Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Some fav moments from our retreat to Dogon country

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Case of the Drowned Shoe

One day during a flash flood here in town, Reaiah was running to the truck and lost a flipflop in the river that was flowing down the street underneath the truck. She tried to search for it, but there was just too much swiftly moving water, all headed for the river. So we figured it was lost forever, and she mourned the loss of the faithful little shoe. The shoe’s sister was simply left in the floor board of the truck for the following days… there really wasn’t any other use for it, right? Well, we had told this sad story to our family in the village and but not many people knew about the little disappearance.
Then last week when we returned from the village, our house guard approached us and told us that one of the other Americans in town had come by and left something for us. He handed Reaiah the missing shoe… We still have no idea who on earth found the shoe before it met its maker in the river outside of town, why they gave it to our American friends, or how they knew that it belonged to Reaiah. But this is Africa… here anything is possible.

The Fete

This past week was the Malian Independence Day. All across the country people were gathering together for the wonderfully old school events such as rice-sac races, donkey-cart races, food eating contests, and of course, eating lots of food. We were just experiencing our first run with malaria (well, at least Reaiah was) and so neither of us were able to enjoy the festivities. After her recovery we returned to our village family where were told by our brother since we missed out on the holiday we were going to have our very own Fete. One day he called us over and announced it was time for me and Reaiah to race each other in the rice sacks. I was very tempted to refuse, but seeing the delighted looks on the older women’s faces, we complied and had everyone dying laughing. We tried to convince him it was now his and his younger brother’s turn, but they wouldn’t do it.
The next day he began telling us how the chief (his father) had told him that it was absolutely necessary that we race again and this time we were all going to do it together (all of the younger, capable adults, at least). So in the morning I didn’t think much about it when the chief’s wife began teasing us about how the chief was insisting on us having our races. But then I looked at the chief and he was over by his hut, calling to me and shaking his head, “I didn’t say it! I didn’t say that! Don’t believe them!” We all got a big laugh out of it, and we didn’t have to hop around in the rice-sacs again…
Then our last night in the village before heading into the capital for a few weeks, a donkey wandered into the compound (not that unusual of an event) but before our brother chased it away, he grabbed it and challenged Reaiah to try to ride it. (As a part of the Fete, of course…). So Reaiah did her best to climb up on the colt in her wrap skirt and hang on while he led it a few feet. Then I had to get on. In order to get it to go he kept having to slap it and kick at it, which only started to scare it and make the poor thing want to bolt with me still on it. Finally he made me get off again. I think he was worried the chief would kill him if I got hurt because he had made me ride a donkey. Check another life goal off the list… we’ve both now ridden a donkey colt.

Fast Times in Village Life… Ok, maybe more just Funny Times…

We were sitting in our compound working on language (as usual…) and talking with our brother when we saw the chief get up and start to go into his hut. He paused at the door and began shifting his weight back and forth like he was dancing. (Remember the chief is a very old man highly respected in the community.) I’d never seen him bob around like that, so we continued to watch him. Then we heard a chicken squawking from inside the hut and Chief was cutting him off from the exit. It wasn’t long before this skinny old man had snatched up his prey with incredible speed and began beating the tar out of it with his free hand. One look at our brother and all of us fell over laughing hysterically. I’d never seen a chicken taking its spankings like one of the kids before…

The other night we were preparing to eat our typical meal of To and Sauce, washing our eating hand in the small bucket and digging in… Reaiah was trying to pass the water/hand washing bucket over to me and some spilled into the bowl with the To in it. (Side note—To is bird seed, pounded into flour and mixed into a super thick mashed potato consistency, k… got the picture? actually its not nearly as bad as it sounds) So, me being the genius thought it a good idea to dump the water back out of the To… I mean, I don’t want to eat wet, soggy mush, now do I? Course not, so I pick up the bowl and tilted it to let the water run out of the side, with my hand bracing the patty of To in the bottom of the bowl. Apparently I didn’t have a good enough hold on the To, though, cause it only took one little shake of the bowl and the whole patty (our whole meal..) of To dumped right out onto the rocks, upside down. Now our younger brother was watching all of this little drama and just died laughing when he saw me ruin our dinner. We quickly retrieved as much of the To as could be saved from the small rocks and dirt that now covered one side of it. (Course, me and Reaiah were laughing even more because we knew that neither of us were all that sad to lose some of the To, like the little kids who secretly wish they could some how sneak some of the unwanted veggies into the napkin and throw it away later… now, we would never actually intentionally dump out our To, which was prepared carefully by our wonderful sister, whom we appreciate… but that just made it funnier cause it really was an accident). Instead, brother just went and got some more from another bowl and gave it to us, and we still ate our gritty, rocky To that night…

Not long after we got in the village, we noticed that the chief stopped eating dinner. I thought, well, he’s a very old man, perhaps he just isn’t hungry this late in the day and we often have an afternoon snack of rice just an hour or so before dinner, so maybe he just can’t eat that much. Well, one day it was almost time for our sister to bring us our dinner of To and Sauce when the chief offered us some food that he had. It is polite manners here to invite everyone within earshot to join you when you eat, but the normal response is “No thanks, I’m full” whether you’re actually full or not. Knowing our food was on its way, we said thanks, we’re full, and continued to wait. Once our own food (To) arrived, we, of course, called him to join us. His response was something like an emphatic ‘uh-uh! (no way, I ain’t eating that!) I’m full.’ We couldn’t keep from bursting out laughing, and he just smiled and settled back into his chair.

West African Safari

In a recent week of training in a nearby country, we were able to visit the only giraffe herd left in West Africa. We hopped in the utility vehicles and headed out of town. Once we stopped at the edge of the area where the herd lives, we picked up our “guide” who was going to lead us to them. He climbed on top of the roof of our SUV and proceeded to lead us out into the bush by tapping his stick on the windshield in the direction we were to turn. Our supervisor joked that she might need a translator… she doesn’t speak “Stick”. But we found them and our view was awesome since before long we joined our guide on top of the SUV and rode around in the bush, chasing our giraffe herd, and hanging on to the luggage rack as we bounced along. It was great fun, and we even got to walk up pretty close to them too. They’re very tall… so, some pics of our little trek into the bush.