The time has finally come for me to take a trip back to Africa. I arrived in Australia over 12 years ago, on June the 9th 2001. I celebrated my 10th birthday the next month.
I remember my flight to Australia; I could not eat anything much the airline offered. The food all tasted foreign and strange so I could only have fruit, cereal and orange juice. Our flight lasted four days, and on all those days I did not eat rice which I really love so it was a herculean effort on my part. My diet has evolved and changed since then and I have gained a real appreciation for Australia’s multicultural cuisine.
I remember arriving in Australia and all I felt was wonderment, awe and gratitude at the opportunity to grow, study and live in such a safe and beautiful country. I remember coming out of the airport and looking outside at taxis, people coming in and out while we were waiting to be picked up. On our drive to our house, I looked and looked, and then I pinched myself to check it was real.
I have so many more memories but now I look forward to going back to the place I was born. I am going back to Sierra Leone this summer, and the excitement and adrenaline is kicking in.
I came to Australia as an African and now I go back to Sierra Leone as an African Australian. I am the product of both cultures and I go back with a unique perspective. I have great hopes of reconnecting with my heritage and culture and meeting all my family members, most of whom I have never met. I am fortunate to speak fluent Krio, the lingua Franca of Sierra Leone that is spoken by 98% of the population. So I am confident that I will not face problems of communications. I am hoping to add a bit more accent to my Krio, as I have been told it lacks an accent, and I believe that is where the beauty of our language comes from.
I have a large extended family: 14 sibling from my mum’s side and 10 from my dad’s and countless cousins to visit and connect with. I am especially very grateful for the opportunity to visit my only surviving grandparent. I have been warned that as a JC, (Krio slang that means ‘just come from overseas’) I will not be able to cope with life in the rural villages. I am adamant that I can, and also improve my Temne, the language spoken by the Temne tribe of Sierra Leone.
I am fortunate to have been afforded the opportunity to be an Australian and call Australia home but I still feel the need and desire to give back to Sierra Leone as a child of the land so I will volunteer at a local school or community project while I’m there. I look forward to being around Sierra Leoneans, our humour, and passion for life and hospitality warm my heart.
I will also shop ‘til I drop and will buy Africanas, the traditional African print clothes. I am determined to navigate the capital Freetown without getting lost.
I will visit our beautiful beaches and enjoy the natural beauty of the Lion Mountains.
I hope to come back to Australia with more than just great memories; I want to return with a strengthened identity of who I am as an African and Australian and a greater understanding of how my unique identity can be used to bless those less fortunate
See the next issue of SALT Magazine for the next installment of Jariatu’s trip to Sierra Leone.