Meeting an author and former child soldier
On Tuesday, the 16th September, the advanced English course and Mrs. Gruhle went to the international literary festival to listen to a reading with Ishmael Beah.
After the inspiring and interesting reading with Ishmael Beah, which was followed by questions by the moderator Toby Ashraf and the audience, everyone had the opportunity to buy the book ’A Long Way Gone’ and also to let him sign it. Merle and I started to interview him after the other people left. One of our first questions was about his current situation and what his life is like nowadays. He answered, that he was happy with his wife and his 7 month-old daughter.We asked him about characters we knew through reading parts of the book and what happened to them. Mohammed is living in Australia now. They met a few years earlier in Germany. His uncle and aunt died. However, his cousins are still living in Sierra Leone, they have their own families now. He visits them every now and then. Through publishing his book he managed to find Esther as well as a boy he knew from the rehabilitation center. About his time in highschool, he mentioned, that it was not easy to make friends but when he did, he never told them that he was a boy soldier. At university he found it easier to make friends. He joined the football team – he was very good – and so he met many new people. Now, other students of our course had the opportunity to ask questions. We got to know that Ishmael Beah is a Muslim and he survived the war partly because of his trust in god. He is still interested in rap music but does not really like the current rap, more the music of the 80s and 90s because of the topic choice and use of language. Sometimes he freestyles but as he said, just for fun. The first thing that most of the people probably noticed was that Ishmael Beah was smiling almost the whole time. In my opinion it was not fake. Through his talk with Toby Ashraf he explained why. Nothing is as bad as the war and this is the reason why he has this positive attitude.In conclusion the trip to the literary festival was a very useful and interesting experience. I think it motivated everyone to think about things just like that.
Ishmael Beah is a kind and cheerful man as well as he is sincere and truly honest. I got this impression as I interviewed him on September 16th after his reading at the “Haus der Berliner Festspiele”. He would not refuse to answer either very personal questions about his past as a boy soldier, or about his current life.
Excited, and proud, he talks about his seven-month old daughter and his wife, who, he says knows more about him than anyone else. Repeatedly he describes his life now as amazing and beyond his imagination. Because in his past as a soldier he could not plan or imagine a future. In his long process of recovering he had to learn again how to live and not only survive. One of his biggest steps to recover from his past was to write his book “A Long Way Gone”, which he actually did not intend to publish. But before that he pretty much built himself a new life, when he escaped to NYC in 1998. There he lived with the people that became his new family. Furthermore he went to school again. But because he had not been to school in a long time and this was a new culture, he was struggling to make friends. Back then it was very hard for Beah to tell people about his past. But even if his life is now in the US, Sierra Leone is still his home. It is the place where his soul comes to rest, as he tells us. Moreover Beah was able to tell us what happened to Mohamed, Esther and his family, who he had to leave in Sierra Leone because it was just not possible to take them with him. Mohamed managed to get out of the country as well and now lives in Australia. Esther and her family live in Canada. His cousins and family still live in Sierra Leone and he visits them and his home regularly. Beah in spite of, or maybe because of, his terrible experiences appreciates life and everything he has more than many people. Furthermore he believes in god and that god is the good grasp in humanity.
Seeing him answering all these questions so honest readily and with a smile makes it hard to think of him as a former boy soldier. Meeting and interviewing Ishmael Beah definitely was a great chance.