What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gone stolen

So the next day comes, and the only change is the story. Yesterday there was an implication of theft for the rent. Today there was talk of him being upset that I implicated him and of tracking down and finding the culprit!?!? The gist of today though is that yesterday I felt that money had gone missing, today I feel that somone has stolen from me.

I am of course hurt by this. I have made sacrifices to be here, and as most everyone knows, I basically have no possessions or money of my own. I have sacraficed my well being to come here for other people and to work to make their lives better.

This is of course my motivation. The motivation of people here is to survive that specific day. To provide for their family. I must admit, I would do nothing different, I believe in trusting, and this family has been very good to me. They have fed me, housed me, even called me at night and gotten worried about me being out too late. They are my family.

I decided after speaking to Kaps this morning that I would leave their house though. I don't feel comfortable there. I packed my things and left. But good bye was horrendous. Kaps berated them about this is what happens when someone steals, when a thief is about. He then left and went inside. I said goodbye to the kids. They were all crying. Even Moses. I really feel for him. We really bonded. We ran together ever other day, he took care of me. He is my brother. He cried. I was truly moved, I just held him.

His father had said I was leaving because of this theft, but I was going to leave today anyway. I told Moses this and his eyes brightened a bit. I would do whatever I could for him, and all these kids. It was a sad moment.

As it is though, Yapo says that the money will come back, and I need to trust him on this. As I haven't received the $175 for the two portable hard drives yet either, the total now has another $340 on top. They owe me $500 now. Even if they wanted to pay, that is 2/3 of their yearly rent check. How do they come up with such money? If Kaps took it, the money is gone/spent. If someone else took it, what are the chances it wasn't spent yet? And what are the chances they'd give it back. This is a big test for a culture. I don't like generalizing like that, but imagine if they did get or give it back? That would be amazing.

That money as well was to directly benefit them. $75 would've stayed with Yapo for business expenses, $375 for my flight change, and the rest towards incorporating the US non-profit company - which is needed to get donations for our projects here, that would directly benefit them!!

But so now what?! I would imagine most people would tell me don't trust them. You can't do business with people like that they'd say. But think about it. If it was Kaps, or anyone else in the house, they know me. They see me daily, we laugh, we joke. And this culture is not like ours in the US. There is a very community based feel here. It is not like there is a whole mass produced culture of violence beamed to everyone electronically. There is only daily survival, and their cultutral norms which are incredibly friendly and hospitable, and even disciplined. The balance between these things basically makes up the security apparatus of society. Most things are self policed, and there is little need for "security" measures, except when it concerns "need". My experience is that people here would only steal if they had to. Not for want but for need. It is not a desired or glorified profession like in the US. You take away need and you can minimize crime even beyond where it is now.

This what I've learned. That there is even more need for work here. If your family can steal from you. If need can push someone to that level, then it is through desperation.

I also think that no one would ever admit to taking this money. It would always be denial, even as they handed you money. And this is what I will wait for, money in my hand. I told Kaps if I don't have either the hard drives and the money, or the money for both by tomorrow mid-day then I will report it to the police and the chief as well. If he shows progress I may wait till Thursday, but I am now leaving Monday. Thursday and Friday are the last days to report things. Then I'm off to Freetown somehow and a flight home.

Which, yes, I'm looking forward to now. Ready to get home, regroup, catch breath, and then get after it, or at least that's the hope. I mean lost in all of this shuffle are yesterday's meetings. They were great. I will be coming home with two MOU's and a great lead on solar street lamps for Makeni.

Uhhhh... crazy 24 hours. Sigh...

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