Monday, December 22, 2008

Introducing Ryann Sesay

I have a namesake.

Little Ryann Sesay was born just 6 days ago, to my cleaner, Susan.

It's less of an honor than you might imagine to have a baby named after you. It certainly doesn't mean I'm beloved or revered. In fact, Susan was quite clear that the motivations were partly financial. "If it's a girl, I'm going to name her Ryann," she told me when I learned she was pregnant. "Then you have to throw the party."

The party is for a naming ceremony, usually held about a week after birth. (Ryann's isn't yet planned, in part because I didn't realize I'm supposed to choose the date. Oops.) Other obligations for supporting one's namesake can range from occasional birthday gifts to the payment of school fees. One Lebanese businessman I know is now paying tuition at the University of Sierra Leone for his namesake, Mohamed -- not a blood relation.

I am happy to play this role. (Well, maybe not the college tuition...) I like Susan, and have known her for 2 years now. And it's nice to feel part of a Salone family, even if only tangentially.

The weird thing for me is to call another person "Ryann". I'm the only Ryann I've ever known!

But deep down I'm pretty chuffed about the whole thing. I mean, isn't she beautiful? As you can see, my housemate Tom was smitten. And maybe jealous -- the baby would have been Tom if she'd been a he.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Economist article on Sierra Leone

Not the most upbeat article, but nonetheless.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A Freetown welcome

It's nice to be back in hot, sweaty Freetown after a few weeks in the wintry US Northeast. When I'm away, however, I sometimes forget some of the details of Freetown life -- both the bursts of color and the everyday hassle.

Here are a few such moments from my first week back:

My elder guard, John, when I first arrive home, gesturing enthusiastically with his arms to suggest a stout, hefty body. "Yes, I know John," I say in Krio. "I've gotten fat." John grins wildly. "Yes!," he replies. "Such a body! You must have enjoyed your trip home!!"

A citywide fuel shortage because the price (negotiated between the government and the fuel companies) just dropped to $4.17. Long lines at filling stations, pumps shut down by mid-day, my car running on fumes until it finally refused to budge from a spot outside my office. Finding someone to find me a 5-gallon drum of petrol, then trying (in the dark) to pour said drum of petrol into my gas tank without wasting half of it on the ground and all over my legs and feet. Failing. Leaving my car behind for another night and heading home smelling of petrol.

At one of the most successful companies in Freetown, the CEO's personal assistant: wearing an unremarkable black skirt suit, and as her dress shirt underneath, a Hooters t-shirt.

Being stood up for not one, not two, but four separate business meetings in the space of a few days. Feeble apologies and blaming of "traffic", Freetown's catch-all villain for the incurably tardy and absent-minded.

A surf board and a sunny Sunday.

The sound of prayers for Eid-al Adha. Goats tied up for sacrifice outside every home that can afford them. Feasts divided in thirds: one third for family, one third for neighbors and friends, and one third for the poor.