YASMIN TELLS

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Sunday, 19 May 2019

10 THINGS YOU MUST KNOW BEFORE TRAVELLING TO BONTHE ISLAND


There are only two places in the world that I have visited and it felt as if time stood still, that is Cuba and Sierra Leone, Bonthe specifically. Last month I made my way to Bonthe District in the Southern region of Sierra Leone with HSL Tours. These are the following things you must know before travelling to Bonthe.

1.    Bonthe is 7 hours away from Freetown.

Travelling to Bonthe from the capital city, will take six-seven hours. A good place to break and stop for snacks is Moyamba Junction, serving plenty of fresh fruits. The journey involves driving to Yagoi, passing 23 districts before arriving at the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration (SLMA) at Yagoi Wharf. At this point you write your name on their register before boarding either the canoe boat (a.k.a ‘pam pam’) or the speedboat.


2.    You will need to take a boat to get there.

As mentioned before, you will need to get on a boat from Yagoi Wharf. The speedboat takes 45 minutes to arrive at Bonthe Island. The canoe boat will take two plus hours from Yagoi to arrive at Bonthe.

3.    The people of Bonthe are known as Bonthanians

The same way people located in Freetown are reffered to as Freetownians I guess!


4.    There are no cars on Bonthe Island

The sandy roads of Bonthe are free of any cars, which was a refreshing change of scenery in comparison to the crowded city of Freetown. Only bicycles and a couple of motorbikes were seen as transport around the small island.


5.    The Sherbro people are the largest ethnic group on Bonthe Island.

Bonthe District is the home to the Sherbro people. During the pre-colonial period the Sherbro people were one of the most dominant ethnic groups in Sierra Leone. The vast majority with Sherbro people are Christian.

6.    Bonthe is a derelict Island with a lot of history.


Despite the rich and colonial past where Bonthe used to be a trading haven for agricultural products and piassava. The island was also the naval base for the French and English during the first and second world war. You can visit the Air grounds, water reservoir, old churches again everything is ever so untouched from what used to be a vibrant island. The best way to explore the town is to take a ride on the motorbikes around the town – that’s what I did, as I past the clock tower, air grounds, city council and more. It was the best way to explore the town during the short stay. You can do this with HSL Tours.

7.    Oysters are an enjoyed delicacy on the island.


Oysters are found in abundance surrounding the coastal lines of the Sherbro Estuary en route to Bonthe. I ate oyster stew twice during the weekend trip. On that note this is probably a good time to let you know that there are no western style restaurants on the Island of Bonthe and that eating arrangements should we pre planned. We ate at the Former Mayor’s house; Maria Garvey, organised by HSL Tours.


8.    Bonthe Island is not Bunce Island


I cleared this up recently on a caption post on Instagram, but I would like to think, if you were interested in visiting this island you would have already differentiated these islands apart.



9.    Electricity on the Island.


The island inhabited by 4000 people has limited electricity. I stayed one night on Bonthe Island at the Council’s Guesthouse, which was very close to the bay dock where we arrived. They had a generator for the evening, however there was also a curfew at midnight that they are willing to extend if you pay for it.  

10. Mania Beach is 30 minutes away.
 

If you have time, please make time for this hidden gem. Mania Beach is also situated alongside the Sherbro Estuary. A small community of 400 Sierra Leoneans inhabits Mania Beach. Please make sure you greet the chief of the village before making your way through the village and beach. It’s not compulsory to do so, but I promise your life will be made easier if you do so.




I hope you enjoyed the tips at learnt something new about Sierra Leone. Thank you again to HSL Tours for a wonderful trip. 

All photography by Yasmin Metz-Johnson


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Monday, 6 May 2019

Y SQUARE POD: S02E01 TRAVEL IN AFRICA


We're back!


After a month hiatus Y Square Pod are back with Season 2

If you are unfamiliar with Y Sqaure Pod, it is a podcast I co host with Yasmine Bilks Ibrahim of the blog minabilkis.com here in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Although we have our own platforms we thought it would be a good idea to get together and share our perspectives as diasporans living and working in West Africa. 

The first episode of Season 2 is 'Travel In Africa' where the duo share travel hacks, tips and experiences about travelling the continent. In this episode is listed all the African countries you can visit with or without visa from three different passports. For more on the episode give it a listen via Soundcloud.

Enjoy!

S02E01 - https://soundcloud.com/ysquarepod/s02e01-travel-in-africa


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Tuesday, 30 April 2019

APRIL HIGHLIGHTS FROM SIERRA LEONE


Here are a few highlights of what I've been up to this month in Sierra Leone. Enjoy the post!

Visiting Bonthe

This month I had the opportunity to visit Bonthe Island in Bonthe District with new tour agency ‘Hello Sierra Leone Tours’. They create experiences for people who are interested in exploring Sierra Leone. Bonthe is an old island located in the Southern Region of Sierra Leone. More details about my trip to Bonthe is on its way very soon!

Discovering Mania Beach

During my trip to Bonthe I visited Mania Beach that is 30 minutes from Bonthe via boat. Mania Beach is a Sherbro Island inhabited by four hundred people only. I love discovering new places in Sierra Leone, Mania is peaceful and worth visiting if you are in the region.

Sierra Leone’s Independence Day

This was my first year in Sierra Leone during the Independence. This year marked the 58th year of Independence since British rule for Sierra Leone. It was great to witness the patriotism amongst Sierra Leoneans. 


John Akar Foundation Cultural Festival

The John Akar Foundation is an annual event that takes place on the date of Sierra Leone’s Independence Day (27th April). The event is named after John Akar the composer of the Sierra Leone anthem and former Ambassador of the United States of America. The day had multiple stalls and local businesses vendor alongside games and craft activities for children to participate in.

'Na Ya Wi Komot' Art Exhibition

This is the first art exhibition I have attended in Sierra Leone. I hope they do more; the exhibition showcased the work of Sierra Leonean artists Hawa Bangura, Julius Parker and more at Lumley in Freetown. The title of the exhibition is in Krio, the local language spoken in Sierra Leone. It translates in English, as ‘This is where we are from’.

Stadium Trade Fair


Each Christmas and Easter season, multiple vendors come together to sell at their products at one location, which is the national stadium. This was my first visit to the stadium this year. What I enjoyed most was that there were also vendors from neighbouring West African countries such as Ghana and Mali.

  




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Thursday, 18 April 2019

JALIKA'S POP UP KITCHEN REVIEW


I am not a food blogger however, I do like to attend and review events that have food! Here is a Yasmin TELLS review of Jalika’s Pop Up Kitchen: 12/04/2019.

On Friday night Jalika Gooding (née Mustapha) hosted multiple guests at Aberdeen Ferry Road for her highly anticipated monthly event ‘Jalika’s Pop Up Kitchen’. This was the third of a series she started at the beginning of the year and my first one I was attending. I had been looking forward to it as I had heard and seen the pictures from the last two events. Jalika who is an ophthalmologist by day, says she has always had a passion for cooking. She didn’t have to tell me this as she proudly uses the hashtag #MendeGyalSabiCook across her socials when promoting the once a month event.

As you arrive at the entrance, your name will be crossed off the list if you have paid in advance as it is suggested on the advertisement flyer. This is to know the number of heads to cook for I assume, however I did see a few people pay at the entrance. Once the hosts had verified us off the list, we were given a complimentary cup of bissap/sorrel alongside three pastel coloured numbered cards of 1,2 and 3 before gaining access to the majestically lit outdoor space. The compound was elegantly lit with garden paper lantern lights scattered above and live music by Solomon and singer Daniel Bangura, creating a soiree ambiance.


Drinks were sold separately at the bar. I got a cup of rum with homemade ginger beer for 25,000 Le. The layout of the space had multiple 8 person seated chairs around long dining tables. With flexible seating you and your party could sit wherever you wanted. Once you were seated and comfortable with your drink/s one of the staff workers assisting Jalika on the night would ask what starter you had requested. It was in this moment I understood the use of the three numbered token we received at the entrance. They were coded alongside the different dishes of the night. Once the waiter had established what starter you wanted; in my case the Lemon Hibiscus Hummus with Garlic Oil-Glazed Breadsticks, the waiter would take the token that was paired with your chosen dish, and so on with the main and dessert. I liked this element of operation to the pop up kitchen. When you think of a typical restaurant you do not know what to expect, whereas with Jalika’s Pop Up Kitchen you know to an extent what you are in for! The flyer lists three different options for each category (Starter, Main and Dessert). Once again it is advised to inform Jalika before the date of the event which number of each category you have selected.

When you think of a 3-course meal traditionally, they usually come one after another. This was a 3-course meal with like no other. It was at your own pace. Everybody arrived at different times. Whilst the doors opened at 7pm, guests arrived throughout the evening. Regardless of the time you arrived, you were still acknowledged by the waiters who were ready at all times to take your first number.

The mains were: (listed below)

1.     Morocan-Style Vegatable Tagine with Herby Couscous
2.     Whole Grilled Fish with Hibiscus & Cream Sauce
3.     Gourmet Onion Ring Burger with Hibiscus Mayo Sauce


If you had not guessed the theme of the night was the Hibiscus flower found in many West African countries which has vitamin C content and known for its distinct colour and taste. I wanted number 2, but I had been eating fish all week and thought let me try something new.  I chose number 3, The Gourmet Onion Ring Burger which was really nicely, it was probably my first time eating a burger without a side, but I didn’t need it as I was full after taking a couple of bites of the burger which was well seasoned and stuffed with onion rings, as promised. The burger was slightly cold but the seasoning was undeniable. I took my dessert home in a takeaway, as I was full from what had already been served alongside the music and plenty of conversation. I chose number 2. Which was ‘Season Fruit Salad with Honey & Hibiscus Glaze, however I saw many people opted in for the cakes. In hindsight I wish I chose number 1.  Moist Tangy Hibiscus Cake with Soft Buttercream Icing, reading it back has made me realise how safe ‘boring’ my options were. The fruit Salad was tasty, overloaded with watermelon, you can’t go wrong with fruit. The other popular dessert was the final option, number 3. Vanilla Cupcakes with Pureed Mango Filling and Meringue Icing.



Overall the evening was a great opportunity to socialise and meet new people whilst trying Mrs Gooding’s creative cuisine creations. I wonder what the next theme will be! I hope this gives a clear idea of what to expect at Jalika’s pop up kitchen. If you cannot wait until the next pop up kitchen next month, you will be glad to know that Jalika’s pop up will be at the Ma dengn Taste of Salone Festival on the 28th April in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Details:

3 course meal: 165,000 Le
Venue: Aberdeen Ferry Road
Contact:  https://www.instagram.com/jalikas_kitchen/

Jalika's Pop Up Kitchen on Aberdeen Ferry Road. Photo by Yasmin TELLS



All photos by Yasmin Metz-Johnson of Yasmin TELLS

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