Infectious Stuff in Sierra Leone
“Jalloh, you alive?”
“Yes, Nick… of course.”
“Oh, Jalloh, Jalloh, Jalloh! I think it’s time to get out of here.”
It was 6:45 pm on Thursday. I was sitting in my office in Makeni, next to my coworker from SMT. It had been an exhausting day in the field and in the office. Drenched in sweat with my hands dripping on my keyboard, I had already downed 8 bottles of water. I had been training Jalloh on his new laptop. He had never had a computer primarily for himself before. We were going over things like how and where to save a client’s business description for Kiva, how to upload and edit a photo… all that fun Kiva stuff.
“Jalloh, do you want to watch the football game tonight? They’re showing it over at the Fatima Institute.”
In my head I already knew his response. Football is the sport of choice of Sierra Leone. Correct that, football is almost the only sport in Sierra Leone. And Jalloh loves to watch when he is able to find a TV with the game on.
“Ah, yes! It should be a very strong game. Spain and Russia in the semi-finals.”
“I’m meeting some friends to grab a Star and one of those goat sandwiches.”
“Yes, Nick. I would like… ” But then he paused and looked down at his desk. “But I cannot abandon my yawo.”
“Yawoo?” I repeated. “Yahoo?” “What did you say?”
“No, no. My yawo. Ya-oh”
“Yawo,” I repeated. “What is a yawo?”
“Yawo is Temne for my ‘new bride.’”
I ‘m sure I looked confused and then he started to smile. He pointed to the laptop and said again, “I cannot abandon my yawo.”
I started laughing. “Ahhhhh, I get it. That’s your new bride?”
It took a while, but we eventually connected on the joke.
“So you don’t want to come watch the game, Jalloh?”
“No, I want to keep practicing for Kiva.”
“Hmm. OK, have fun with that. Soon you’ll be typing like…” I posed at my laptop and began feverishly banging away on the keyboard at superhuman speeds.
Jalloh smiled and said, “I hope, if God willing.”
I packed up my bag and walked out of our office. It felt good to be working with such an enthusiastic microfinance team. I was thinking this Kiva thing is some infectious stuff if it can make a Sierra Leonean pass up a football game and a free meal at the end of the day.