A Long Way Gone

What is the name of Ishmael's village?


To what village do the four boys travel for the talent show>

Mattru Jong

Describe the scene from Ishmael's eyes as he tries to return to the village. List at least three disasters he witnesses.

VW van with murdered family and man was sick. A man carrying his dead son promising to save him. A mother whose baby was dead and too sad to cry, she just rocked the baby.

What was Ishmael fascinated with and was advised to "strive" like?

The moon.

What 3 worlds did Ishmael live in during these times?

My dreams, new life, memories.

What does RUF stand for? Who were these people?

Revolutionary united front - rebels who pretended to want to help the people but mutilated and killed instead.

What did they do to new recruits to prove that they belonged to the RUF?

Branded and/or cut RUF on the new recruits' bodies.

How did the rebels attack Mattru Jong?

They announced they wanted a welcome but did not arrive on that date the town relaxed and when they weren't expecting it they attacked.

How did Ishmael and his friends escape from the ambush on Mattru Jong?

They crossed a swamp. They ran through woods and were shot at with AK-47s, RPBs, and chased. They reached the end of the clearing and realized they had escaped, after an hour of running.

How many, including Ishmael, escaped the attack on their village?

Six: Junior, Talloi, Ishmael, Gibrella, Khalilous, Koloka

Why did the boys have to try and return to Mattru Jong?

There was no food and they had money hidden in Mattru Jong and possibly food was there.

Describe the gruesome sight that made Ishmael vomit?

Seeing a few men's legs, arms, and genitals cut off and in a pile by their bodies. The old man dead in chair on verandah.

What was more important than the rise that Ishmael found under the bed?

The money. The rise was too heavy and would weigh them down.

Why were the boys not able to buy food at nearby villages?

The vendors has stopped cooking and either left or saved food for harder times.

According to Ishmael, what was a "typical aspect of being in the war?

There was no one to blame. They were experiencing something new and needed to apply survival tactics.

How does Ishmael describe the hunger he feels?

It hurt to drink water. It felt like something was eating the insides of our stomachs.

Why was Ishmael appalled at the way the rebels were treating the elderly man?

It was against their culture. Good behavior was expeted, respect to elders was demanded.

Why did the rebels laugh at the old man after the shots were fired?

The rebels pretended to shoot the man. He was shot near, not at. So he lived but he expected to be dead.

How did Ishmael and his five friends escape? What distracted the rebels just as they were about to kill the six boys?

They were able to escape from rebels because the rebels were shot at and it distracted them from the boys.

Why were people terrified of young boys Ishmael's age?

They resembled the rebels who caused so much death and destruction.

According to Ishmael, what was a "consequence of the civil war" and the way people related to each other?

People stopped trusting each other. Strangers became enemies and people you knew are more cautious.

How did the rap cassettes save the boys' lives at one of the villages.

Their rap shows made people know them. The young boy from Mattru Jong recognized them.

Where were the six boys appointed watchmen in exchange for food and shelter?

Kamator - where his aunt was supposed to be.

Does the village get attacked? Do the boys get separated? Who does Ishmael lose at that point?

The village was attacked. They are separated and it is the last time he sees Junior.

Ishmael describes the prayer of the Imam. What religion are they practicing?

Muslim: mosque. Sura - chapters of Qur'an. Imam - Islamic preacher.

Why did Ishmael decide to leave the safety of the swamp?

He became frustrated with living in fear. He hated waiting for death.

How long was Ishmael on the path before he found others?

On the sixth day.

Why didn't the family help Ishmael get to the sea?

They were afraid of him.

When Ishmael walked for three days, what did he finally find to eat?

Strange, unfamiliar fruit shaped like lemon.

Describe the memory Ishmael has of his brother Junior in Kabati. What was the name of the magic potion? What was its power.

He remembered walking with grandfather looking at medicinal leaves and bark and coffee garms. Special needs helped retain knowledge - Nessie (water from potions washed off slate)

According to Ishmael, what is the worst thing about loneliness?

You think too much - there isn't much more you can do.

What type of animal attacked Ishmael in the forest? Briefly retell the myth of the wild pig.

Pigs; a notorious hunter who turned himself into a wild boar. He would lead pigs to a field, change to human, and kill the pigs. Once he didn't return to human and the pigs tore him to pieces.

Ishmael's father used to say, "If there is nothing good left in the destiny of a person, he or she will...


Why does the old man who helps them tell the boys it is not necessary to remember his name?

He would not live out the war and would die soon, anyway.

What did the boys stumble upon that sounded like the roar of big engines?

The Atlantic Ocean - it was the waves crashing.

What punishment did the fisherman village give to the boys (what part of their clothing did they take?)

They jabbed them with their weapons; the boys feel and fishermen sat on them. The fishermen took their shoes and chased them from the village with weapons.

Describe the pain and suffering of walking without shoes.

It was 120 degrees and their bare feet on the sand burned.

Describe Musa.

Round face, short and bulky, tiny round ears, big eyes that wanted to leave his face.

Describe Kanei.

Long calm face, skinny, shot and dark hair; he kept clean and careful; soft and authoritarian voice.

Describe Alhaji.

He used elaborate gestures when he spoke. He was friends with Juma.

Describe Juma.

Friends with Alhaji and, nodding to agree with Alhaji, he waved his head left to right like an old man.

Describe Saidu.

He was quiet, kept to himself, breathed hard while walking, large ears.

Describe Morbia.

He played with his hands, rubbed his fingers, and whispered to himself. He was very quiet.

What tribe was the man from who helped heal the boys?

Sherbru - brought food morning and night

Why did the men from the village come to get the boys?

There were 12 men. They thought the boys were rebels and called them devils.

What surprising thing did Ishmael do when he was captured? Why?

He danced to OPP because the chief told him to.

What again saves the boys from being killed?

Hip hop and dancing the chief gave them.

What does Ishmael say was one of the most unsettling things about his journey?

He was uncertain when or where it would end.

What was Ishmael's nickname from his grandmother and why?

Carseloi - spider - tricks others but comes back onto them.

Describe how Alhaja became a refugee?

Father left. Mother was lost. Brothers and sisters gone, and he was fetching water when the attacks started. He went home but no one was there.

How did Kanei become a refugee?

He escaped with mother and father, lost two sisters and brothers in chaos. THey arrived at the river - got on a boat but the rebels shot at the boat so he swam.

How did Jumah/Moriba become a refugee?

Neighbors - house destroyed. Ran to find their parents at wharf and forest but couldn't find their families.

How did Saidu become a refugee?

Family couldn't leave during attack; Saidu was hiding in attic when rebels came to his house - the sisters were raped and all were taken with the rebels - mom and dad included.

What fell out of the sky that the boys ate?

A crow.

What did the boys think were above the bridge at night (the three figures?)

3 people, wearing white shirts, 2 of them were about the same height. Later, it was ghosts.

Who dies in this chapter (10)? Why is it ironic that he dies? What did he say about waiting for death at the beginning of the chapter?

Saidu - he was already awakened from death once. He had already once said that with every person who comes to kill the boys he's closer to death and would soon only be a body.

Why is Ishmael hopeful?

He had hopes of seeing his mother, father, and two brothers across town.

What was the name of the man who they meet along the way to find their parents?

Ngor Gasemu.

What good news does this man give Ishmael?

He has seen and spoken to Ishmael's mother, father, and brothers.

What happens when they stop to rest on the hill top from carrying the bananas?

Gunshots and dogs barking came from the village.

How does Ishmael react when he sees the village destroyed? How do the other boys react?

He was fearless looking at the town and the house his family was using. He punched and kicked. He felt regret for stopping to rest on the hill. Some agreed it was his fault, the others did not.

In his younger years, what did Ishmael learn about grown men and crying?

Tears of adult men were when they had no other choice but Gasemu was crying because he was shot.

Why were the young boys recruited for this army?

The military needed troops. They needed people to cook, prepare ammunition, and fight. Everyone who stayed helped. Others must leave.

It is unlikely that the man and child were killed by rebels, but rather by the army. Why would the army kill innocent people and bring the young recruits to show them?

To remind them the dangers of leaving and tell them how dangerous the rebels were to everyone and to rally new recruits to join them.

What happened to Ishmael's cassettes when he was given his new uniform?

His cassettes were in the pockets of his old clothes and they were thrown into the fire. The cassettes melted.

What was the first gun Ishmael was given?


How did the Lieutenant start to brainwash the youths by the banana trees?

They reminded them: visualize the enemy, the rebels who killed your parents, family, and those responsible for everything that has happened to you.

What were the direct orders of the corporal regarding who to shoot?

Everyone without the same head tie as Ishmael or a helmet like the corporal.

What were the "white tablets" supposed to do for the boys?

Boost their energy.

What was ironic about the way that Josiah and Sheku had to carry their guns?

They dragged their guns. They were smaller than they were yet made to carry them.

Was Ishmael able to shoot during his first attack as an army soldier?

No index finger numb; the forest spun

Which of Ishmael's friends was killed immediately?

Josiah and Musa

Why was Ishmael not afraid of the lifeless bodies? What was happening to him?

He was angry, retaliating for the death of all the people and buying into the brainwashing. He blamed those bodies.

What is brown brown?

cocaine and gunpowder

Why did the army attack civilian villages?

For more recruits, gas, food, drugs, etc.

What did the drugs do to the boys?

The drugs gave them energy and made them feel more able and made them stop feeling remorseful of their decisions.

Even though Ishmael says he shot as many as he could, why do you think he didn't feel better?

It did not bring back his family.

Describe the Lieutenant's speech to the civilians. Was he being honest with them

He told the people that he and his soldiers were not like the rebels.

Why was it easy for Ishmael to slit the prisoner's throat?

Every rebel had become easy to kill because they had killed Ishmaels family, friends and also Ishmael

What is the one thing that Ishmael could not do at night


What happened to Ishmael when UNICEF came?

He was one of 15 who were selected. They were sent with the UNICEF officers. He kept a grenade and bayonet. Refusing to leave but was taken.

Why was Ishmael so angry to be taken away?

He was losing his "family" again. HE did not know why he was being taken.

At the base, describe how the boys treated the UNICEF staff. Why did they treat them this way (hint: what were they told about civilians? Also, what does Ishmael say at the top of pg. 135)?

Treated like civilians - sissies. They wanted to be treated like harmful soldiers. They were told they were just sissies and the boys treated them verbally and physically aggressive.

Who plucked a boy's eye out at the camp?


What did the boys do when the nurses came to set up medical appointments with the boys?

They threw bowls, food, and anything they could at the nurses. They chased them.

What did the boys do all day, only to stop for meals?

Fight for no reason.

Why do you think the workers keep telling the boys, "It's not your fault?" How does Ishmael react to this phrase?

They knew the boys were all brainwashed. Ishmael reacted with anger because they wanted the civilians to see them as harmful soldiers.

Why did Ishmael finally have to go to the hospital?

He punched the windows and it finally stuck. He withdrew it and it bled badly.

How did Ishmael get the nickname Green Snake when he lead an attack on a village?

He sat and situated himself in the most inconspicuous positions, to take out a whole village from a shrub.

What kind of flashbacks were the boys having that made them tie up the UNICEF workers?

The water was blood, boys screaming and running into the hall, the rebels are coming, young boys called the rocks their dead families. Then they would ambush the staff.

What did the boys start to sell that was given to them at the camp?

The school supplies.

Why did the boys eventually start going to class?

The school began taking the boys to the center of town, but people wanted to go more often. However, they could not find buyers for their supplies, so they started going to school.

Notice how Ishmael has been telling his memoir as a series of flashbacks. What does this say about the trauma he suffered as a boy soldier?

Deep scars, bits and pieces are missing.

Why did Ishmael like being alone?

Being alone made surviving easier.

What did Ishmael think was the reason people befriended each other?

Only to exploit the other.

What did Esther give Ishmael as a present?

Run DMC tape and walkman.

How was Ishmael's response to it?

Jumps up and hugs her. He asked questions - how did you know I like rap music? Why did you give this to me?

Describe how Ishmael received the bullet wounds. Describe the ordeal with his foot and what the army had to do to save Ishmael's life.

During an ambush, the rebels/military gunmen shot and returned fire. Ishmael was shot twice and those bullets went straight through, but the third stuck. Travel to former base and doctor surgically retrieved it.

Describe the relationship being built between Ishmael and Esther.

Ishmael began to trust her. He liked the walkman and tape more but she was more of a maternal figure to him. She was warm and affectionate.

Who came to see Ishmael one afternoon?

Esther, to go to city and to hospital and Leslie.

Who finally made Ishmael believe that all of this was not his fault? Why did he finally believe it?

Esther; her genuine tone made the phrase finally begin to sink into my mind and heart.

Who were the visitors that came to watch the boys perform?

European commision, the UN, UNICEF, and NGOs.

What did Ishmael perform?

I read a monologue from Julius Cesar and short hip hop play about a boy soldier's redemption.

What did Ishmael always tell people about children?

Children have a resistance to overcome their suffering if given the chance.

What childhood friend arrived at the camp? Describe their reunion.

Mohammed - Running man singing "Here Comes the Hammer" Remembered childhood stories.

What only known relative did Ishmael knew might be alive? Did he believe that Leslie could find him?

Tommy, an uncle, brother of Ishmael's father, but Ishmael was skeptical

If none of Ishmael's relatives were found, where would Ishmael go?

To foster care

What does it mean to be repatriated?

Reuniting the child soldiers to their former communitiies.

What was Ishmael's response when he saw his uncle? He had doubts, but why does Ishmael finally believe this is his uncle?

He surveyed the man. He noticed the differences between he and his father. He began to cry and that convinced Ishmael he was really his family.

Why do you think that Ishmael felt unworthy to go live with his uncle?

He did not know his uncle and he knew the fragility of happiness.

How did the walks help Ishmael in his recovery?

They gave him a chance to talk about his childhood, his father, and his brothers. He also got to know his uncle better.

What fears does Ishmael have about being repatriated to his uncle's home?

He may not seem grateful to his uncle. He had been on his own for so long. He was also worried about his migraines, nightmares, and sadness.

Describe the goodbye that Ishmael had with his friends that day.

Mohammed hugged him, then Mambu grabbed both of them. Alhaji shook his hand and said goodbye squad leader. Esther gave him a huge hug and her address.

Where did Allie take Ishmael? How was the experience for Ishmael?

He took Ishmael to a dance; met Zainab. The dance triggered a memory of an attack when he was a boy soldier.

Why did Ishmael stop dating Zainab.

She asked too many questions, and he would not answer, so she broke it off.

Leslie invites Ishmael to speak to the UN about his experiences. Describe his experience at the interview. Compare him to the other boys who were there. Why were they laughing at Ishmael?

He marvelled at the tall building. The other 20 boys were better dressed than him. He experienced an elevator.

What reason did Ishmael give as to why he should be chosen to speak at the UN?

He suffered from the war and he also participated in it.

Why was Ishmael's uncle skeptical about Ishmael's trip to the UN in New York?

He said people were always lying to others with such promises, "do not get your hopes up, my son.

What was Ishmael's family's response to him leaving for New York?

Call us when you get to America. Oh we don't have a phone, call Amanita's instead. Sarcastic. They told the children to say goodbye. They said he needed blessings and they did not know where he was going.

Two things - the cold and snow - really shocked Ishmael. Why?

They had never seen or even heard of snow and the cold temperatures of NYC.

What did Ishmael think people did in New York City?

He thought it must be Christmas there every day. The people in the rap songs shot each other and rode around looking for dance clubs all night.

Describe the Vanderbilt YMCA and Ishmael's first night there.

He watched TV all night and sweated because the heater was on full blast.

Did Ishmael enjoy the food in America?

He did not understand the food of America. He wanted Cassava leaves and other African foods.

Who was Laura Simms? Why did Ishmael like her so much?

Laura was a story teller. She was also a co-facilitator. She later became Ishmael's mother. She was not African.

What did Laura do for Ishmael and Bah?

Gave him a winter jacket, hat, and gloves.

Describe the children's UN conference? What was the point of the conference?

Discuss solutions to the children of the world's problems.

Summarize Ishmael's speech to the UN.

He told that the war has caused families to separate. Children forced into wars and their childhoods are lost as soldiers and orphans.

Describe what Ishmael did when he got back home to Sierra Leone.

He told his family about the trips.

Who was now living with Ishmael?


Describe the scene when Mohamed and Ishmael went to get food.

Most food had been taken by the government. Riots - the people were trying to buy food and being shot and beaten by guns. Protests and revolts began.

Describe how Ishmael's uncle died.

Became sick, fever.

Why was Ishmael so desperate to stay with Laura? What was his biggest fear?

The rebellion in Freetown; he was afraid he would become a soldier again.

By what means of transportation did Ishmael escape?

Bus. Then walked to next bus.

What was the name of the town the bus took the passengers?


What did the immigration officers take from the passengers so they could cross the country? Why was this so upsetting to Ishmael and others?

300 Leones. They were benefitting from people fleeing from war.

How many checkpoints did Ishmael have to go through before getting to Conakry?

50 miles to capital and 15 checkpoints.

What happened to the people who could not pay the bribes?

Risked being sent back to the city if refused those who could not would have valuables taken.

Where did Ishmael end up after this?

Sierra Leone Embassy.