Out on a Porch
10:42pm Gaawol, Guinea
It has been an eventful couple of weeks here in West Africa thanks for your prayers and encouragements. Hear again are a few brief thoughts and adventure note to keep you in the loop. Enjoy.
One of the families I have been working with recently added a little baby boy. In West Africa it is in practice not to name your baby until the 7th day after birth at an official ceremony*. The tradition has many cultural, particle and religious reasons You can expect a naming ceremony to last from morning to well into the evening. Many people are socially obliged to take the day off and do. With so many kids born it is a miracle any work is done.
The ceremonies have become quite routine. I arrived a dressed in my fine blue haftan greeted and took my seat. On many occasions the name will leak out but I hadn’t heard anything. Thus I nearly fell off my chair when the name Michael “Dodo” was announced. As the only Michael in all Sukuta, it was very apparent the family had named the child after me.
Obviously quite an honour, the downside it can be a bit confusing now that there are two of us around.
* A welcome change to the North American practice of naming kids 7 days after being conceived
I just bought 163 of them hope they don’t die.
I just bought two of them. Hope I don’t die.
Kaniline Music Frestival
The President Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Jammeh an enthusiastic supporter of local culture and “roots” has been busy putting on what must be one of the most extravagant (relative to means) cultural festivals I’ve witnessed. The 3 week long Kanilai International Festival is featured on the national television each night and has artists of all sorts from all over West Africa. It is like Woodstock only the president is fitting the bill.
The festival’s headliner was Michael Jackson’s brother Jermaine. It is not everyday the pinnacle of the B-side Casino grade western entertainment comes to the Gambia. Naturally, I thought it was worth checking out. So I splurged $2.50 to buy a field ticket.
Granted for me the real draw for me was a chance to see of my local music friends performing on the big stage before the headliner. Holy Family Band, Jalix, and Jeli-Keba band ** were present to entertain the crowd stadium. I was graciously welcomed into the backstage and spent most of the night sharing joy and taking in their performances.
Holy Family Band long time friends (since 2005) great to see them “make it” after lots of hard work. Check them out in their old school format. www.reverbnation.com/gambiaproject
Jalix is Gambia’s hottest artist – although I had previously not known this my friend Omar recorded and produced his album. Additionally he provides live back-up when he is performing.
Jeli-Keba – my close friend is the lead guitar player and I have a seat of the band tour bus whenever I want. I first saw the band play in 2009. Their hit songs “Bye-Bye” and “Kono” (Money) are legit good sounding songs.
Baptism #2: come prepared
It is always good to come prepared even when you .Excited to attend another baptism I hop on the motorbike and met everyone at the beach. I soon thereafter discovered I would be one of the leaders performing the baptism. I not sure when the decision was made and I was very honoured however, I had not come prepared for such a task. Considering the options I did think about doing the ceremony in my underwear thinking John the Baptist couldn’t have had too much on either but opted for the more above reproach “all on”.
Ode to African Babies
When I signed up for a trip to Guinea I didn’t know I would be traveling with two babies. It seem proper wisdom not to bring your 3 week old baby on a 15 hour (driving time) 800km journey of rough road in 40oC weather, however that was overlooked and here I found myself preparing for the worst.
The vehicle departed at 6am, one hour, two hours, four hours passed, the road got rough, we’ve drove through lunch, diaper changes as the temperature climbed. I kept bracing for the explosion of screaming babies but nothing not a sound. Every once in a while I would turn around to find if there were still alive. There they were sleeping, latched on for a meal or happy bouncing along. In fact in a total of over one hundred combined baby hours I can count on one hand the number of time either of the babies made a fuss.
I don’t believe this to be an isolated case. In my experience African babies are well tempered their day is spent with the mother
Guinea is a beautiful country, lush forests and winding rivers, accent cliff bands which give way to small mountain ranges. Guinea is famous for its bountiful resources and incredulous corruption the blessing has been a curse. With an election on the horizon there is some level of hope for the currently military controlled country.
The purpose of the 10 day trip was primarily to attend a conference for the persecuted church in West Africa and visit a sister community in central Guinea to evaluate potential projects. The potential is huge but it would all hinge on the wiliness of the local population to carry the burden.
I traveled in good company and met a number of inspiring people. I was pleased to see a theme with-in the conference for the local church to rise-up and take leadership to develop its own communities.
In Guinea I’ve been stay in the company of a man who was the target of an assassination plot. This same man who has had is dogs slaughtered on his front porch in the night, his children threatened and countless court and false charges brought against him. The man was the first recorded Fulani to follow the teachings Christ a decisions he came to from his own independent studies and convictions; there was no outside influence.
As I sat in amazement of the stories I was humbled wondering if such resolve could come from with-in my own life. Africans seem to find the resolve quick readily and you see it various aspects of life. But like all traits it is not always a positive experience.
From the heart of Guinea to the Coast of Banjul 800km, 2 meal breaks, 2 boarders, 18 hours one day, one driver. Yes, this is verging on insanity but where there is “resolve” it is possible. Everyone is hurting, hungry and car sick from the roads and hot weather but no one says a thing we endure together – really it is the of the highest virtue in the African context.
Guinea is beautiful but it is good to be back in Gambia. The real miracle is a full round trip with 10+ people in a vehicle without a single bribe, baggage search or customs fee.
Last of the Toubabs
Each year at this time in Gambia the temperature and humidity begins to climb, this change in climate brings about a few changes. One is most of the Toubabs leave for home. With Josh’s recent departure to I am now the last and will be the only short term toubab for the remaining months. Although I do enjoy the company of my local peers it was always nice have a breathe of the West when things become trying.
All said, I’m not too worried and kind of look forward to the challenge. I’ve always got the internet. (If it is working)
Cow and the Stick
Disciplining is a skill does not come naturally to me. I’d much rather be a generous friend and expect the best from people but a time come when a destructive habit and pattern must be broken. That won’t happen with out consistent tough love. It doesn’t make things easier that these cases often involve children and other social complications yet I can’t throwing out the line for other’s foolish decisions.
In Guinea the Fula's tie big sticks around the necks of problem animals. This prevents them from breaking through into people's garden. One garden grazing offense is tolerated but the second comes at a cost to the cattle's owner.
I’d ask for a lot of prayer for wisdom and patience over the remaining months. I do believe there are a number of positives changes that are occurring and have seen their fruit but they often seemed to be overshadowed by the difficult cases.
Looking for big long sticks,