Visiting the presiding chief sounded an ominous task to me. Alastair, Abdul (the local foreman here at camp) and I walked through the village to his hut, enduring stares from everyone we passed. The first thing I noticed upon meeting the chief, named Pa Saffa, is that he is a large man. Most men here, although extremely muscular, are very lean. Pa Saffa was not the threatening figure I imagined though, and instead was happy to welcome us. Greetings were exchanged and introductions made with me attempting a bit of Krio. I had made coconut cake earlier in the day and brought some as a small gift for the chief. Alastair inquired about the village and suggested my presence here as a possible aid. Pa Saffa seemed pleased and grateful at the proposal. It was a relatively brief visit and he walked with us back towards camp as children gathered curiously behind us.
I’ve made more cakes lately. I’ve tried banana cake, pineapple cake, bread pudding and most recently the coconut cake that I brought to the chief. People tend to eat the coconuts when they are very young, calling them jellay. One drinks the coconut water and scrapes out the flesh that has the consistency of jelly. To get an older coconut, called a ‘strong one’, with the firmer flesh that I’m used to is a little harder to come by. One of the workers tracked down a couple strong ones recently and in return I made them all some coconut cake. It is not very much, but I can tell that the guys love the days when I walk around camp passing out pieces of cake, so I try to do it as often as I can.
I’ve also been attempting a bit more Krio to increase the communication between the people and myself. Krio is a lingua franca, or common language used as a means of communication between people who speak many different languages. Krio as a language feels like taking some English sounding words and attempting to unlearn any grammatically correct progression and instead rearrange it all. It feels awkward and backward and yet it is fun to speak. It is spoken fast with a lot of repetition of words. For example, if you want to ask someone how things are, you would say “aw de go de go.” The spelling throws me off sometimes, but when I say the words out loud I can recognize the English in there and work out the meaning. It can feel silly to speak but if I want to learn I obviously need to practice. Another lesson this afternoon :)