This morning started like any other: tea on the porch, a slow and winding taxi ride through Freetown traffic, gearing up for a day of interviews.
It ended with me on television.
I was set to interview the director general of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corp at 8:30 this morning. Since I’d never been to SLBC before, I asked my cabbie last night if he knew where it was and how long it would take me to get there in the morning – he said it would take half an hour, and he would be happy to come back in the morning to drive me. I agreed, stating “no cha-cha though, I pay three-way” – I didn’t want to charter the car (which would cost 15,000 leone – about 5 whole dollars). Instead, I’d pay him 3,000, but he was free to pick up and drop off passengers along the way.
So, I called him at 7 and asked him to arrive at 8 – he was perfectly on time and I was starting to feel good about the whole experience… until I started to doubt his ETA. At 8:20 we were still on the beach road. Now, as I said, I didn’t know where SLBC was, but… I knew we weren’t even close to it yet. At 8:28 I asked one of my fellow passengers how far we were from SLBC. “About 30 minutes… you know, the traffic!”
I started to freak out, since starting in two minutes I was supposed to be interviewing the top dog of the country’s only national broadcaster (TV and radio). But, there was nothing to be done – I called and said I would be late, the director general seemed unfazed and said it was fine, and we continued on our way.
I show up, find his office, and sit down to wait. I’d dressed respectably for the interview since he’s kind of a big deal (a skirt and t-shirt, I have NO IDEA how people can wear full suits and long sleeves here, I would die of heat exhaustion). He comes into the waiting area and greets me warmly, then asks the fatal question, “Before we do our interview, there are a few of our journalists here who want to do an interview with you. Is this ok?” Wait, what? Oh, he must mean that they want to be interviewed for my project. Feeling badly about being late, without even thinking I chirp, “Oh sure, no problem.”
And all of a sudden I’m standing in an air-conditioned television studio.
The producers and cameramen are buzzing about, the host welcomes me with a smile, they pour me tea, and look disapprovingly at my outfit. I start to apologize for my appearance, explaining I had no idea I would be on TV. Someone tried to tug at my sportsbra (which shows above the neckline of my t-shirt) so I’d be showing less skin, then gave up and returned with a maroon blazer about four sizes too big. I wasn’t wearing make-up, my unwashed hair was in a terribly unkempt pony-tail, and worst of all – I had no idea what I was going to say about my research. I felt like a kid dressing up in mummy’s clothes, playing TV news.
And that was my debut on Good Morning Sierra Leone. I tried to console myself with the fact that no one would see it… but my second interviewee today (head of the photo union) opened with “I just saw you on TV!” and walking home one of the local men called out “Hello Rose! I saw you on TV today!” Oh. Right. It’s the only television station in Salone. If you were in Salone and watching TV between 9 and 10, you were watching me. I hardly remember what I said, something about the improvements in the media over the last 10 years, and some stupid gushing white-person crap about how lovely the people are. I wasn’t the only person on the show – they were also interviewing two local men about development projects – so it was this weird experience where they’d ask them a few questions about their experience, then ask me a few questions, then back to them… and so forth.
The crowning jewel of the experience came at the end, when the other two men each wrapped up – they were both promoting certain
viewpoints/ideals/projects, so they just summed up what they’d been saying. Then the host turns to me and says “Miss Rosemary?” and I respond with “…what do you want me to say?”
I’m going back to SLBC on Monday to get some documents, and at the same time I should be able to get a copy of the interview. It will be handy to have around for any time I start taking myself too seriously.
So turns out, there’s no point worrying when you’re 20 minutes late for an interview. There are bigger fish to fry… and you don’t even know about them yet.