Book 2, Chapter 8
There's a hint for Kenema hidden in the name...
Can you guess it?
Things have started to feel very Blood Diamond-y; the whole day's ride - all three hundred clicks of it - everyone walking along the roadside has had a big sifting pan on their head.
Every river I've crossed has people in it with their pans, sifting away.
This Kenema joint, it's a properly big village.
It seems to have it’s whole purpose wrapped up in diamonds. Buying and selling. There are shopfronts everywhere with diamond symbols painted on the front, “DIAMOND OFFICE” written in big letters.
After I’ve dropped my shit off at a cheap hotel (overpaid, at 50,000 Leones a night - about twelve bucks) I mop up my oily bike.
Some prick has stolen my can of spray on chain lubricant.
I’m pretty sure it was one of those military jerks at one of the many checkpoints on the way here.
But, honestly, I don’t exactly need it; the whole bike's getting well lubed by that fucking leak...
Anywho, I've skipped lunch today and I’m bloody hungry.
Time. To. Wander.
There’s a young “big mamma” with a table and a bench on one of the street corners, selling chop. I chow down on a massive bowl of “cassava” which is like a potato (sort of), and some beans and sauce. It costs 1,000 Leones: twenty five cents. So cheap! So good!
I follow that up with some shortbread that I can only describe as vagina shaped. Nom nom nom.
I’m still not done; I smash down a massive sandwich filled with the greasiest deep fried egg in the world, plus some mystery deep fried balls which are probably just doughnuts.
Dinner of champions.
I fuck about in the shanty 'tetanus-waiting-to-happen' markets for a bit, but there’s not much to see or do. This joint is pretty much par-for-the-course. Though, that said, I’m still always a little shocked at just how filthy and grimy the corner of the market that sells fresh food is; grisly meat of who-knows-what animal getting hacked up by dull machetes; the hot, cloying air filled with swarming flies; mud on the ground that you slide on, that comes up through the holes in your thongs and gets in between your toes...
Grimey as fuck.
I head out of the markets; I want to go and check out a "Diamond Office".
I've got to admit, they freak me out a bit, but, when else will I get the chance to look at a Diamond Office?
Gotta do it...
The place I pick out sells water pumps and trades diamonds.
As you do...
I get talking to a middle aged man who seems to be running the shop.
He's very keen to give me an education.
We talk raw diamond "grading". He’s drawing me pictures and everything, explaining to me the relative values by size, shape, clarity, and colour.
He tells me that all of the buying and selling is now regulated by the government...
I can tell by his tone that all this sentence is missing is a knowing wink.
I really want to see one of these raw diamonds but we can’t do that till I get the go ahead from “the boss”, and he's asleep.
That's a bit weird, not least because it’s just coming on dusk now... Why would he be asleep?
I ask him when they close.
“Never, we are open at night for people to bring diamonds.”
Right. Of course...
Small talk starts to take a more sinister turn; He seemed to physically twitch when I tell him I’m heading to Liberia...
Really bad vibes.
The questions start to have an edge to them...
When are you leaving? Tomorrow??
Where are you going in Liberia?
Where are you staying tonight?
I’ll come with you there... Let’s go, now.
Heebie jeebies. Big time.
I can't cog it though; what the fuck is he driving at??
I run my head through my guide on diamonds in Sierra Leone: Blood Diamond.
I remember that Leonardo DiCaprio got put it jail at some point for smuggling diamonds into Liberia...
Does this guy want me to smuggle diamonds into Liberia??
Nah. Surely not...
Diamonds or no diamonds, I'm sure as shit not hanging around to find out...
I deflect his questions, tell him I'll be right back, real soon, and fuck right off.
I look over my shoulder a few times on the way back to the hotel to make sure I'm not being followed.