Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Body Wok" - "J.B. Roy - Professional Cowboy"

One of the most unusual members of our Peace Corps group was a volunteer named John (unfortunately I am unable to retrieve his last name). Known throughout Sierra Leone as "Body Wok," a somewhat endearing Krio nickname, John was in CD (i.e. community development) and had been in Sierra Leone in the 1967-69 group.  John was a big guy - I think from somewhere in the mid-western US (? Ohio) and, due to his outgoing nature was known everywhere.  The amazing thing about John was his fame and his amusing banter with locals that he carried with him everywhere he went and where seemingly everyone knew this banter.  As he walked about - he would make motions and make dialogue with anyone who was available. This dialogue included some very amusing references to a grade B cowboy named J.B. Roy and although I now do not know it all - the Sierra Leoneans found it to be very funny. The banter went to some degree as follows: John - "J.B. Roy."  Sierra Leonean - "professional cowboy."  John - "on the touch."  There was more to this but John - who was about 6 ft 2 inches, probably over 200 lbs was known and loved by everyone. As new volunteers we quickly learned he was legend. A hard worker - his work in agriculture and or construction was helpful in giving him believability and respect. He was strong - one time on a visit to us in Kenema he walked with us the 2 to 3 miles back from Town to our house carrying a heavy kerosene container (40lbs) while at the same time joking with everyone who passed by. It was always amazing - there was always some young person who would shout out "body wok" and the banter would begin. It was almost as if John had the whole country trained.  I remember little about John's background. I just to this day remember how easy he moved about among Sierra Leonenans - who respected him for his ability to work hard and also for his wonderful sense of timing and humor. Relaxed, comfortable, and very outgoing - John represented a corner of Peace Corps that was unique. Here was a guy who could mingle with anyone. Here was a guy who with almost troubador qualities was able to break the ice with anyone.  Sierra Leoneans loved him because he was unpretentious and unique in their experience.  Here was a guy who was well-educated, could work hard, was never averse to doing physically demanding work, and yet was a man of the people. Where he is now - what he ended up doing after Peace Corps I do not know. If there is anyone out there who might be able to fill in more details - give me a hollar. 

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