On my 30th birthday, he picked Liz and me up in his Benz and drove us all over the district to drink beers with various stakeholders. He was running for a seat in parliament, and while it never hurts to have some white folks on your team in Salone, I’m pretty sure he just wanted to get us hammered and drive us around his country. Per usual, we ended the day at his house and ate with the family.
Fallah Koroma was one of my first friends in Sierra Leone, and over two years became one of my closest as well. Pa Fallah was what Sierra Leoneans call a big man. He was wealthy and lived in the big city, but got back to his roots as often as possible. He would never tell me beforehand that he was coming to visit- I would know from the sound of his incessant honking in front of my house. You could feel the desperation in his horn as it said, “Get your ass out here, I’m parched.” We would drive to the creek just outside the village, put on Congolese jams from the 60’s, rip our shirts off, and drink Guinness by the waterside until we didn’t have any more. Then we would send a kid for more Guinness.
He never missed a funeral. Or a wedding for that matter. The man never missed a party is what it comes down to. All kidding aside, when my mom and Denny came to visit, he went so far above and beyond the call of duty it was ridiculous. He brought gifts, food, and gave us a ride to the capital when they were leaving. He was always there. Always.
He had a kind, beautiful wife, and declared himself to be in an open relationship on Facebook. What a great concept for the men of Salone. Thank you for your honesty, Sir. He helped me navigate a culture that was so foreign to me, and I can think of many, many times when I sought his advice and council. He was a voice of calm, measured reason, and usually said, “Don’t do anything yet, just wait and see.” This was not a recommendation to sit idly by, but instead to gather as much information as possible before acting.
It goes without saying that with death comes an onslaught of reflection on what was, and what might have been. I should have written this while he was alive to read it. He would have loved it. And I should have called him more often. He always loved it. It’s a sad reminder, but an important one, to thank those who do good by us. Pa Fallah redefined for me what it means to be hospitable. His loyalty and kindness to strangers are deeply instilled values that I strive to be half as good at. But more than anything, he reminds me that while acts of kindness and generosity are incredibly meaningful, just showing up is what counts. It’s what people remember. It’s what I will always remember.
Rest in Peace, Pa Fallah. Wi go si bak.