Whenever I speak at the United Nations, UNICEF or elsewhere to raise awareness of the continual and rampant recruitment of children in wars around the world, I come to realize that I still do not fully understand how I could have possibly survived the civil war in my country, Sierra Leone.
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Some people tried to hurt us to protect themselves, their family and communities...This was one of the consequences of civil war. People stopped trusting each other, and every stranger became an enemy. Even people who knew you became extremely careful about how they related or spoke to you.
For many observers, a child who has known nothing but war, a child for whom the Kalashnikov is the only way to make a living and for whom the bush is the most welcoming community, is a child lost forever for peace and development. I contest this view. For the sake of these children, it is essential to prove that another life is possible.
How many more times do we have to come to terms with death before we find safety?" he asked. He waited a few minutes, but the three of us didn't say anything. He continued: "Every time people come at us with the intention of killing us, I close my eyes and wait for death. Even though I am still alive, I feel like each time I accept death, part of me dies. Very soon I will completely die and all that will be left is my empty body walking with you. It will be quieter than I am.
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Every time people come at us with the intention of killing us, I close my eyes and wait for death. Even thought I am still alive, I feel like each time I accept death, part of me dies. Very soon I will completely die and all that will be left is my empty body walking with you. It will be quieter than I am.
I was afraid to fall asleep, but staying awake also brought back painful memories. Memories I sometimes wish I could wash away, even though I am aware that they are an important part of what my life is; who I am now. I stayed up all night, anxiously waiting for daylight, so that I could fully return to my new life, to rediscover happiness I had known as a child, the joy that had stayed alive inside me even through times when being alive itself became a burden. These days I live in three worlds: my dreams, and the experiences of my new life, which trigger memories from the past.
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We must strive to be like the moon.' An old man in Kabati repeated this sentence often... the adage served to remind people to always be on their best behavior and to be good to others. [S]he said that people complain when there is too much sun and it gets unbearably hot, and also when it rains too much or when it is cold. But, no one grumbles when the moon shines. Everyone becomes happy and appreciates the moon in their own special way. Children watch their shadows and play in its light, people gather at the square to tell stories and dance through the night. A lot of happy things happen when the moon shines. These are some of the reasons why we should want to be like the moon.
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One of the unsettling things about my journey, mentally, physically, and emotionally, was that I wasn't sure when or where it was going to end. I didn't know what I was going to do with my life. I felt that I was starting over and over again. I was always on the move, always going somewhere. While we walked, I sometimes lagged behind, thinking about these things. To survive each passing day was my goal in life. At villages where we managed to find some happiness by being treated to food or fresh water, I knew that it was temporary and that we were only passing through. So I couldn't bring myself to be completely happy. It was much easier to be sad than to go back and forth between emotions, and this gave me the determination I needed to keep moving. I was never disappointed, since I always expected the worst to happen. There were nights when I couldn't sleep but stared into the darkest night until my eyes could see clearly through it. I thought about where my family was and whether they were alive.
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On our way back to her house, I didn't look at the city lights any longer. I looked into the sky and felt as if the moon was following us. When I was a child, my grandmother told me that the sky speaks to those who look and listen to it. She said, 'In the sky there are always answers and explanations for everything: every pain, every suffering, joy, and confusion.' That night I wanted the sky to talk to me.
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Some people tried to hurt us to protect themselves, their family and communities... This was one of the consequences of civil war. People stopped trusting each other, and every stranger became an enemy. Even people who knew you became extremely careful about how they related or spoke to you.
Whenever it shows itself - hope, that is - hands from the crowded streets reach for it with such violent urgency because of the fear that they may never see it again. They do so without knowing that their desperation frightens hope away. Hope also doesn't know that it is its scarcity. that causes the crowd to lunge at it, shredding its robe. And as it struggles to escape, the fabric scraps land in the hands of some but last only for hours, a day, days, a week, weeks, depending on how much fabric each hand is able to catch.
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A lot of people, when they say forgive and forget, they think you completely wash your brain out and forget everything. That is not the concept. What I think is you forgive and you forget so you can transform your experiences, not necessarily forget them but transform them, so that they dont haunt you or handicap you or kill you.
I believe in having a more open mind and including others who don't share your faith and having dialogue with them. And just having a pure heart and being a good person can bring you closer to God. Because once you believe in one particular religion fully and not others, that requires you to start disliking people who don't share your views.
I had a very simple, unremarkable and happy life. And I grew up in a very small town. And so my life was made up of, you know, in the morning going to the river to fetch water - no tap water, and no electricity - and, you know, bathing in the river, and then going to school, and playing soccer afterwards.
My mother tongue, Mende, is very expressive, very figurative, and when I write, I always struggle to find the English equivalent of things that I really want to say in Mende. For example, in Mende, you wouldn't say 'night came suddenly'; you would say 'the sky rolled over and changed its sides.'
I was one of those children forced into fighting at the age of 13, in my country Sierra Leone, a war that claimed the lives of my mother, father and two brothers. I know too well the emotional, psychological and physical burden that comes with being exposed to violence as a child or at any age for that matter.
Shakespeare is absolutely big in Africa. I guess he's big everywhere. Growing up, Shakespeare was the thing. You'd learn monologues and you'd recite them. And just like hip-hop, it made you feel like you knew how to speak English really well. You had a mastery of the English language to some extent.
A lot of people, when they say 'forgive and forget,' they think you completely wash your brain out and forget everything. That is not the concept. What I think is you forgive and you forget so you can transform your experiences, not necessarily forget them but transform them, so that they don't haunt you or handicap you or kill you.
I grew up in Sierra Leone, in a small village where as a boy my imagination was sparked by the oral tradition of storytelling. At a very young age I learned the importance of telling stories - I saw that stories are the most potent way of seeing anything we encounter in our lives, and how we can deal with living.
The thing that really gets to me is that countries are in the news only when things get out of hand. That's when it's newsworthy. When the war ends, it's not newsworthy anymore; no one wants to think about it. Actually, the aftermath is the most important part. It's when people have to rebuild.
I guess what I'd like to say is that people in Sierra Leone are human beings, just like Americans. They want to send their kids to school; they want to live in peace; they want to have their basic rights of life just like everyone else. I think we all owe an obligation to support people who want to do that.
After I wrote my memoir, 'A Long Way Gone,' I was a bit exhausted. I didn't want to write another memoir; I felt that it might not be sane for one to speak about himself for many, many, many years in a row. At the same time, I felt the story of 'Radiance of Tomorrow' pulling at me because of the first book.