The boys on the shore bluff hard. Compared to Pauly D, ya boy Vinny, and “The Situation,” the Freetown Boys (heavily deserving of proper-noun-status) make a quick GTL look as pathetic as a vegetarian lasagna. All filler, no killer. Kitted up like the worst of MTV’s “Cribs” members and fresher than a bottle of fake lemon juice, the Freetown Boys bring the least favorable of American pop culture to the beach every Saturday and Sunday in the Dry Season.
Cruising in from the capital a group of men organize a jam or outing at Bureh Beach on the weekends. The organizers are ever changing, but the sea of style is consistent. Put together by groups with names like, Da Strit (street) Talkas, B Squaerd (squared), D-unit (d-unit), or So-So Click (aka the not very creative boys), they cough up 150,000 Leones to the village headman to take over either side of Bureh. In return, the beach is left filthy, bottles find their way into the ocean, at least one person a month drowns, and sometimes fights breakout amongst the Freetown Boys and the Bureh Boys, because “Bureh has too much.” Less than 300 people live in Bureh and at least 95% of the population fishes in dugout canoes or beautifully constructed skiffs with a 15hp Yamaha.
What is truly entertaining about the Freetown Boys is how well they pair with the New York Assholes that show up on Cape Cod in August; or the North Boston Dolts that filter in beginning on Memorial Day. The jams run from 2:00p.m. to 5:00a.m. With blown speakers bumpin’ through the evening it’s like seeing the family on the beach with a baby shelter, 75 different types of shovels and buckets, two coolers and a radio. For whatever reason the infiltrators of a summer on the Cape believe that all Cape Codders shop at Lily Pulitzer, Soft as a Grape, J.Crew, and wear seersucker almost exclusively. Pastel Polos meet seersucker skhorts or slacks, and Sperry Topsiders. No. That is wrong. And they don’t sip on $12 Cape Codders at the Land’s End. They drink $2.50 Budweiser’s and eat fried-clam strips at Seafood Sam’s. Their attire is a pair of paint-stained shorts, worn out cross-trainers, and a dog’s aged t-shirt.
Like the NYA’s that descend on the Cod, the Freetown Boys have their facts wrong. Terribly wrong. Blowing in from the capital in calf-high Nike’s or Supra’s, skinny jeans sagged to their butthole, Ed Hardy T’s, bandanas and stunner shades, the Freetown Boys look like what a Cape Codder might refer to as an asshole. The ladies of the city are none the better. Lycra pants designed to look like denim, Athena styled sandals, white tank-tops, and hair plaited in elaborate rows of corn; they reflect the least functional of beach attire. On the other side, the locals down at Bureh run shorts and sandals. Usually just shorts; ocean wear. Sand free, ready to swim, easy to dance in; trash free, quiet, and honest.
[Digital Downlow] Sierra Leone Fashion Company Brings Bitcoin To West Africa
An artisan at work in Bureh’s workshop, a Sierra Leone fashion brand accepting Bitcoin payments | Source: Bureh
“Bitcoin’s potential to succeed in Africa is widely recognized within the industry. It’s capable of transforming the way we send remittances to the continent and giving the unbanked easy access to money quickly and freely. It’s an alternative currency for anyone, but especially useful in countries with unstable national currencies, and can reduce the cost of cross-border trade. The global remittances industry is now worth over $500bn a year. In 2012, remittances to Africa alone were estimated at around $60bn.”
Here’s a pretty crappy map laying out our roadtrip. The road from Kambia to Kukuna and OK park was a bush road. That means it was fun in some places, wild in others, and only one place that I truely feared for my life.
Enough said. No. Well, yes, there should be a little more to that. School is, in fact, out for the summer. The education system in Sierra Leone operates on a three term system. The third term was scheduled to begin on May 3rd, though students often take a week or more to return, and officially end on July 15th. Unfortunately, school was not fully opened until close to May 12th. Being the last term, it held a huge significance for the Junior Secondary School 3 (JSS3) students; as they are required to take the Basic Education Certificate Examination. Better known as the BECE (beck-eh), this exam helps to determine a student’s entry into Senior Secondary School (SSS).
As the school system here does not function as smoothly as it does in other parts of the world - and even in parts of Sierra Leone - the semester was cut incredibly short. June 26th marked the beginning of final exams. For a week and a half students took their final exams and were given a short, “mid-term break.” Although the break was well deserved for the students, it made the already short term even shorter. Following this initial break was the taking of the BECE for JSS3 students. Larger schools in Sierra Leone serve as testing centers for the BECE exam and other national exams. Because of this, the schools that are utilized are shut down for the time of the BECE examinations. At this time most schools decide to close their doors as principles and other staff is invited to invigilate for the exams – making a small profit for their help. The schools then take a total of two and a half weeks of school off, opening only on July 15th for the handing out of report cards, or papers as they are called here.
It is a system that takes some adjusting to. To change this order of operations is a task left for the government and its education staff. For an outsider the best is to grin and bear it. To take the additional time to work with students is a solution, though to simply relax and reap in the glory of year one as a teacher being complete is one for mental health. In a sense, I have been on holiday since the 26th of June, yet there are tasks that keep the work going.
In April my counterpart and I were awarded a grant through the Ambassador’s Self-Help Fund to furnish the new, government funded school with desks and chairs for students and staff. Mondays are head-hunting days, where I visit each of the two carpenters to inspect the work, collect receipts and pro-formas. The project is simple. It will keep the next month and a half filled with the mentioned task of head hunting and requesting of funding. The completion of the project should coincide with the reopening of the school for the 2011/2012 academic year. When the project has been complete I will discuss more of what it means for the community, students, and staff.
As rainy season holiday is on the wane, I have occupied my time to help train the new volunteers; which will be sworn-in in little more than two weeks. They are a wonderful group of kind people, excited to begin work as new volunteers. Aside from the training of volunteers, I’ve found a new niche here in Bureh Town. Bureh is on the far end of the Freetown Peninsula. Five hundred, quiet and wonderful fishing families reside here. In one way it has become a second home. Not in the sense that I visit there too frequently, but how comfortable the peoples of this village make a stranger feel. To camp on the beach is never a worry of safety. A Rasta dude by the name of Levi opens his house to us for 20,000Le a night and provides mattresses, blankets, and pillows for us to sleep on his veranda with. In the evening hours, when rain is prone, he has his little Rasta dudes roll down the tarps on the veranda to keep the rain out and sets up the room for the night. There is a little break at the mouth of a river where the oystermen have dug out to create a new bed for the farming of oysters. Several local boys come out and surf with us and kill it. Jabez is in his late twenties. He arranges everything for us. We call, request dinner, tell how many and he sets up shop. Always a smile on his face, and word or two that usually says something like, “you missed the good waves this morning,” Jabez keeps things moving.
I’ve found multiple pockets of paradise here. To think in a year’s time I will be shipping out is strange. To leave a world of compassion and sincerity only to enter one of a frenetic pace and eyes-on-the-sidewalk is not enticing. This is home now. I go into this year not with the excitement of almost being through this beautiful lifestyle, but with a desire to suck the marrow of each moment and to do well by these considerate Sierra Leonean people. This is home. And I am content.
The greatest joy of my career is meeting people. Carol Song came to see me at Inkwell. She has me so pumped about Bureh Beach Surf Club!!! #surf #surfing #surflife #surfsierraleone #bbsc #burehbeach #bureh #surfafrica