- Posted October 15, 2012 by
Poda Poda Connection
Poda-Podas or minivans are the major form of transportation in Freetown, Sierra Leone. They travel from one end of the city to another, unlike taxis or Okada (taxi bikes), which usually make segmented stops.
The poda-podas are often overloaded and jammed with human beings, and many of the drivers are not very obedient to road safety rules, which make some people rather afraid of taking them. But for the average Sierra Leonean, poda-podas-as rickety and raucous as they sometimes are-are often the only way of getting from one direction to another.
The interesting aspect of the poda-podas for me is mostly on the outside. One could not only understand the individual struggles of the poda-poda drivers, but also the general state of the country by simply reading the messages on the body of the poda-podas as they journey East, West, North, and South of Freetown.
Poda-podas are a source of income for both the drivers and the owners of the vehicles. Grateful drivers manifest their gratitude to God or the owners; disgruntled activists condemn the government on their vehicles or offer phrases of protest; religious drivers often write Bible or Koranic verses; neighbour disputes sometimes make appearances, too. And because the roads are terrible, one often sees admonitions to other drivers to ‘go slow,’ ‘patience,’ or ‘God’s blessings.’ And then there are those who simply preach “one love.”
My favourites have always been the phrases of encouragement to other Sierra Leoneans in a country that is still trying to recover from a decade of civil war. “Be courageous” and “Never discourage” were some of the ones that caught my attention.