A story written by Jakemond… If you missed part Forty Six, read it HERE
until Maria Joana came to Nigeria and we got married. I received news from her that she wouldn’t be coming the next month as we had planned. Her leave had been pushed back to February, which was three months away. I had to think fast because I was spending my money quickly and not making any. I decided in the interim to go back to my old business of buying shoes and bags and selling them in Sierra Leone. That way, I could make a little money while waiting for Maria Joana. I took the money I had left and went to my old suppliers. Some of them remembered me. I ordered my special designs, mostly of women’s shoes and handbags. I bought my ticket to Sierra Leone, and within a week, all my orders were ready.
Before leaving for Sierra Leone, I went back to my village and gave a substantial amount of money to my mother for the family’s upkeep. I also instructed my uncle to deposit money from the transport business into my checking account. I hoped that by the time I got back, there would be enough money from the transport business. I called my friend Ricky and informed him that I would be coming to Sierra Leone, and that I intended to stay at his place.
I departed for Sierra Leone at the beginning of December. It was mostly business as usual; I had no trouble transporting my goods from Nigeria to Sierra Leone. When I arrived, Ricky was waiting for me, and he lent me some money to clear my goods the same day. We left the airport and took the ferry across to Freetown. Nothing much had changed; the only noticeable difference was the sense of insecurity that gripped the entire population. At this time, the civil war in Liberia and the rebel activities were spilling over into Sierra Leone. Rumor had it that some Sierra Leonean rebel faction, affiliated with Charles Taylor, had taken over Kenema and had started pushing toward Freetown. There was great unease among the people, especially in the business community. I wasn’t flustered because I had been through similar situations before, and besides, I would only be there for a short period of time. I also noticed that at the airport there were many ECOMOG contingents—the Nigerian Army and Air Force among them. Before I had left Sierra Leone, the ECOMOG soldiers had been using part of the Lungi airport as a staging ground for their operations and intervention in Liberia. However, their increased presence signified that they anticipated potential instability in Sierra Leone as well.
Ricky now lived with other Nigerian businesspeople in a house located in an affluent neighborhood in Freetown. He even owned a car. I was very proud of his accomplishments, but mostly satisfied that I had helped him, even though he never thanked me nor showed any appreciation for all I did for him, picking him up from the gutter when I could barely take care of myself and using half of my business money to send him to Sierra Leone. Nonetheless, he was my best friend. The next few days we reminisced and tried to catch up. I was also able to visit old friends, and I found out that my two monkeys had died. Apparently, the one I had given to a female friend missed me so much that it committed suicide. The girl told me that one morning they had woken up to find the monkey with a rope tightly wound around its neck, and there was nothing they could do to revive it. The other monkey, I was told, had died a few weeks after I left. It had refused to eat and had died of starvation. It was hard for anyone to understand my relationship with my monkeys. They were my trusted companions when I was in Sierra Leone and I had taken care of them as if they were my babies. Leaving them behind was one of the most difficult decisions I had to make before my departure to Las Palmas. I would have taken them with me if I could have. I mourned their loss, after which I consoled myself with the thought that they must be in a better place.
The following day, I supplied my shoes to the same Lebanese guy I used to deal with and distributed the ladies’ handbags to other vendors. While waiting to collect my money, I tried to occupy myself with other things. I couldn’t wait for Maria Joana to get to Nigeria so I could get back to Spain. I would wake up in the morning, go for a run, and then sit down and read some books—my old routine. Other times, I would go to Ricky’s shop and hang out with him. I learned that Pascal and a few of the guys also owned shops as well. As for Ernest Brown’s shop, it was no more. I learned that he finally moved back to Nigeria, but that after a short time there, he had died of a mysterious illness. His death saddened me. In my opinion, Ernest and his shop were highly significant, particularly for the Igbo businesspeople in Freetown. He had a good heart, and his genuine love and kindness for his fellow human beings would never be forgotten. Uneasiness gradually started to creep into my stay in Sierra Leone as I started getting nervous about Maria Joana. Since returning to Nigeria I had maintained regular contact with her, but after my arrival in Sierra Leone, there had been a significant gap in our communication. Our occasional telephone conversations had become lackluster and she seemed reluctant and distant. I couldn’t understand her changing attitude and I became petrified that she might change her mind about coming to Nigeria. All my hope of returning to Europe was hinged on her coming to Nigeria and marrying me. I realized that I had to step up my game if I was to maintain a hold on her. The distance between us made it a lot harder for me to convince her to do things she wouldn’t normally want to do. I resorted to my old trick and started telling her how horrible Africa was. I cried and professed my undying love to her, telling her I never realized how much she meant to me and how much I missed her. I told her I couldn’t imagine myself living without her. I did this until she became remorseful and started to comfort me.
The uncertainty surrounding Maria Joana started to affect me emotionally and I needed a way to alleviate my distress. I returned to my wayward ways and started socializing heavily with Sierra Leonean girls. There were three or four in particular who kept me busy. I made sure I didn’t spend my days alone—the few moments I was by myself, I was petrified and couldn’t stop thinking about “what ifs.” There was absolutely no guarantee that Maria Joana would stick to the plan, and if she didn’t, my whole world would come crashing down and I would have to start all over again. Meanwhile, some of the guys had started a rumor that I hadn’t returned to Africa of my own free will, but had been repatriated from Spain. I tried to squash the rumor, and explained that I had come back on vacation and soon my fiancée would join me. They didn’t seem convinced, though, and I knew that deep down, some of them wished I had truly been repatriated and were gloating inside about my presumed misfortune.
Sadly, by the end of December, I had yet to collect all my money from my vendors. I had anticipated being able to collect all of it within two weeks of my arrival in Sierra Leone. This would have allowed me to possibly make two or more trips and bring in more goods before the Christmas season. The vendors kept giving me the money in very small installments, and whatever they gave me, I used for my feeding and entertainment. I had collected only half of my money and had spent it all. When January ended, I was still in Sierra Leone, frustrated, dejected, and completely disillusioned, but I kept hanging on to the hope that Maria Joana would come. Eventually, I gave up on the idea of making another return trip to Nigeria. I decided that once I had collected all my money, I would just go back to Nigeria and wait for Maria Joana. I hoped the transport business in Nigeria would have made me a substantial amount of money by the time I returned, and with that in mind, I decided to relax and pretend I was in Sierra Leone on vacation.
To Be Continued…