did in Banjul, Gambia. (I taught her to swim and love water.) But now was not the time. I had some limitations.
My prayer was strong and we arrived without incident but with my heart pounding.
I found myself asking how we were going to disembark to the shore rather than through the shallow water between the boat and the shore. I paid guys to ferry us to the shore and they were glad to do it because I paid them the equivalent of what they would make in an entire day, less than $10.
It was a long way to the parking lot at the customs post. I walked slowly and had to carry my daughter because of the heat. We were both fed up and hungry. It was just before 7 p.m. when we reached customs. They searched my bag and let us pass.
The place was open with traders everywhere. Mary wanted to eat but she had a funny stomach that did not respond well to everything. I bought her cookies that she loved, and that was the whole meal for days. I fed on nothing. But seeing her happy was my joy.
I asked at customs about my younger brother, who was said to be very popular around the area. His friend, called Pu, was there. His girlfriend was working at customs and she answered me.
She directed me to the school where my brother was a senior teacher and a catechist. My brother is named Pa. Pa and I look alike, which made it quite easy and convenient for me. I was taken to his house. He was asleep when I arrived but he received us in peace and joy.
At this point I thought our problem was solved. It wasn’t, just eased off. Pa was a teacher and they were not paid much and never paid on time.
We made tea and Pa bought bread for us. We loved it, but my daughter did not eat it. We were taken around that night to see my brother’s friends. I walked slowly for fear of falling down.
After visiting, we went home and slept well. The next day my brother left for work and asked me to meet him later at the school, which was not far from the house. He bought some rice porridge that was an appetizer for me. It was the first time Mary tried it. It became her favorite food. She ate well and did justice to it.
My brother was happy that we were there, but he wanted me to stay with our sister a few miles away in Lungi, an airport town where she worked as a police sergeant. My sister lived in Lungi with her two children and my father.
I took my baby and went to the road to hail a taxi for the 10-mile drive. However, I had no money. I stood on the road with no money. I did not know what to do.
I came back and sat at the entrance of the church close to my brother’s door. He had just come home to see if we locked his door when he found me playing with Mary. Pa was shocked to see us again.
“Did you go?” he asked.
“No,” Mary said.
I intervened and said we stood out there for a long time without any trace of a taxi. “You have to be patient,” he said.
He did not know we had no money.
“Well, Pa, you can’t let me go like that when we do not know how much the fare is or whether we have the money or not to pay the fare,” I said. There was shock on his face.
He allowed us to stay with him longer. In two days he raised the fare that got us to Lungi.
We arrived at the police station and asked for my sister. The first man said I had the same face as Pa and Sgt. Theresa. Indeed, we all have the same face. We had all features common to our mother. Theresa saw me from her office window. She was shocked and got up to confirm it was me.
I went with Theresa to her house and put my things in her room. My father was there, but he was very sick. I could not put my things with him in his room, nor would I sleep with my sister in her room. I laid in the bed with Mary while my sister and her husband looked for a room to sleep during our stay.
Betty was another of my brother’s girlfriends. She was superb and kind. She asked me to stay with her in her house. Her daughter, Mommymore, was a perfect match for Mary, but she could not speak English and Mary could not speak Creole. They both soon caught up.
The struggle for food was too much. Betty worked in a school, but because she was uneducated she took care of little children like a nannie. She introduced me to many friends of hers.
PA was always busy at his school, maybe ignoring the suffering I was going through. My [wound] was big, it needed attention. It was painful and hunger was not a good match.
Return to Worcester Sun for the next chapter in Augustine’s unbelievably true story.