Poda Poda and the people of Sierra Leone
Poda poda is a private mini bus which serves as one of the main form of transportation in Sierra Leone. Allover Sub Saharan Africa, mini buses have different names such as Matatu in Kenya, Danfor in Nigeria, Tro-tro in Ghana and poda poda in Sierra Leone. We can see that poda poda is a very popular and common form of transportation for people in Sierra Leone as the writer mentions poda poda several times throughout the story. For example, Kai and Abass have a conversation about how poda poda got crashed on the road and Abduli says he got money from Mr. Salia for poda poda(275). Poda poda is also a place where Naasu told her story about living in camps after the civil war (311). Physically, people are mingled together in poda poda but mentally, poda poda is a comfortable and familiar environrment for Sierra Leonese to meet people and to share stories with one another.
Poda poda is significant in two ways. First, poda poda provides a form of transportation. Some people might dismiss its importance however, poda poda is very significant in the life of Sierra Leone when government cannot provide public transportation system, and people rely on poda poda to continue with their daily lives. Poda poda is not a public transportation but yet it acts like one because many countries either do not have a public transportation or it only runs for limited amount of time in limited areas. Especially when the country is having a civil war or is broke so she cannot afford to manage public services, poda poda, as a privatebusiness, fill in that space for the absence of transportation system, and enable people to move around.
One of the popular stop for poda poda is Campbell Street in the centre of Freetown where vehicles passes by one another with different messages on them. And this is why poda poda is significant in Sierra Leone. Poda poda serves as an icon of cultural in Sierra Leone. Outside of poda poda, drivers put religious statements like “God is great”, “Allah is great”. One poda poda driver, Alieu Sesay said “I believe in Allah and he will protect me and my poda poda. I will make good business.” When Susan Cole was asked a question if a message on poda poda influence her decision to go inside the vehicle she said “I notice the message but I would not choose to go inside the car, if I didn’t agree with the message. I am Christian and I just got out of that taxi that says ‘Allah is great’. It doesn’t make a difference to me. There is only one God and we are all Sierra Leoneans.” The atmosphere where people freely express their religious belief in a country with two distinctively different main religions, Muslim and Christianity, suggests that Sierra Leone have religious tolerance. Not all commentaries on Poda podas are religious. There are social saying like “Fear judgment day” and “Respect the Police” in front of the bus which reflects driver’s personal believing. Poda poda also mirrors the popular culture in Sierra Leone. Some drivers play their traditional music and others play American or British song in their car. This suggests that Sierra Leone is also affected by globalization and have brought in western culture. Poda poda creates a space where people can exchange their lives, information on pop cultures and opinions. It is a source of very much down to earth information of Sierra Leone’s culture.
In the book, The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna, the speaker uses poda poda to describe the scene of Sierra Leonese’s everyday life. Even though she did not explicitly describe the importance to poda poda, by bring in poda poda into the picture shows how poda podas are deeply embedded in the life of Sierra Leones.