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March 1, 2011

Early this morning, I walked along the dusty road that winds from the upper village of John Obey down to the lower village on the beach. There were four of us but I walked ahead lost in my thoughts ignoring the group conversation as I was hot and just wanted to get back to the village. We had just visited the local school and were looking forward to a swim in the ocean. The morning was stifling as most mornings are since the breeze doesn’t pick up until later in the day. I kicked rocks and took in the sounds of the forest – crickets, strange bird calls and the sound of a machete hacking through the bush somewhere off in the distance. And then I heard something new.

There came a rumbling from down the dirt road. The dust was visible from over the trees and whatever it was it was large and moving fast. Suddenly a large truck rounded the corner filled with young men hanging onto the back. The image was eerily reminiscent of some of the war footage of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) I had seen and it stopped me cold in my tracks. Like most African vehicles, this one sported a customized paint job and the slogan, “The Devil You Know.” I was mesmerized by this truck and its title and instinctively, and perhaps stupidly, raised my camera to take a shot.

RUF or fan club?

Just then, the men began screaming and the truck slammed on its brakes and came to an abrupt stop, kicking up red dust and gravel everywhere. Paralyzed by what was going through my mind, I stood on the side of the road fully aware that the rest of the group froze as well, probably cursing me and my camera. The men jumped off the truck and hurriedly made their way directly toward me. “Oh F#*&!” came out of my mouth as I awaited what I was expecting to be dismemberment. These loud men approached and I was shocked they were yelling “Suzie! Aw di bohdi? Aw yu sleep?” and extending their hands in welcome. I had no clue who these guys were but they knew me and were quite happy to see me. Funny how things turn out sometimes. They even asked for more snaps (photos).

not so scary after all

4 Comments leave one →
  1. eugenie permalink
    March 1, 2011 4:26 pm

    Now, that is fun to be with you in Africa for a couple of minutes. Great post! I can only imagine how scared you were for a minute. Happy travels!

  2. Patrick Bolton permalink
    March 1, 2011 5:46 pm

    Phew! So glad that The Devil You Know turned out to not only know you, but to also call you friend.

  3. March 2, 2011 11:13 am

    Great Piece Susan, it’s like I was watching a movie from the war. But thank God ‘The Devil you Know”, knows you.
    Your story made me recall what happened to me few years ago here in the United States where I now reside. I lived in Sierra Leone throughout the war with my family working as a radio broadcaster, telling people that all will be well and helping to de-traumatize people who I believed were traumatized not knowing that I have been affected too until few years after arriving in the States. I went to pick up a friend in a place called Reston in Virginia USA; I was out in the packing lot sitting in the car waiting for my friend and scrolling through my phone in this very quiet neighborhood, and watching a young dad taking a walk with his daughter (about 3yrs) which reminded me so much of my own three girls that I have left back in Sierra Leone. All of a sudden, there was a very loud and repeated explosions which caught me by surprise and my heart was pounding, my phone dropped from my hand and the young man who was taking a walk with his daughter stopped suddenly and looked around inquiringly. At that moment I was sweating profusely and freezing in the car, unable to move and then the explosion came again and the young man grabbed his daughter turned around and walked back in the direction he had come from and disappeared around the building and I was all alone in this quiet parking lot saying to myself…”Oh God not again….this can’t happen here….I was cold, freezing and sweating at the same time and then I saw my friend walking towards the car smiling. But as she got into the car, she knew something was not right; maybe I looked awful and she did not get the usual warm reception and immediately asked…’are you alright?’…’Yes..No…was my response….and there was another sound this time like rapid gun fire…immediately I asked what is that sound and where is it coming from? Trying to hide my emotions but she was calm as if nothing was wrong, she smiled and said calmly fixing her seat belt.. ‘Oh it’s a holiday and they’re having some fireworks display just two blocks away, almost everybody has gone to see the fireworks’….I just shook my head and smiled and said underneath my breathe thank you Lord I started the car and drove off. So you can imagine going through 11years of war what my state of mind was at that time.

    • March 2, 2011 11:38 am

      Thank you for sharing your story, David. I’d love to email you and learn more about you. You can reach me at I’ll be going back to Sierra Leone soon and if you have family still there near Freetown or around the peninsula, I’d be happy to deliver anything you might want to send to them. Feel free to ask! – susan

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