#Conundrum, #love, #poem, #poetry, #sierra-leone, #sierra-leone literature, #the human-condition, Blogging

WordSmiths

York, Sierra Leone. Photography by Nadia Assad

I’m a thief just a peg lower than Robin,
donning a hood Issa Kabbah never unveiled.

Poaching feelings across minds and giving them wings.

Letting them fly to the welcoming hands of estranged lovers
to use as weapons,
in status’ shade wars.

Subliminal yet direct.

Quotes coated in Quixote bravery

Memes Galore.

But then what are we if not mercenaries?

A La God, Allah Messengers to the masses.

What of those in homes whose only solace reside in our words,
and in these moments feel connected to a larger hive that understands the deep pits of depression that internet clout chasers skim over.

We give you passion.

We dish you joy.

And mash your wins to look back on the L’s you took that left you shook.

Of beautiful sunsets and wild romance.

Discreet flings and getting turned down in love at your first advance

In denial of the face of pain and shedding Nile long tears,
and losing loved ones in this mortal world.
We stand by you with all the memories.

For we are dealers.

We peddle and walk the corners of your lives.

We deal in feelings.

The real trap lords, WordBangers.

So when next you see me and remark.

‘You don’t look like a poet’

I’ll smile and reply,

‘What do human feelings look like’?

#Conundrum

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#Conundrum, #KamandaKoroma, #landmark, #love, #poem, #poetry, #sierra-leone, #sierra-leone literature, #the human-condition, #thoughts, Blogging

Blogging from Sierra Leone: The ‘Why’.

There are millions of narratives online about people and their stories, mostly as strangers without meeting each other we connect with these experiences as we find ourselves relating to them. The intricate nature of human existence is the simple truth that in our differences we notice familiar things that brings us to the earthy truth that we are but just a singular race.

Every human has a story to tell and it’s no wonder in this day and age why blogging holds such a strong allure. Strangely the idea to create a blog to post my poems, articles and ramblings came not from me , but from my cousin, Ibrahim Jalloh (R I P).I had shared a piece via WhatsApp to him and after reading, he remarked that it would be a great idea to have a platform to air out my writings.

In his words he said, ”Kamanda, you have to save your writings and keep them so that they can be a moment in time when you had these thoughts. After all, even if no one reads them, they will always live”. These words rang true, Ibrahim always did have a penchant to say the rights things in a modest way.

Naturally I had some misgivings about the whole idea out of fear of internet trolls and another from the insecure idea that I thought my writings weren’t good enough. I slept on his advice. Several days later I set up a WordPress account and the rest as they say is history.

Blogging from Sierra Leone is not an easy feat. For starters, the internet penetration in the country is relatively low, and the data charges are somehow steep. Less than 10% of Sierra Leone’s approximately 7 million citizens utilize any social media tool and of that number the vast majority use Facebook and the cross platform app WhatsApp the most.

The reality is if you intend to tell the Sierra Leonean story via blogging, you come to terms with the stark truth that your countrymen will most likely not be a huge chunk of your audience. This realization alone is enough to deter many, I have known many fellow writers who started off writing on WordPress or Blogspot only to abandon it due to lack of instantaneous followers. Some chose to stick to Facebook blogging with the same recycled audience and recycled feedback.

I was tempted to take the easy route, but I did not. It dawned on me slowly that it would be better to grow an organic following from complete strangers and also from people I knew who would click my WordPress blog link to let my writing speak for itself. I held the firm belief that if I had to evolve from the cocoon of familiarity of the usual audience feedback that my Facebook posts garnered, I would be stuck in an endless loop, and what I craved was growth along with a bigger platform to tell my stories.

It has been almost two years now and I am approaching 500 followers. Through it all I have learnt some vital lessons. Blogging like any art form requires dedication. You have to put in the work to connect with your audience. The sooner you realise that the quality of your content will boost or reduce the feedback you get, the wiser you will become.

There is nothing I appreciate more than the feedback from readers and fellow bloggers, every comment or a like indicates that someone, somewhere took their time to read what I had to offer and leave a response. On some days as a dabbling writer that is the only thing we require, it’s less about a thirst for the spotlight and more about appreciation that comes with understanding. Blogging brings you closer with the art of others that gives you the necessary push that also stimulates the growth of your own art.

I can say without an iota of doubt that my writing has improved because I have encountered sound writers on this WordPress platform who have directly or indirectly influenced me with their brilliance and simplicity in tackling complex issues.

Blogging instills in you the confidence to air out what you have been stifling. The relief that such an outlet offers is priceless. To tackle the social ills of a nation on a broad expanse of issues and proffer solutions. Every complimentary feedback I receive motivates me to do more and tell our stories.

To every other Sierra Leonean blogger out there, keep doing you. Tell your story.

I will keep on blogging and sharing my experiences, as a voice from the western side of my continent, and let our stories be part of the album of the playlist of the myriad online stories written by people from around the globe.

In the words of Marco Koroma,

“Impact is greater than clout”.

#Conundrum

#KamandaKoroma, #love, #lust, #nature, #poem, #poetry, #sierra-leone, #sierra-leone literature, #the human-condition

Shades of Love

Photography by Kamanda Koroma, “Leicester Peak“.

Listen; even if rainbows were to forget to postlude storms; or sunsets the profane cains

of days; or dew to wash away

the sins of flowers when dawn

breathes upon us; or the dead

to ascend into the promised Heavens

I will never forget to bathe you

With these three words; banal they may seem, but they are yours from the deepest parts of me; the shadowed, the unseen, the scared, the fragile, the flawed;

I love you…

The type of love that’s reclusive
but appreciates the outdoor freedom of open affections

Chit chat and toothy smiles, small talk and long walks in shady alleys and bright lanes

Why tilt the scale when it balances the unresolved emotions and unspoken words like afro combo at mardi gras?

Take my hand and let’s fly across the memoirs of lovebirds in bourbon street;

sip on the intoxication of these three words..

“I love you”

…and I’ll tell you I love you till the words die on my lips

Till they cave inside of my chest and crumble like sandcastles inside of my belly

Till they fade from my breath, and my throat is hoarse from their use

Till my voice breaks at the thought and my tongue can no longer form the words.

Till they wane from memory and dissolve into stardust.

But until then. Until then;

I love you.

#VF

#Conundrum

#TMA

#Conundrum, #Drug Abuse, #earth, #KamandaKoroma, #love, #lust, #nature, #poem, #poetry, #sierra-leone, #the human-condition, #thoughts, Uncategorized

The Opioid Trail: Tramadol Abuse in Sierra Leone

It was a bright day with blue skies, sunny with just the right amount of soft winds. One of the rare blessings of residing in the coastal city of Freetown in the dry season is the beautiful weather at that time of the year. I was riding shotgun, a friend at the wheel, a Drake song blaring on the stereo.

Destination: Tokeh Beach.

Stuck for over half an hour in the notorious traffic jam between Wilkinson Road and Lumley, frustrated about the delay, we were accosted by one of the street hawkers peddling his goods. He approached the car window on my side , peered in then tapped me by my arm , then laughed and shouted our nicknames. It may have been that there was no sign of recognition on our faces. I did a double take when I recognized that resounding laughter, then slowly as I stared at him, it was as if the years fell away from his facial features layer by layer.

This was an old friend from high school. It had been years since we last saw him.

We located a suitable parking space, pulled over and kick start conversation. We reminisced about school days and the funny shenanigans we masterminded. All the while we laughed, I noticed the premature wrinkles and hardened features on his once gentle face. It was obvious the years hadn’t been kind to him. He explained to us that a string of family issues and financial problems had led him down the path to the depths of drug abuse.

Tramadol he said was the only reprieve he had from an otherwise cold world that had turned it’s back on him. We offered advice and assistance to him but he only shook his head and remarked that the pills had no addictive tendencies. After several prodding from us, he became withdrawn and said he had to return to his trading. We exchanged numbers and promised to keep in touch and went our separate ways.

I called his number a few times with no response.

It would be the last time I ever saw him again.

This was two years ago.

Since then, the onslaught of Tramadol has continued unabated amongst the youths of Sierra Leone like a vengeful succubus.

Tramadol is an opioid drug that is prescribed for relief from moderate or moderately severe pain by medical doctors. It was considered as a better alternative to most narcotic analgesic medications.

Somehow, along the lines this drug became the go to drug for quick highs and mood enhancing. The myth that followed in it’s wake was the deceptive talk of it’s non addictive qualities.
In Sierra Leone, the ghettos, slums and even in club scenes, it has assumed many other attributes. Many non-prescribed users boast of it’s nature to boost their sex drive, others claim that it is the cure for their work stress and other problems.

These non facts are spread by quacks, and charlatans who sell these drugs from their stalls, and petty traders who have no medical qualification in that regard. The department of health regulation in the country is ill-equipped to tackle the issue as they are under funded and lack the necessary man power to tackle these illegal and counterfeit vendors.

Children as young as 9 have been known to take Tramadol.

I once encountered a scuffle that had just been separated, it was a teen who purchased the drug with the intention of taking it so as to give him the “bravery and heart” to stab a friend whom he had quarreled with over different views after a football match. If not for timely intervention, it would have been a lethal saga.

Stories like these and more are abound in the neighborhoods of Sierra Leone. Tramadol is especially popular amongst female street walkers and ‘Okada’ bike riders who claim it keeps the wind and cold away from them on cold nights because it numbs their senses.
You are bound to see either of the two popping tramadol like bubblegum or altoids .

In a country that has a considerable number of it’s denizens still clinging onto to superstitious beliefs, combating mental health issues and drug abuse is an up hill task. There’s a high chance of an addict to be taken to a church or voodoo shrine for supernatural delivery and demonic exorcism than to the hospital for medical assistance.

Indeed, there are stories of many individuals who when rehabilitated from abusive lifestyles by either a result of distance from it or when medically treated are bound to believe and accept the brainwashed superstitious narrative of family members that it was divinely manifested rather than their actions.

Surely, faith in a supreme deity goes with a strong understanding of care for ones health as is echoed in most religions.

Addiction to Tramadol causes a dependency which lead many young individuals to resort to theft as a desperate measure to satiate their high. The higher the dosage they take, the greater it elevates their mood which makes them to increase the dosage they consume. It’s not surprising that most tramadol addicts from impoverished backgrounds are identifiable at first glance when they are in withdrawal.

Mostly sweating, nervous, periods of swooning due to nausea, and a tendency to twitch as if restless. Developed stages of tramadol addiction are bound to make addicts, paranoid, delusional and subject to hallucinations.

During the just concluded election, this drug was in vogue as many politicians parceled it out in droves to supporters to use as a means to stimulate violence. It was not uncommon to see youths go berserk and self harm themselves or others before having fits of seizures. Yet no politician has ever been held accountable for the negative acts of derailing the future of scores of young men.

The lack of rehabilitation centres nationwide is another issue. What we have are a few institutions that have more in common with 17th Century asylums and madhouses like Bedlam and rife with questionable techniques of treating patients than they do with the modern methods of diagnosing and treating them.
There are very limited centres that offer adequate inpatient treatment with around the clock supervision that lasts for over a month.
Coupled with the fact that outpatient programs are almost non existent in this side of the world for evening or late therapy sessions after patients have been discharged to their homes.
It’s no small wonder that most addicts deteriorate beyond saving.
The taboo with which mental health is associated with makes it a hassle for the existence of peer group organizations to thrive in.

The health sector is in dire need of boosting and much adequate funding, to not only to treat the patients but also to police and regulate the influx of this drug into the borders of the country.

A nation is only as strong as it’s human resource.

We all must all do more to aid in the sensitization on the dangers of tramadol dependency and drug abuse as a whole.

Save lives. Regain friends.
Restore Families.

#Conundrum

#Conundrum, #earth, #KamandaKoroma, #love, #lust, #nature, #poetry, #sierra-leone, #the human-condition, Uncategorized

The Land.

Photography by Nadia Assad. Massama, Kambia.
Photography by Nadia Assad. Massama, Kambia.

I look up in the sky and see faces in the clouds gazing down at me.

Ferried on a canoe across a lake like a journey through time.

Thoughts, Dreams, Memories.
They mingle into a tapestry of my experiences.

Mama’s Land.

I breathe in the welcoming air of the familiar scents that I thought I’d forgotten.

My eyes attune to the greenery that kidnaps my senses
and my ducts they leak the essence of repressed emotions.

The warmth in the ambience embraces me for all the hugs I never received whilst away
and the ones I had when I was last here.

Charmed into awe whenever I discover doors that lead to the many mysteries you hold within.

Just always there to be unraveled in my country.

The Motherland.

#Conundrum

#Conundrum, #earth, #KamandaKoroma, #landmark, #love, #poem, #poetry, #sierra-leone, #the human-condition, #thoughts, Uncategorized

Prometheus As A Role Model.

I have always had a fascination with Greek mythology.

Of course for most the pantheon of Olympian deities hold sway, yet for me the primordial Titan, Prometheus held an unwavering respect in my mind. Here was a being who sided against his kind, chose to fight on the side of Zeus and then went on to defy the orders of the mighty thunderbolt fiend by giving fire to mankind.

This is not a piece on Greek myths, I would love to go give my take on all the other many colourful beings that adorn the pages of Hellenistic literature, but that should be reserved for another time and in a different post.

Prometheus was the first progressive thinker who rooted for the underdog and gave them tools for self-improvement. The other unique trait he possessed was his altruism as opposed to other beings who held a manipulative marionette-esque relationship with their inferiors. He never asked for anything in return, all he wanted was the enlightenment of those he assisted.

It is easy for one to cast away or discard the character of Prometheus as an ancient story or a mere representation of mankind’s persistence on the quest for progress.

The truth is Prometheus was an unsung hero who did a lot behind the scenes but was hardly ever acknowledged during his existence by those he did it for. Whether it was due to the fact he was always in the background, non-assuming yet aiding, he was hardly ever hailed.

Growing up in Sierra Leone, I had a Prometheus in the form of my maternal Grandpa. I think I began the process of receiving my proverbial fire of enlightenment when I was between the ages of 5-6. I was playing in his library, flipping the pages of a rather thick book. Of course to a young lad, a book without pictures was not worth my time, so naturally I must have asked him for one with images. He peered at me through his thick lens, and remarked with a chuckle that the words were filled with images and adventures to last me multiple lifetimes, thus commenced my delving into the world of books.

Overtime my grandpa would gift me with books which I would read at home and then discuss with him later. He was never imposing as these sessions were quite interactive.

Grandpa always strived to create a platform for me to be confident to state my opinions. He would then state his position clearly whilst treading and touching on the areas I missed with a masterful stroke. My young mind imbibed it all.

He had a wry sense of humour and loud echoing laughter.

Grandpa Morlai Alhassan B Kamara.
Grandpa Morlai Alhassan B Kamara

Naturally, I had an advantage when I started grade school. I hail from a side of the world where rote learning is the norm and even though I attended a top class private school that had relatively much higher standards than most in the country, my intelligence bloomed through the nurturing of my Grandpa. It was obvious from the get go that non interactive teachers bore me. I adapted to the reality of the limiting nature of the school system.

I was gifted by my grandpa with a 16 volume Harver’s Junior World Encyclopedia in November, 2000 after my first report card came through with exceptionally good grades. This become a tradition between me and my grandpa throughout his life.

Volume 4 of the 16 set Encyclopedia I received in November, 2000.
Handwritten note and seal of Grandpa

As we get older, it is arguable to some that it is easy to somehow forget or ignore the contributions certain people make to our lives from behind the scenes.

We replace these people with the rich, popular and successful as role models.

There is a certain novelty to the allure of fame but we should never let go of the fire bringers, the Geppettos’ in our lives who spark the flames within us. In a world that sets more store on material gain over honest meaningful contribution, there is a duty on us all to acknowledge these heroes who contribute to us from behind the scenes.

‘Inspiring and never taking credit’ as Drake put it.

My grandfather passed away on the 12th of December, 2009.

To this day, I still get the ‘human Wikipedia’ jokes because of my penchant in knowing things. With age comes experience and maturity coupled with the realization that the legacy of my grandpa should be passed on.

It is necessity to be mentors to those that require it without imposing.

To aid without manipulating.

I end with a poem.

The calm.

The quiet.

The inspiring.

Behind the scenes, forging.

Individuals polished from bronze to gold.

Humble alchemists.

Molds shaped from clay to breathing figures.

In the dark, unseen like the abyss but higher and brighter than Helios’s chariot.

Sanseis.

Mentors.

The unsung heroes.

Who give all and ask for naught.

And remain silent in the hopes to see,

Phoenix reborn from ash

Caterpillars transforming to iridescent butterflies

Coals to polished diamonds

Seeding the star ways with future constellations to evade black holes

Titular guardians and not marionettes.

To the Geppettos’ over the Strombolis’.

Prometheus.

We don’t say thank you enough.

RIP Morlai B. Alhassan Kamara.

#Conundrum