I'm at my town's junction waiting for a vehicle to take me to Bo, where I can get vehicles to take me further down the way. Today is my lucky day. A government bus pulls up as I am waiting for my car to fill up. Not only is it cheaper and safer, they can take me as far as Freetown so I wont have to transfer cars in Bo. I hop on and take one of the few remaining seats next to a woman and her two small children. The seats on the bus are arranged for maximum capacity so all the rows are extremely close together. Even sitting completely straight, my knees crush into the seat in front of me. For now I can sit with my legs open, until another person takes the seat between us. What initially looked like a blessing, slowly turned into a curse. Usually these buses fill up with passengers all going to Freetown so there isn't much stopping, but for some reason this bus is stopping at almost every town, letting people off and trying to get more passengers. This is going to be a long ride. Oh well I think. I could be alot worse. I move my legs to get comfortable and pray at every stop that no one comes to claim the seat next to me. I politely smile as the toddler next to me, covered in big mole/wart like bumps, drools on my pants and occasionally touches me. I watch as the two of them devour plantain chips and crackers, leaving a powder wasteland of crumbs over everything like a sandstorm in the desert. The mother occasionally whips boob out for the young one and doesn't pay any attention to me. I try not to look startled or get caught observing, as my own culture is not quite so open about nudity.
An hour passes. I arrive in Bo. To my disappointment, a third of the bus gets off, leaving us at the station to wait for it to fill back up. I decide that Ive already paid and that another taxi might take just as long to fill up, so i wait and watch, sweating on the poorly ventilated bus. After a little while there is a commotion outside and most of the remaining people on the bus start to watch. I cant tell whats going on but it appears to be some kind of argument. Its hard for me to tell sometimes thought because even normal conversations here are usually done at yelling volume. Outsiders coming here to visit might get the impression that everyone is fighting and arguing but in reality the culture here just really likes to talk loudly. Yelling you might even say. So the commotion outside starts to look more happy so I'm confused. I watch as women hold up a lappa at the entrance of a small "bar", not allowing people to go inside. I think to myself, maybe there is a club meeting, or maybe they are dispersing food, or maybe holding a thief, or maybe someone fainted. My minds spins. I lean across the walkway and ask a young man that seems to speak good English. I ask. He tells.
A woman on the bus was pregnant traveling to Freetown. She is giving birth! It seems that there is a blessing inside this curse disguised as a blessing. I now can put together what I am seeing as all the women crowded around look happy, hopeful, and excited. Birth here is highly regarded. As a woman its one of the greatest achievements you can hope for her. All the young girls already have the number of children they want to have and can probably successfully raise a child as soon as they are able to reproduce. Finally the bus is full again. It takes a few minutes for people to all find seats and then it seems we are waiting for the woman and her newborn. She can possibly get back on the bus I think to myself. I watch as one of the ladies that helped deliver, supposedly a nurse, brings a tiny bundle on board and holds it up. Smiles and cheers. I feel like baby Simba is being displayed over the valley. Eventually the mother slowly gets back on the bus and is given the front seat, where upon she is handed her new baby. Off we go. I cant believe this woman was traveling in labor, hopped off and pushed out a baby, only to get back on the bus and continue her 4+ hours on to Freetown. No pain meds, no doctors. Only cold concrete floor and a bunch of women immersed in a world of giving birth. I sit back, tilt my body to the aisle at a weird angle to allow my legs space, and ponder on the wonders of the world.