Monday, May 2, 2016

MOnday march 14 got a lengthy update - see original post for update too -

Banana Island! What a fun day. We went to Banana Island with the Miles and the Barneys. Banana Island was an island where slaves were taken to serve the Portuguese and British soldiers. It has quite a sad history. The British and Portuguese held the black people as slaves on this island and was quite cruel to them. Today there are only 500 natives on the island. It use to have 40,000 people on it. To get to the island, we had to take a fishing boat from the coast of Africa to the island which was a 25 minute ride. We rode in a old fishing canoe that was handmade. The ribs of the canoe were curved logs. The canoe was well used with dead fish, fishing nets and seeped water. Don bailed water all the way over to the island. They did put a motor on the boat so it was not rowed. We had just left the shore when the anchor slipped off the boat and lodged itself between two rocks. The only way to get it dislodged was for someone to go down and pull it out. One of the crew men took off his pants so he was only in his bright pink underwear and dove into the water. He got the anchor loose after coming up for air several times. Good thing we are all married women because when he got out of the water, his pink underwear left nothing to the imagination. When we got to the island, we were greeted by a tour guide and we walked all over the island and while there we found a school in session. There were 12 children from first to fourth grade. They stared at us and were frightened because we are white people and they have never seen a white person. They wanted to know if we were ghosts. We said "no" and I held my hand out with my palm down & let them touch me. They all did except one girl who was about 7 years old. She stared hard but would not come near me. When the rest of the children realized I feel just like them, they got more aggressive and squeezed my arm and hand. It was so interesting and fun. The lifestyle on this island is somewhat better than in Sierra Leone. The people live in huts - some are thatched - some are not. They go over to Africa to buy their necessities but Papaya, star fruit, coconuts, avocados and something called palm nuts grow in abundance on the island. They have a midwife who runs a hospital of sorts, a school that is one-room divided in half - one side for K-2 and the other side for 3rd & 4th grades. The children have benches to sit on and each side has a blackboard. This school is rich compared to the ones in Sierra Leone. In Sierra Leone the children sit on the ground and there are no blackboards. One wall is painted black and they use something akin to chalk to write on it. There are no pencils, paper or books. There are some private schools in the bigger towns in Sierra Leone that wealthier families send their children to, but there are 5,000,000 people in Sierra Leone and most of them live in what is known as "bush country." We found on the back of Banana island a resort - of all things -there were 8 nice tents with queen size beds all decked out with linens and pillows and rugs, fancy lighting and modern-day bathrooms - which is unheard of for the natives. The resort is not up and running yet, but it is all ready. They say they are on social media but have not done any advertising. When we got ready to leave the island the 2 crew members of our canoe had caught some mackerel while we toured the island and they cooked the fish and made an African rice dish for us. I have no idea where they got a nice table with chairs, and African tablecloth, and real dishes all set up under a huge "cotton" tree on the beach. But they did (which was contradictory to everything else we saw on the island). Dinner was very good. They charged us $10 a plate. When we got ready to leave, the "captain" of the boat told us he would not take us back to Africa unless we paid him an additional $100,000 Leon's. The agreement when we left Africa was $300,000 Leon's ($55.00) and now he wanted $400.000 ($72.00). With some argument about the agreement we ended up paying the extra $100,000 Leon's ($17.00) - which was not the point. He was gouging us. When we got back to the African shore the "captain" had trouble getting the boat into the desired slot. He got us on top of some rocks that sounded like it was doing damage to his boat. No one felt bad about it. Then he tried to back up and gunned the engine and was doing damage to his motor. Everyone in the boat was not sympathetic. He took us for $100,000 Leon's and now he had a damaged boat & Motor. Elder Barney told Thomas, the man who arranged the outing, about the captain of the boat and he was angry. He apologized and as soon as we started pulling out of the parking space he headed down to the pier. However, it really was a fun day. Quite an adventure. M

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