Paul Yeenie Harry ~ (April 10 2006)
"...In my dream, I found myself walking along the bank of a huge West African river, something like the Cavalla River, which runs between Liberia and the Ivory Coast. Out of a sudden, a little canoe in which were two individuals, an old man and a woman, appeared and paddled towards the direction where I stood...”
"Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment. Therefore I say: Hearken to me; I also will show my opinion." Job 32:9,10
It was on Wednesday, 31st March 2006. I had just finished teaching my third class at the university where I work. I had a one-hour-thirty-minute break, so I decided to check a few Internet pages about the stories surrounding the mysterious disappearance of Charles Ghankay Taylor from Nigeria.
It was during these searches that I discovered that Nigerian border security guards had arrested Charles Ghankay Taylor, and that President Obasanjo had already given instructions for him to be deported to Liberia. At first, I thought it was a kind of shenanigans going on, so I only hissed my teeth in uncertainty and went out of the faculty room to buy myself a bottle of cold juice, perhaps, to cool my thirst, caused by the anxiety going on in me, as a result of the Taylor-disappeared-but-was-arrested scenario. After drinking my juice, I rested for a while and went to teach my last classes.
After teaching my last set of classes, I went straight home. As soon as I got home, I quickly switched on my television to be kept abreast with the situation. It was then, to my greatest surprise, but also to my greatest delight, that I saw a handcuffed Taylor on the BBC and the newscaster reported that the handcuffed Taylor was actually the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia. I could not straightaway believe what my eyes had seen, so I went much closer to the television screen to make sure that I was not having a dream.
When the news story had ended and the scene had passed, I still stood in front of the television, looking at the screen with an opened mouth and bulging eyes, making me look like a person who had just embarrassingly been caught toileting on the farm road of his neighbors.
After a few minutes, I went away from the television and lay prone on my bed, thinking about the reality of Taylor’s arrest and its implications for Liberia and Sierra Leone, in particular, and the African continent, in general. While pondering over all this and other issues connected with Charles Taylor, I was secretly arrested, not by the Nigerian border security guards, not by the UN security forces, but by what we call Sleep, that arresting agent that is sometimes merciful and, at other times, unmerciful, depending on who’s involved, as well as the situation at stake.
For example, there is the story of a high school student who should have taken the Liberian Senior High School Certificate Examinations, an examination administered by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), a major public test that determines whether a student will complete high school, or be made to repeat another year. The exam was to commence at 8:30 that Monday morning. By 6:30am, the boy had already ironed his uniform, shined his shoes, brushed his teeth and taken his bath. He had spent the night studying and reviewing different materials related to the subjects he would have the examinations in, as he didn’t want to leave any stones unturned. After doing one or two chores, he dressed up, and, by 7:am, he was ready to go. But because he knew he still had one hour and thirty minutes, and taking into account the fact that he had not slept the night before, he decided to take a thirty-minute nap. He lay on his back on his bed. Straight away, he was arrested by Sleep. When he finally woke up, it was after 12:noon. Got up, shouted to the highest pitch of his voice, went outside and wept like a child. For him, Sleep was unmerciful.
Next door, there was a lady who had not been able to sleep for two days and two nights because she had mistakenly taken some chloroquine tablets, which she was highly allergic to. Her skin itched constantly for two consecutive days. Others thought that she had been bewitched by a witch or wizard. At about the same time that the boy was crying, Sleep arrested the woman. All the people around her began to thank God for the opportunity the woman now had to enjoy sleep. For these people, as well as the woman involved, Sleep was merciful. Life is complicated, isn’t it?
Anyway, let’s get back to the main topic. As I was in the custody of Sleep, I dreamt. It is the dream that has prompted this article. I am forced to relate my dream not only because I like writing, but also because I have a mandate from the ancestors not to keep the dream as a secret.
The following is the narration of what happened in my dream.
In my dream, I found myself walking along the bank of a huge West African river, something like the Cavalla River, which runs between Liberia and the Ivory Coast. Out of a sudden, a little canoe in which were two individuals, an old man and a woman, appeared and paddled towards the direction where I stood. They came right under me and signalled to me to get into the canoe. I was hesitant, not only because the two people were strange, but also because I sometimes become hydrophobic when crossing huge rivers. When I refused to obey the physical signal from them, they turned to spoken language.
“Please get into the canoe.” The old man said.
“Why should I?” I fought back.
“To take you to the place.” He responded.
“Which place?” I questioned.
“To the Jubilation Site – the place for which you have come here.” The woman threw in.
“What? Jubilation Site? I don’t understand.” I registered my confusion.
“It is the place where the jubilation is taking place.” She tried to clarify.
“Where is the place located?” I enquired, without asking about the kind of jubilation.
“Just across the river. Don’t be afraid. Come in. I am a mother.” She tried to convince me.
She then stretched forth her hands caringly to reach for me at the bank. Before I could think about it further, I saw myself giving my hand to her and stepping into the canoe. I passed her and sat in the middle, between her and the man. The man looked at me, smiled and remarked, “Most people here are happy about the situation.”
I got confused hearing his remark. I didn’t understand what the old man meant by this remark. I thought some members of the Ni-gee Society, a kind of traditionally secret, but devilish society, mainly operated by the Bassa ethnic group of Liberia, had captured me. They mostly arrest their victims on rivers. After arresting their victim, they take the person under the water, soon to be surfaced in a well-prepared residence somewhere under, or better, near the water. They destroy the person’s faculty of speech by use of some charms, humiliate the person and finally kill them, extracting some sensitive body parts, like sex organ, eyes, tongue and the little finger.
I could do nothing; I had already entered the canoe before he made the statement. At one point, I wanted to jump out of the canoe and swim my way back at the bank, but a worm can swim better than I can do. Besides, it would be stupid. It would be comparable to the story of a man who was been chased by three crocodiles while paddling his canoe across a river. Having realized that he had put all his strength into paddling the canoe, but could still not move as fast as he had wished, he, according to his wisdom, concluded that by jumping into the water and swimming would be faster than staying in the canoe. So, he jumped. Don’t ask me what happened next.
As I was saying, I did not understand what the old man meant, but I did not bother to ask because I was only concerned about the canoe crossing the river as quickly as possible, if that was what to happen, or about saying my last prayer before being killed. In fact, I had my eyes closed most of the time.
As the gods and the ancestors would have it, we reached across the river quickly and safely. As I got out of the canoe, I sighed with a great relief. The lady looked at me and smiled. I looked at her and frown.
As soon as we left the riverbank, we entered a gigantic town. I was surprised. I looked on the left and only saw an extension of the town without a trace that the end was anywhere near. I also looked on the left, and the same story. I looked ahead and to my greatest surprise, the extension was the same as the ones I had earlier viewed on both the left and right sides of the town. It was a remarkably immense town.
That’s not all. Another very striking feature of the town, at least from what I saw in my dream, was the great jubilations that were taking place in the town. Almost everyone that I saw, at least for those that were outside, were either dancing, joyfully parading up and down, having thanksgiving meetings, having joyous discussions, or hugging one another with some unprecedented happiness. Though my face beamed with joy from the happy scenes, I was also confused about why all those people were in such a happy mood.
I was taken around to see all that was happening. There were jubilations all over the place. There were well-attended church services. There were scenes that looked like the activities that usually mark the end of Ramadan. There were concerts of music in different parts of the town. There were huge rallies characterized by battle cries and speeches. There were sections with African music and others with western music. The scenes, activities and mood were uncontrollably fantastic and unique.
Another reality of the town was the existence of different nationalities. I had expected it to be an African town, but there were white people. In fact, I had earlier thought that I would only have seen Liberians, but I was soon proven wrong. There were many different nationals of other African countries.
I was so confused and thrilled by what I was going on that I asked the woman who asked me to get into the canoe, “Where is this place, and why are the people celebrating?”
“This is the world of the dead. They are celebrating the capture, deportation and impending trial of Charles Taylor.” She clarified, a clarification that changed my mood.
“Oh my god, please take me back on earth.” I pleaded.
“You are not going back now.” She responded.
“I beg you. Please take me back to the riverbank. My family will be looking for me. If I had known I wouldn’t have agreed to follow you.” I frighteningly emphasized.
“But you are already here, Paul. This is the world of the dead, the world of your ancestors.” She remarked.
“Does it mean that I have already died? I have not died, yet. I was standing at the bank of the river when you took me. I swear; I didn’t die.” I said with a kind of confused tone, characterized by a shaky voice, trembling legs and body. After this, I confusedly looked at my hands, my stomach and my entire body in a kind of scary manner to check my state, whether I was the same Paul, or a dead Paul.
“You see, you see, I didn’t die. Just look at my body.” I stressed once more. By then, other people had already fallen on the ground, almost dying from laughter, as a result of my actions and words. But that didn’t stop me from making my point.
“I am telling you the truth; I didn’t die. You may even ask my family about this. I swear. I didn’t die. Please take me back. Everybody knows that I didn’t die. Let’s go back so that you can ask my friends and all the people on the Old Road. They will tell you that I didn’t die. Believe me. I didn’t die.” I kept repeating and emphasizing, as if all these repetitions and emphases were any guarantee that I would fly back to, or come back on, earth. I must have really looked stupid to them, because the more I repeated these pleas, the more they fell on the ground with laughter.
Allow me to rest my pen for Part Two (The series will contain four parts in all).
About the author:
Paul Yeenie Harry is a Liberian; he lives in Poland. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org