Leading Ideas speaker Jayme Doll is an anchor and reporter for Global Calgary who has worked extensively in Africa as a reporter, mentor, and volunteer. A year ago she was in Sierra Leone in partnership with Journalists for Human Rights, and her interactive talk covers many of the stories she brought back from Africa. We asked her to share one of those stories with us.
It was always part of my plan to interview a so called “witch doctor,” but our actual meeting was by mistake, or perhaps an act of voodoo. The day broke like many mornings in Freetown. Dawn arrived with a chorus of rusty-throated roosters and a crush of traffic made up of cars that would never be allowed on the roads in Canada. We were off to a village about four hours away to do a story on mining. Our driver, a disgruntled local journalist who had just been shown the door, pulled up in a ’90s SUV with a crucifix swinging from the rear-view mirror. He already had beads of sweat pouring down his face and a deep line between his brow, and it was barely 9 a.m.
Tommy, my partner in life and out in the field on this particular trip, piled in the camera equipment and away we went. It’s impossible to stick to a timeline in Sierra Leone. Everything moves at a tortoise pace and patience is a great asset. So after driving an hour on a winding polluted road only to reach a dead end, you just have to sit back and move to plan B. It was at that moment, turning on a tight curve, that we blew a tire. I found myself sitting on an upside down pail while Tommy and the fired journalist / driver changed the tire, the relentless sun pounding down on their soaked backs. An elderly Muslim man with no teeth sat next to me and offered me a bite of his bread. “No luck today,” I sighed. He gave me a gummy grin. “No such thing as luck, only God.” I climbed back into the dusty car. The spare was bald and mounted on a rusty bent rim, but it had air!
We picked up another tire from a heap being sold along the road and decided to get it mounted in the next town. Running four hours behind schedule on a worn out spare, we screeched into a repair shop. A small man with giant shiny muscles used an old axel shaft to pound the shredded rubber away from the rim, an exhausting routine that lasted an hour. When the “new” tire was finally mounted, there was just one more test: make sure it didn’t leak. It did.