The previous evening, one of our wider team of workers, Momoh, had popped up on our veranda to greet us. Momoh was the primary field coordinator on the Sierra Leone side of the boundary and spent much of his time living in the village. He had already briefed the chief on our intentions and that we had arrived in Fintonia, and had set up a formal meeting for first thing in the morning.
Momoh turned up at the house just as Gray was leaving for the park. He also introduced us to three people who we were going to train. One, Demba, was tall and lanky and very outgoing. The second Alusine, was not quite as tall and relatively relaxed, the third, Karim, was slightly older and much more serious. We shook hands and we exchanged talk of how excited we were to be here, how grateful we were for their time, and they said how much they wanted to learn. The usual pleasantries at the beginning of one of these exercises. Kofi and I collected the maps we wanted to use and our equipment and followed Momoh and the three guys to the other side of the village. We did not take the road; there was no need and since it zigzags through the village, it was much easier to head through the back of our plot, past a large store house and down through the backs of some more houses to where the paramount chief’s house was on a main street corner.
At first sight the house looked little different from many of the others in the village; it was relatively large, but was most noted for having a long open room, less a veranda, where the chief held his most important meetings. There was only room here under the shade for about twenty people, and if more attended they peered in from all the open spaces or listened from the shade of a tree nearby. I knew this from past experience. When we had travelled here the previous July with the whole team, we had a big meeting here and it had been a village wide event.