“Bla…bla….bla…something….something …boyfriend”, she said just as I was about to cross the street.
The word ‘boyfriend’ got my attention. Funny really, seeing that I don’t have one. I stopped and looked around. I saw a woman sitting by a wooden table piled high with small plastic bags. The bags had all different kinds of things inside. There were a variety of powders of different colors, wooden chips from trees, sticks, pods and white transparent pieces that reminded me of quartz. She was sitting on a stool packaging these items and writing labels at the same time.
“Which one do I take, if I want my boyfriend to fall in love with me”? I asked jokingly. I had decided to delve and see where the conversation would lead me. She reached for the plastic bag with the quartz looking pieces.
“ You take this one, just a little and mix it with water and then put it in your vagina.” she responded with a straight face.
“In my vagina!” I repeated.
“It will make your vagina tight and sweet smelling”
“How much is it for the bag?”
“20000! That’s too much.”
“No ma’am, it will work, you will see”
“How long do I have to use it for?”
“As long as you want. Lots of women use it.”
“Let me sit down, it’s too hot”, I quipped
20000 Leones is the equivalent of about $5. That’s how much my taxi charges me per trip in Freetown. A bag of thing-a ma-jig for a taxi ride, tough choice.
Thinking to myself that my va-jay-jay would have to be so loose that it would be dragging on the ground for me to even consider using that solution. And plus…no boyfriend is ever worth that…in my opinion.
She let me sit on her wooden stool in the shade and we started to chat.
“That’s too much money. People actually pay that amount for this?”
“Yes and I have regular customers,’’ she added
“ I am now packaging for some customer in the UK and adding the labels. They bought a lot, ” she continued.
“I have been here for over 20 years. People think that this thing does not make money. I built my house and I have four children. My husband works nights as a security guard. My children are grown. The youngest one is in 6th form. I have one daughter who is at university studying medicine.”
A tall, dark young man approached her and mumbled something. He was a customer. She reached for a small plastic bag, which had some small, round, black looking woolen balls packaged individually. He handed her a 10000 note.
“What was that?” I asked.
“ That is to protect you against people who want to harm you. You sprinkle it around your house. It is the same thing we give to dogs when we want them to be ferocious.”
“ What if the dog gets so ferocious that he even attacks the people living in the house?”
“Dogs know who live in the house and will not attack” she reassured. I , however, was not so sure.
I was taken aback by her candid approach and the fact that I was sitting on the streets of downtown Freetown having a conversation with a medicine woman who held nothing back. Her name was Bakkie. She had done this all her life and had taken over from her father who had been at that very spot outside the municipal market.
“ If you work in an office you make 1million. If I sell 200,000 or so every day, I make more than someone in an office. People think that this does not make money. It does”, she confided.
“ I have my regular customers, even Chinese and Indian. They come to get powders that will help them during sex,’’ she revealed.
I glanced at the wooden penis that she had made to demonstrate what the results of taking the powder would be.
“I am also a leader at my church and they have a base in Ohio. They have conferences in the US and the last time I was invited but I did not have enough money in my bank account. I have four children to take care of. I am making plans now for the next conference in 2018 and making sure to put enough money aside”, she revealed with the confidence, which only comes from a woman with a plan.
“Are you Sierra Leonean?” she asked
“No, I am from Jamaica, Bob Marley’s country.” I added.
“ Where are your dreadlocks?”
“ I used to have them, but I chopped them a couple years ago.”
“Does everybody have locks there?”
“No, less than half the people.”
“So you live here?”
“No. I am visiting a friend.”
“No, a real friend,” I pinched her jokingly to emphasize how real a friend I had.
“ So many people have visitors through Facebook. I know a woman whose daughter got married to someone on Facebook. She moved abroad and two years later she want to divorce. This Facebook thing not good,” she cautioned.
“Yes, that’s a shame” I sympathized.
“ Bakkie, did you lose any of your family to Ebola”, I asked.
“No, I was very lucky. People even buried people as if they had Ebola when they really didn’t”.
“ I always wear long sleeve and carry my sanitizer in my handbag”, she said as she pulled her sanitizer out to show me.
I enjoyed liming with Bakkie but I had a town waiting for me to explore and taxi clocking up Leones, so I was ready to skedaddle. As I was saying goodbye she wrote her name and number for me as well as the name of her church “New Evangelical A.O.G Church”. I planned to Google it later on, of course. I thanked her for chatting with me and for sharing some insight on life in Freetown – true mix of the old ways of traditional medicine and the new ways of finding a husband …..and keeping them too!