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Survived the Journey… Memuna Barnes

You all know me by now. I will do a review only after I have read the book. When the author of this book invited me to review her book, I blithely wrote back my usual style. I need to know what I am reviewing. Right? I got the book , then saw the number of pages and I desperately wondered I didn’t just allow myself to be guided by the first offer and stay close to what amazon.com had to say. But I knew one review can be different from the other and I had no choice. When I started reading however, I became very alarmed and uncomfortable. I was worried, angry at different times and unfortunately I took the story into my dreams as I became a captive of Memuna Barnes.
I was saddened at the waste of adolescent dreams, the eagerness of young souls trampled underneath by our base emotions. The innocence of Memuna and her fellow victims, hope killed by the bullet into the brains of Fuck-care. Those names , how-are-you, Pustine, C.O Base and a host of others. It was painful to read how Memuna overcame her first horror at brutality to her resigned acceptance of it. She never came to terms with it and she mirrored to us how the older generation had failed them.IMG_1708
Survived the Journey is the journey of an innocent, fresh- faced, pert and saucy teenage girl, forced to grow up fast and eventually traumatized by the sheer cussedness of humanity where dreams die first.. She could easily have used that as the title of her book except for this detail, Memuna Barnes is a first rate survivor, who had the grace to be stubborn, a determination to hang on to her virginity, that determined her dreams.
Memuna survived the darkened dawn so she could take her place in the sun. Read her story and be inspired. I read and then I had these questions.
Congratulations on your book but we will love you to answer a few questions IMG_2461
1. Please tell us a bit about yourself
A) I am Memuna Barnes in my 30s, one of nine children. I was born in Liberia to a Sierra Leonean father and a Liberian mother. I came to New Zealand in 2000 as part of the United Nations Refugee Resettlement Program with my father and younger sister Mamawa.
2. You started your story straight away about the capture and your family remained most times in the shadows. Tell us a bit more about your parents.
A) Growing up both of my parents were in the workforce. My mother was a secretary at a printing company and my father a manager at Telema Fishing Company – Liberia’s second largest fishing company. At the time my sister We’re the two kids who lived with them in Liberia. We were well provided for and if
there ever were hard times before the war…..my mother made sure my sister and I didn’t know about it. Mama was a mother who lived for her children. Very hands – On. She never missed our school programs although Mamawa and I didn’t attend the same school. Mama would pick up the child who did not have a program
first and rush off to the school of the other child and make sure that child knew she was in the crowd watching. I was always involved in plays or speeches at mine and She would run to get Mamawa after work and rush to my school. She was always there in time to give me that last minute cheer, kiss and hug to assure me she was watching and enjoying every second. Which for me, was all that mattered. I was a well catered for child as far as I know. Our father worked most of the time and we only really got to see him at weekends. My parents paid for everything we wanted.
3. What led to the RUF over running your part of the country?
A) The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) walked into Sierra Leone from Liberia via the border and started what they dubbed “First Battalion” in Pujehun District by capturing and recruiting young boys and girls into their rebel force. Soon after they took Kailahun District which was dubbed “Second Battalion” giving them access to diamond mines which were used as currency for ammunition. So those two southern districts became rebels stronghold.
4.At the end of your journey, did you meet up with Hassan ?
A) I could have met up with Hassan as I mentioned towards the end of the book when I bumped into How-are-you in the market. However, I was afraid he would find me and take me again. So no I didn’t.
5.Did you discover any further news about Base and Pustine?
A) I know nothing more about Base. I could find out about Pustine if I asked a few people but I have not tried to.

6.You had quite a violent eighteen months as a captive, has it anyway affected your perception of war, politics and your old country.
A) My experience has indeed affected me a great deal. First, before this I had no reason to think about war and I would forget really quickly soon after watching a war movie as a child. I remember owning a toy pistol myself once. However, after
experiencing two civil wars in a space of a decade, I think it is a pointless waste of lives, resources, infrastructure and a heinous offence to humanity. Why not just sit and talk about issue? Why not negotiate and bargain ( this is what would have to happen in the end anyway) and think about the citizens and the generations to
come? I think our leaders should picture themselves as parents when they are voted into power. They are voted out of trust and respect should always consider the people who give them power and use that power for the people rather than against them. Create opportunities in form of jobs, utilize national resources and subsidize the healthcare and education system of their respective countries.
Liberia and Sierra Leone need to stand up and value their people especially when there are so many emotionally destroyed individuals running around aimlessly. You cannot love your country if you have no respect for human rights. The aftermath of war, I think is almost as bad as the war itself. The country is left with traumatized individuals who are so confused and still scared: for those who participated in the massacre – they live with the guilt (if capable of remorse) over the lives they took, unable to fit in a functional society ( for people like Hassan, Base, CO. Gbembo) where instead of people answering to them they now have to learn
how to have bosses and a job, some live in fear of retribution.
For those of us who witnessed the horror we live with recurring nightmares and sorrow over our loss and we want answers but no one can offer them. For me carrying on is something that just happens because I am alive but still sometimes feel stuck. These memories can be triggered by the simplest event. I think about the day we left Monrovia almost everyday as I go past the dock and see cruise ships. Watching contemporary war movies or the sound of a car backfire gives me nightmares of the war.
Then all the dead bodies that are left in the forests where bombs have been thrown at people… get washed off into waterways and pollute the environment and lead to the spread of diseases.
7.In the book, there seemed to have been a breakdown of all forms of morality and ethics, what would be your understanding of this on the younger generation particularly the child soldiers
A) Living in war where there is no one to judge or guide one apart from God in Heaven (and that is if you grew up being taught of a higher power) shows you what humans are capable of given the opportunity.
Younger children, first of all in a normal situation must always be watched and led on the right path in life as we all come into this world knowing nothing more than our basic motor skills. Then a young child who is already confused by adolescence is taken from his or her family and forced to shed blood and is conditioned to think that these atrocities are the way of life can only lead to a generation of damaged men and women who will then go on to raise another angry and confused generation if care is not taken and something is done to rehabilitate and integrate those were involved into a functional society.
8.Hassan seemed to have been portrayed as a villain but as I read further I find you trusted him more and I wonder if you hoped he would get some type of counseling too.
A) I hope Hassan would receive counselling and rehabilitation. So many innocent youths were forced into those wars. Of course there were some who were just downright terrible human beings like those hard core criminals who were released from prisons in every town the rebels took over. Now that these men and women have been disarmed….what now?
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9.With the benefit of hindsight, what would you have done differently?

A) After asking myself this question so many times over the years I cannot think of much I could have done. Apart from pleading with my mother not to travel that day, that was the last time my sister Mamawa and I saw her alive.
10.Is your book going to be available in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and would it be effective in helping to heal and reconcile the victims of this war?
A) This is my prayer that this book does great things for my countries, continent and
the world. I hope I can get SURVIVED:The Journey into both Liberia and Sierra Leone and that it is perceived and accepted it as a healing tool, that my story encourages talk about theirs and that the government in these countries do something to properly integrate these former rebels into society and heal the countries, I hope it is perceived as a history lesson, as well as a possible guide to how matters could be handled for the sake of the innocent civilians.
11. Please let us know, in what ways this recollections has affected you and what advice you might give young persons who may have been affected by the book
A) Reliving my experience in order for me to write my book has helped me accept that sometimes in life things beyond our control happen to us and we can never get answers to the question we need answered in order for us to move on. And that
sometimes being alive and healthy is all you need to ask God to give you courage to summon the strength to see his grace in your life. My questions were: Why? Who gave these people the right to invade my life, disrupt my home, and tear me away from my mother? Who said it was ok to snatch my innocence away? What makes them so worthy? God where were you, Why were you so angry to let it happen?
To every young boy or girl who reads my book, be courageous, stand for your truth and be yourself. No bad situation lasts forever. Have a lot of compassion for yourself and your peers.
Every new day is a promise.

12.What group of people will you recommend to read your book?
I believe that this is a good read for people of ages 15 and up. There is a lesson in it for everyone. Our politicians too could learn a thing or two.
13.Please give us links to anyone interested in buying the book.
SURVIVED: The Journey can be purchased at http://www.survivedthejourney.com or amazon.com or http://amzn.com/0473246244
For comments and discussions after you have read please find me at amazon.com/author/survivedthejourney.com Also at https://www.goodreads.com/httpwwwsurvivedthejourneycom

Money, Muscle and Common Sense

I used to wonder about the civilized world. Wondering bemused into a virtual world and you wonder at the value system. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of what I have seen. You know there are times when you suspect that your uncomprehending look at some of the things could be the reason you wonder if you would ever get the hang of the civilized world.
They saved us from ourselves and showed us how to help each other yes? Okay, I could buy into that, but I am completely puzzled by our greed for the trivial, the mundane. It is like this, for quite a while I read and watched the hype to the fight of the century as it was dubbed between Floyd Mayweather and The Filipino congressman, Manny. Can’t get the spelling right, so I don’t want to disrespect him. Manny caught my interest because I saw him as a man using his fists to help his people. Floyd on the other hand leaves me worried.
There is hype about how Floyd uses his money to help his friends and I hope complete strangers. The world however seemed to have received two riddles at the same time. Like in those Greek times, humanity was asked a question and I am not sure we heard the question let alone if we took time to answer it well.
At about the same time, Nature struck and slapped an Earthquake on us via Nepal. I watched fairly numbed as the death toll escalated and then as some kind of comedy relief, the supposed fight of the century. Floyd made another hundred million dollars and would probably pick up another rolls Royce, or whatever other toy. Those in his magic circle would probably get something too. A four month old baby survived the earthquake but would take his chances with the health and living standards of Nepal, it is not really Floyd’s problem. Heck he earned his dollars trying to bash Manny’s common sense out of him. These two gentlemen were egged on by others who paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to watch the supposed gentlemen beat sense out of each other.
I have never understood the rationale for justified violence. I never did comprehend the sport of wrestling and boxing and have always wondered at its rationale. Okay, we have African wrestling but my confusion is still the same. Why don’t we have a sport that help a fellow human being? Sometimes in our dim past, we took interest in helping each other.
There is a saying by our elders in my corner of the world, and it states very simply, that for as long as there is a poor unfortunate person in your family, the rich man can never lay claim to being truly rich, for he is the sore finger in your hand. One sore finger is the discomfort that keeps you awake.
By the same token, for as long as there is a desperate country in the world, the rich countries and their economy stand threatened. Human beings exist on the understanding of the fundamental rights and would therefore not heed imaginary boundaries and seek haven anywhere they can find it. That is why Italy and Europe is swamped by boatloads of desperation on daily basis. They drown, get sick, get shot but the tiny sliver of hope that they may survive, keeps them trying.
Maybe it is time, the rich nations start looking at that, hope. Every human being was born screaming for his own share of oxygen to stay alive, his own space, his own sun, and is programmed to search for the rationale of his existence, pushed to fulfill his definition of himself. Failure is a smell he does not want around him. No man known in history has ever had life mission to fail. Not the four month old baby pulled from the rubble of Nepal. Interestingly, the 101 year old man who made it out of that rubble was glad to be alive. He would like to stay alive as long as he can.
What is my point in all this?, just hoping somewhere that Floyd might postpone another Rolls Royce, and give a thought to that four month old baby. The cost of one RR, could change several lives. Might give a rationale to the official fisticuffs he enjoys.
Money and muscle should be balanced by common sense and a common understanding that we all are connected one way or the other.

Dream Murder

He did not want to go home. He stared at the table in front of him as the shadows gathered, the hustle of the city slowing down as the night hawkers set up. He sat there as the sounds around him changed in tones and volumes. Why bother to go home he asked himself, should he maybe go to the police?, and tell them what? He shuddered and slouched deeper into his chair. At least he should make some attempt to put on the light. He could always go see the pastor, he told himself, or well one of these miracle churches where they would promise him release… from? his wife?

No pastor it is not about divorce. She is giving me everything I ask for. Good food every time I ask for it . Right figure, you know the type of figure that seemed to have- no don’t even think about it.

His skin crawled and he knew he was afraid. Should he tell his mum? ‘I told you she was the wrong color, didn’t I?’ , his mother would scream at him and then suggest they go ask the ancient one, or she would suggest a village wife as antidote.
What would he tell the police? They had seen worse maybe. So his story wouldn’t be anything new— except maybe raise a laugh.

Was he really frightened? He really didn’t believe that, did he? But then, did he dare to say it to her. He also felt jealous. She had described the affair so well that he was not so sure he should not actually head for the divorce courts. He should give Ade a call. He imagined Ade’s smile and he cringed, for he also remembered that his friend had been skeptical when he had come in excited that he was going to marry Kike.

He tried to remember that party Kike told him about. She had acted like a normal lady. You know quiet, respectable, married lady. As always, she had not said much either, just kept to her corner and stayed close to him. What was the conversation at that party? Not much-er, okay, yes, he remembered. Jide had come over. Did he notice anything in the handshake he gave his wife? Jide, bland Jide, who they all teased because he never seemed interested in women. He looked and acted as if he was happily married.
Jide wasn’t his particular friend so he never really could say much about him.
It was always the odd hello and sometimes they politely asked after each other’s spouses. He tried to remember if he had ever introduced his wife or if the pair exchanged pleasantries. Kike always seemed to have a frown on her face anyway.
He had no way of knowing the man had the hots for his wife. Thinking of him as his wife’s dream lover sent cold chills down his spine…the thought nagged at him…, her dream lover? I’m going crazy. But what the hell was the man doing in the dreams of his my wife?

That is right, he mocked himself. Was he to report to the police that his wife was having an affair with a man in her dreams?

He was not going to give the same reason to Ade, that he wanted to divorce his wife because she had a lover in her dreams and had been dumb enough to tell him.
He shifted in the chair, knowing he was afraid to admit to what had frightened him was not the explicit love making she had described but what had happened. It was not the dream lover but his wife. He was afraid to go home because his wife. He searched in the drawer for the bottle of whisky and took a shot. He did not feel better. You know give a man a knock on his head and the man wakes up with a headache, or carry out a threat to stick a knife up his entrails and the fellow winds up dead the next morning. What happens if I dream of her or she comes to me too in a dream? He shuddered. I mean if I am going to die I had better do it as a man. Had she marked him too? How do you pacify a witch? He heard that such people do not like eating bitter meat and he shuddered.
Am I married to a witch? Go home to your loving wife he told himself and the phone rang with the special ringtone he had allocated to his wife. He jerked as if he had been stung and stared at the phone not answering.

“I hit him in the head with a stick and he called me the next day to say he had a headache. Why is he having the same dream as me, and why is he having a headache when I only hit him in the dream?” his wife wailed plaintively

He had stared at her as she asked that question, her eyes wide and worried, tears filling them as she gave the final sequel to the story. He could not ask her if she had enjoyed the lovemaking in the dream, or if Jide was better than him. He swore at himself in self pity.

“I warned him not to bother me again because next time I wouldn’t just hit him with a stick I would come with a knife and stick it up and kill him,’ were her final words and he remembered how he had backed away. His tentative phone call to Jide, how his throat went dry when it was picked up by a stranger who said Jide was found dead on his bed with blood on his lips. He came to work in a daze.

The phone rang again, it was his wife calling, the janitor knocked on the door as he crashed to the floor.

GROWLING JANUARY

GROWLING JANUARY
The year woke up bleary eyed and growled at a few of my friends. First hint I had of its bad temper was when I was informed a great friend of mine had bit the dirt. A heart attack had taken him to the great beyond. I blinked and desperately held on to my pain as I tried to accept that I was never going to see his green light blinking any time I came online. Skip Slocum was one that was not going to make suggestions, critique, and suggest to me on storylines anymore. I felt cold and stared accusingly at the computer daring it to tell me it had no hand in what had happened to Skip. When Lisa sent me email asking if I was aware that Skip had passed, my heart felt the blows again. It was the silliest reason to be angry and I glared at the computer.
It did not help that I had told myself I was going to be more at the darn computer this year. I had just taken on a job to teach a couple of young persons about the dangerously addictive job of being a scriptwriter. I had even shared that excitement with Skip and now the joke was on me. It was going to be lonelier, typing and sharing with just me I thought and mercifully remembered that there was Lisa the third leg of the triangle that made up what we fondly called the chord.
We were officially supposed to critique each other’s writings, share our dreams and sometimes we became impossible and teased each other endlessly. The very special moments we shared online became almost real to me. Skip and Lisa became real people to me. I had dreams of flying the pair and their spouses over to Africa to enjoy the sun and coconuts. For some reason, we seemed to think Skip would love coconuts, we promised to dress Skip and Bunny (that is what he called his wife) in proper African gear. I said I was going to feed them on my local cuisine and …bleh.. we were going to beat drums… the dream was a dream we knew it but we had fun. The agony now is knowing Skip was not going to be around , not even online. Erg.
I sighed and tried to see from swollen eyes if I could stick my tongue at the year and get on with my life, but then the news came that a colleague of mine in the broadcasting world had decided to pick up a celestial microphone. Apparently he had a more lucrative offer to do celestial programmes so he left. I scratched my head wondering what he thought he was thinking leaving me behind. Darn he was in his early fifties. I am exactly a decade older. Suddenly I watched each sunset with dread, wondering what the darkness had on its wings and felt a shamed relief each time the tiny fingers of the sun prodded my eyelids to a new day. My mouth formed a grateful thanks and I feverishly longed that by some miracle the day might just be made into thirty six hours. There was so much I still wanted to do.
Was I too late? Had the dream tarried? Would I make the miles of dreams I had drawn before I meet up with the old man with his scythe? I did not like the questions, couldn’t one just know what time was left? When should I retire? Was I being morbid? I squirmed at the realization that I loved being alive. Phew!. Did I just use the word love in the past tense? What if the gods are listening? They don’t like being taunted and wel, I breathed a sigh of relief, the gods don’t speak English anyway I said and turned the computer on. Darn, I was going to write I told myself firmly, then I decided to visit MWC, short for My Writers Circle, did some tentative posting and smiled, the day promised sunshine and I relaxed. Sango who was stretched out on the mat with his axe was kicked awake by the growl of the skies. He looked up and gave me a wink, I frowned and my phone indicated I had a text message. I lazily reached out for it and sat bolt upright.
Yeah, you guessed it, another friend had just departed. Much younger, my television producer with whom I had produced quite a lot of television enter-educate dramas. He was of the rare breed of producer/actor with loads of talent that seemed to hold him suspended between bliss and agony. He had opted out of earthly productions too.
We are still in January and suddenly I am wondering why January seemed to be growling so badly. The rains came early and sniffed at the sun too. The leaking roof is not helping my temper either. What do you think I should do?

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