Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cape Sierra Hotel, closed down, in Freetown's Aberdeen neighbourhood

Saturday, November 21, 2009


I am staying at a nice hotel in Aberdeen, a few minutes from the World Food Programme's helipad. It is a Sierra Leonean run place with a mixed clientele. As I eat my fish and chips with tartar sauce and knock back a Star, I listen. Two Spanish men, wraparound sunglasses perched on cleanshaven heads, talk to upclass prostitutes about massages in broken English. Every five minutes one of them gets up to make an urgent phone call in Spanish. There is also a group of men speaking in foreign language I cannot place - it could be Hebrew or Serbian or Russian. The only word I understand is AK47.

By the pool, three white men smoke cigarettes, huddled on the loungers, talking. In the in-between-room, a space stuffed with couches and low tables between the reception and the pool, a Chinese man naps in an armchair.

I think I might be the only native English speaker here.

The staff are friendly and say Yes-please as they set down your dinner or bring you a drink. Ishmael, whose exact job title is difficult to place, takes me out to find a plug converter and we chat about random things - football, heat, tourism, the war. In the 24 hours that I've been here, I've not asked anyone about the war, and yet it seems to come up in conversation. Nothing in-depth, but the words 'the war' dropped in between other words and then gone, like a pebble plonked into a lake. We do not go into the war, we simply mention it and carry on. It is a marker of Before and After.