I wake quite early anyway but this morning, the women in this little intentional community are up, working and thoughtfully taking care of us: hanging blankets off the east side of the canopy we are sleeping under, so that the intense sun will not wake us.
Children are up and working also, sweeping with stick brooms, picking up and sorting thru the particles that have accumulated over night. They sort into plastic buckets and carry them off to be reused in some other way.
I get up quietly and slip out the compound to walk around, exploring the large, flat area around which houses are just visible in sparse clusters marked off by thin branch wood fences.
In the even farther distance, trees grow in a long line, indicating maybe underground water, maybe a river or creek? It is too far away for me to see.
I am called back onto Dia's land. Jasi & Tess are up and we sitting on the spread, waiting for breakfast. Dia joins us as he is not fasting today, nor do the children fast so I think maybe we will eat together.
The children are fed somewhere else, but Dia sits down with us and we wait to be fed. I want to ask about the anticipated spiritual healing but I can't find the words. Besides I'm sure the proper thing here is to wait. But I've never been known to be proper...
Women come and bring us bottled water, forks, and broad smiles. They spread out beautiful table clothes that look as enticing as food itself.
We are given a hand towel and a womon pours water over our outstretched hands as we wash in preparation for our meal.
Dia takes the water vessel from her and proceeds to wash our hands, which is an honor I am sure. We smile and say thank you and several languages.
Soon another large platter appears, with goat meat chopped up this time into large cubes, sitting on a large pile of millet. It is as tasty as it was last night, with a little different flavor.
As the pile of food diminishes, another platter of peeled and sliced mango appears again! Yum! We can't get enough of this sweet, delicious mango!
We are served, things appear, reappear, and then everything disappears before you realize that yes, you really did need that.
Dia anticipates showing us his land. We pile into the jeep and begin to drive across the plains. He points out from where to where his family land stretches and tells us again about his cows being unable to survive here.
We get to a large lake. Dia has plans to one day pipe the lake water to his home, and to irrigate his fields.
Suddenly an old, old man appears. He is leaning on a stick and his hair is as white as last nights moon, his skin the wide open night sky. He is dressed in more muted, deeper blues then the women, but the same traditional cloth and dress.
We are not introduced but he speaks. I find out later he is the chief and what an honor it is to meet him. He talks, through Bah interpreting for us, about how the young people are all deserting his village, to seek their fortune in Dakar, often returning bringing their broken and hurt troubles into the village.
He told us none of the young people want to work the land, grow the food, embrace the old ways. He talks about the lions, zebras, elephants that used to roam freely around until the French killed everything and everyone.
His eyes are clear but the whites yellowed, his skin little indication of how old he really is. Only the stick that he sometimes leans on hints at his true age.
A couple young boys come by herding a few scrawny, slow cattle to the water. The chief says something to them & they wade into the lake to pull up an empty fish net that stretches across the width of the lake, parallel to the shore. Dia seems disappointed.
We pile back into the jeep, with the chief squeezing in the front seat, and continue driving around the country-side to see more of Dia's land before we return to the compound.
A very young womon, a teenager, Dewelle, greets us shyly in english when we return. She is beautiful, dark liquid brown with her braided hair wrapped in a colorful scarf.
We sit down together: she wants to practice english and I want to learn more Pular and Wolof. Soon we are joined by a young man a few years older then her, Omar.
I am so excited to have the chance to speak more in depth with her. We talk about her school, her hopes, her family.
She wants to go to Dakar to college next year and she is aware of the pitfalls and dangers of the big city.
She also has to wait for Dia to agree to send her yet she seems confident he will. She is working on this and I hope she is successful.
We are supposed to leave today but Tessie wants to find an internet connection. She HAS to pay some bills she says. Dewelle tells us there is internet in a town an hour or so away from here.
I am worried: if Dakar is supposedly 2 hours from here & it took us 8 hours to get here, something 1 hour away might be four hours.
Tessie is not worried. She tells me we have been invited, urged, begged to spend another night. My stomach is causing me grief, not because of the tea I am sure, but because of the greasy goat meat I've been devouring.
It is set out again in front of us. Tess and Jasi dig in, but I cannot.