Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Going Home

I hear from Sierra Leonean friends who have been living in the States now for almost 35 years that they are readying to retire and plan on returning to Sierra Leone now that things are peaceful there. They came to the states before the decade war and settled in Brooklyn. When schooling seemed necessary they had seen to it that with hard work and perseverance they got what they needed. They even became U.S. citizens and raised their children here - some who were born in Sierra Leone and others who were born in Brooklyn. Their life was not extravagant in Brooklyn. They became Americans yet remembered their roots. At home Mende was spoken and their children spoke their native Mende and spoke English like Americans. Their children thrived in high school and went on to get degrees in higher education. The parents have good jobs as do the children now. Each year or so the parents have been able to vacation back in Sierra Leone where they now have several homes and where they have sophisticated farms where they raise coffee among other crops. They have become used to the cold of a winter in New York - they now know snow, and ice something that in Sierra Leone they for the most part only read about. They enjoyed the things in America that can be enjoyed, and yet through all those many years - somewhere inside - was the respect for their roots and the hope to return at sometime. At their jobs they earned adequate salaries and saved considerably. There were times when some of this money was sent home to help out family members. In New York they joined others from Sierra Leone in clubs established by the Sierra Leone diaspora. These clubs became ways by which feelings and memories could be kept close and by which their best traditions could be to some degree a part of their American experience. At home they ate Mende chop and as noted proudly spoke their Mende language. Their children or grandchildren played baseball or football (American). And now, ready to retire they hope to return home to upcountry Sierra Leone, to the heat that is a part of life in West Africa, and to the latterite soil, the thick bush, and a life that they once lived and never forgot despite the years.

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