16 years.

Yes 16 years. Not one, not two, not even 12, but 16 years. That’s how long I had been away from the place I refer to as home.

I moved to England at the tender age of 12 years old. I had always been a bubbly child and I remember saying to my family on the day I departed Sierra Leone the first time was

See you in 2020

It was a joke. Or so I had thought. Fast forward to 2017, that phrase replayed in my head over and over as I was getting ready to go back home for the first time… talk about (almost) speaking it into existence.

Upon returning home, the first thing that struck me was that my memory of Sierra Leone had been so warped, and it made sense, I was a child whose parents were living abroad so my reality would’ve been very different to that of the average child.

Everything seemed smaller. In conversation with one of my rediscovered friends, I swore that the roads had gotten smaller than what I had remembered and he reassured me that that is definitely not the case. Being back home for the first time, really opened my eyes and mind to the reality of life in the place I will always consider home. I had heard many complaints about the hardship of just living, but as I had never experienced it myself, or see it through matured eyes, I had always find it difficult to empathise.

In hindsight, I found myself slightly disgruntled with myself that it has taken me so long to finally go back home but a part of me also considered that big gap a blessing. Being able to witness for the first time, my Sierra Leone, through the matured eyes of an adult, with my last reference point being through the sheltered eyes of a child, has really given me a boost into constantly thinking

What can I, as an individual, do to improve the lives of my people, the lives of my old friends, and certainly the life I would’ve been living were it not for my parents and their overseas dreams?

As a writer and filmmaker, I felt compelled to document my first time back in the best way I knew how to, so I wrote and filmed a poem about it.

Written by Abu B. Yillah

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