Today I’m introducing you to Tyson: the best part of my usual day in Freetown. Tyson is the dog – the main dog, the top dog – belonging to my compound. He’s also in charge of our road. We’ve only got two dogs, Tyson and a small, ineffectual (unrepaying) dog called Spot, much more typical of the dogs you see everywhere all over Freetown. This is a small number; most people seem to have three or even four.
Tyson is magnificent. He’s enormous. He’s as big as a quite-big child (see pic – do not tell me that the child is far away*). The first day I arrived, we pulled up in the Landy and he was leaping and slavering and barking at the driver’s side window in a frankly terrifying manner. One of the guards, Momo, had to hold him back on the basis he, “hasn’t got used to you yet.” I thought: oh great, a vicious guard dog that is also vicious to those living within his area.
Anyway, he turns out to be a great big softie. He comes over for cuddles morning and evening and extra at weekends. I try to share the cuddles equally between Spot and Tyson. They get jealous and growl at each other if either of them thinks he’s missing out, but Tyson is my favourite, plus he is a lot bigger and so he gets the most by a mile. This morning I was trying to get the pics below with us both in the frame (it’s much harder taking pictures of dogs than cats – cats just lie about staring; dogs are always moving around) and he took this an opportunity to have a nice lean on the person conveniently kneeling down at his level. This meant I fell over under his giant weight.
Isn’t he totally glorious? He’s apparently a cross between something called a South African boerboel** and a Rottweiler. On Monday last week I met his dad, who belongs to my boss at TBI. He’s a pedigree boerboel called Rocco and he is also massive, but much more battle scarred and dignified than Tyson.
Dogs are a major feature of life in Freetown. Strays are all over the city, generally in an ok-ish condition, sometimes pretty skinny and battered. Sierra Leoneons like dogs. Mustapha says especially the Krio tribe. There’s a road we go down on the way back from work which has a particular area with a gang of about 12 dogs who just lie about in road having a lovely snooze. You have to drive carefully round them, or if you hoot they get up nice and slowly and walk off, making sure you know they didn’t have to. Mustapha says thats a Krio area and they are looking after (sort of, not in an English way) the dogs.
They also like cats. But I am here to tell you they like cats in a different way. They eat them. Apparently especially at Christmas. Yes, they really do.
My first reaction to this was: but… why? Cats are so scrawny. And hard to catch! I asked Mustapha, but he says he’s never had one so can’t say what they taste like. All the expats are horrified of course. Lots of them take in stray dogs or cats as pets on the basis that even if they are only here for a year or two it gives the animals a better life for a while. So far I am not tempted (and anyway, Tyson would eat a cat for sure, before you could say knife).
What else has been happening? I’ve been to the beach again – Bureh beach and Tokeh:
I’ve been doing a lot of work – the dream of short working hours has not materialised. But still all v v worthwhile. Follow the Mayor of Freetown on FB to see some of the stuff the team have done. This week just gone TBI sent people over for security and first aid training, which in practice meant I’ve been out every single night drinking. Some of the security training was very sad. We did an exercise on what you’d have in your grab bag in case you had to be evacuated or moved due to unrest in the country. Three of the TBI team are Sierra Leoneans who were obviously here in the war. PJ said his first grab bag, aged about 4, was a bag of rice and a bag of sugar while they made a run – on foot – for the border. We live a fortunate life in the UK.
I’ve also been snapping Freetown. I thought this advert for the business operating out of this shop was funny because I thought the owner just had one or two chairs which he would rent to exhausted passersby. “Oh sorry, we’ve run out today, it’s very hot.”
Mustapha just stared at me like I was mad and pointed out that obviously it was a business renting lots of chairs, for events like weddings and conferences. Basically the external appearance of a business is not an indicator of how big or successful it is. I need to delete my Western assumptions.
The city still looks kind of beautiful in the rainy-season light:
The first month has gone so fast I can hardly believe it. Next project is going to be improving the decor in my flat. It currently has sofa/armchairs upholstered in black fabric like some kind of 1980s nightclub. I’m going to change all that, then have large dinner party (cooked by my cook ahahaha) to celebrate.
Looking forward to seeing everyone in August. Expect to be bored by extensive Salone anecdotes!
*The pool is the pool is my compound. It’s the rainy season so it’s got tadpoles and frogs in it.
**A kind of mastiff. I know this is what you said, Rob.