The country of Sierra Leone isn’t known that well by people in the United States. Located on the westside of Africa, it is bordered by Liberia, Guinea, and the Atlantic Ocean. Sierra Leone is a land of mangrove (tropical plant) swamps, wooded hill country, upland plateau and mountains in the east. Danny Lynch (‘20) reflects on what someone told him while he was there.
“They had just held an election in April of 2018, and I went in June,” said Lynch. “I spent my time in the city of Makeni and the coordinator of my NGO ( non-governmental organization) claimed one of the only times she felt unsafe in Sierra Leone was during the election when the opposing party visited the city. People had lined the streets with rocks to throw at the van. No rocks were actually thrown but it was apparently still pretty ominous.”
Sierra Leone is predominantly a Muslim country, however around a quarter of the country is also Christian. Their national language is English, but more than 90 percent of the country’s inhabitants also speak a language called Krio. Krio is a language that was passed down through the descendants of freed slaves from Great Britain, United States and the West Indies. Community-wise , Sierra Leone seems very distanced compared to the states.
“Sierra Leone is much more communal than the United States. There is an incredibly high mortality rate, so often times neighbors act like families do here. The Sierra Leoneans are much more physical with each other than people are here. It’s pretty common to see grown men holding hands,” said Lynch.
Sierra Leone’s largest export is agricultural goods; another export the country is well-known for is its minerals. Blood diamonds, diamonds that are commonly sold to purchase weapons, were sold during the civil war that lasted from 1991 to 2002. Unfortunately today, Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries on Earth. “Education up to the sixth grade is paid for by the government, after that it’s privately funded. As Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries, not many people can afford to attend school after this grade. The economy isn’t great; employment is so high that for every one worker there are about eight people dependent on that one source of income,” comments Lynch.
Since a staple food in the country is rice, it is extremely common to have rice as the base of your meal. “The cuisine is pretty spicy. They put spice in everything. They eat plenty of beans and rice. One of their staple crops is also cassava leaf, which is almost like spinach. While I was there, it was the mango and pineapple season, so I had some of the best p i n e a p p l e a n d mango of my life.”
Sierra Leone is split up into four provinces: The Northwest Province, The Eastern Province, the Northern Province, and the Southern Province. The country has also what is called the “Western Area” that is located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The capital, Freetown, is in the Western Area and it is the oldest country capital in Africa. “One of the weekends we got to travel, Destiny Herbers (‘21), Jack Montgomery (‘20) and I got to spend a night in the capital city Freetown, and then the next night we spent on one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to,” said Lynch.
“The place was called Bureh Beach and we ate fresh fish caught that day right off the coast of the beach. That night we spent plenty of time around a huge bonfire and it’s now become one of my favorite memories.”
“[My favorite part was] getting to experience a culture I never imagined I would have never seen. I would definitely do this trip again, and I recommend it to anyone interested.”