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Graham Smith. On Lumley Beach, after day trippers have headed home, prostitutes look for customers along a yard stretch of road near some of the nicer hotels as well as near the bars and restaurants along the beachfront. When a man drives by the strip at Lumley Beach in downtown Freetown at night, he'll probably hear a sharp hiss. That's not an unusual sound in Sierra Leone.
People hiss instead of whistling — to get your attention, to call for the bill at a restaurant, to buy a bottle of water on the street.
But the hissing along a stretch of beachfront road at Lumley Beach has a different purpose. It's the sound prostitutes make, and they've perfected the hiss.
That's why they're called serpents. Transactional sex isn't unusual in Sierra Leone. Economic opportunities are slim and slimmer. I wanted to find out how these sex workers were faring in a country where Ebola is still surging. I was nervous as my friend and fixer Umaru Fofana and I walked down from our hotel around 11 at night last week, fearing that the women or the men who stand nearby as pimps or protectors would be hostile. Fofana is probably the most prominent journalist in the country.
He publishes a twice-a-week newspaper called Politico , and files for the BBC and others. He knows this place like nobody else. All day long, as we run into cops or gas station attendants or politicians or nurses or poor folk in the street, they smile and greet him, "Fofana! Fofana was uncertain whether the hookers would talk with us. As we approached, a couple summoned us with hisses and come-ons. They flocked to us, wondering if we wanted sex.