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Work 4 Peace,Hold All Life Sacred,Eliminate Violence! I am on my mobile version of the door-to-door, going town-to-town holding readings/gatherings/discussions of my book "But What Can I Do?" This is my often neglected blog mostly about my travels since 9/11 as I engage in dialogue and actions. It is steaming with my opinions, insights, analyses toward that end of holding all life sacred, dismantling the empire and eliminating violence while creating the society we want ALL to thrive in

Monday, July 30, 2012

Goat and stars

I am not sure what time we finally get to eat, but the sky is very black yet it is quite light out. The moon is brilliant in her fullness and brightness, and the air is gentle and warm.

The five of us with Jasi & Dia are seated on the ground on another beautiful rug. Women come with hand towels and a container of water they pour over each of our hands while holding another bowl underneath to catch the hand-wash water.

We are to eat Senegalese style, which means we all have forks and a large chrome platter covered with a high dome, is set in the middle of us.

The goat lies in large browned pieces on top of juicey millet, potato, some elbow macaroni and lots of onion and carrots.

None of the other women or children join us. There are small fires spread out around the camp and I assume everyone is eating in front of their own homes.

I dig in with everyone else, tasting both goat and millet. I try to eat slowly and mostly millet, but Dia, my daughter's hopeful healer, notices immediately and pushes goat towards me.

I indulge in way too much goat and try to sip tea under my daughter's watchful eye!

We do not want to sleep inside the building. The night is way to gorgeous and wonderful to be shut inside. After much discussion, the women take our beds and move them several yards away under a dried grass/wood canopy that provides lots of shade during the day and a place to attach mosquito netting for us during the night.

The home of a healer

I am thrilled to be walking on the ground instead of bouncing along in the back seat of a jeep.

The children race out to meet us, followed by a few of their mothers and aunties, everyone with their generous welcoming smiles and gestures. Their excitement and surprise is double-fold: Dia has returned from Dakar, and he has brought foreigners!

We are gaily ushered into one of the grander L-shaped concrete building, the guest of honor home, that is to be our place of rest, as our bags are brought in for us. An outdoor staircase runs up the side of the building to the stars and the flat roof on top.

The room inside is large and beautiful with golden tiles, colorful birds and animals mosaics, windows along one wall. The only furniture, a huge king-sized bed & headboard with it's 2 attached nite-stands, is covered in brightly colored spreads, and a small animal fur rug on the browns, yellows, rusts colored tiled floor.

The long, narrow bathroom off this bedroom, is an area for a manual shower with a large bucket of water sitting next to a small sunken drain; followed by a step up to a porcelain-lined hole in the ground with a large bucket of water sitting a few inches above it on a ledge, and the ever-present plastic tea kettle.

A small window high in the wall almost to the ceiling provides little ventilation and even less light.

Outside there is lots of bustle and action going on. Women bring iron double-size bed frames on maybe 2 feet legs into the shadow of the building and then swiftly return with foam padding, sheets, and colorful spreads as they make up these beds outside under the sky.

A baby goat is tied bleating to a smaller tree and other goats amble about peacefully. Dia has told us that all his cows have been moved to another part of the country so they can eat, the drought has been so bad here.

I can see that there are about 4 or 5 of the square or retangular concrete cinder block buildings and probably twice that many traditional grass-roof and sides round homes scattered about.

A thin branch wood fence surrounds the compound that is Dia's. Visible on either side but set many yards away are other compounds.

I see a reluctant fat white goat, with one child pushing her butt, another pulling the rope around her neck, being dragged through the homes to a circle where women are building a fire.

Suddenly I can understand the goat's cries and the baby's bleating: she is being sacrificed for us. I feel deeply honored and horrified at the same time.

I chase Jasi around the firm sand-colored soil, kicking up white dust thin as fog, and the children join in. I grab him, look at the children & point to the glorious full moon that has suddenly appeared high over another large tree in the compound.

"Moon" I say. "Moon" Jasi & the children repeat. "Wer" I say, in Wolof. The girls look at me funny. Then one grabs my hand, points and with such a sparkle in her eye that outshines the moon says "Lewnou" or something like that.

Jasi & I say "Lewnou" and all the kids laugh. I ask my new friend her name and she says something I sadly cannot understand. I point to Jasi & say "Jasi". He points to himself & says "Jasi" and then to me "Grandmother".

We all laugh again. My new friend points to the tree and says (i forget...). I repeat & all the children laugh. I say "tree" and everyone says "tree".

We move away from the goat slaughtering.

The girls drag me to another home. The smiling, chatting women are all sitting on a colorful blanket or rug, making tea, preparing to break fast. My little friend tells me (i forget...grrrr) to sit down in Pular. I repeat it and we all sit. Then she says (i forget) stand, and we all stand.

We are all laughing and exchanging words in english, Pular, and Wolof. The women insist that I take a tiny clear glass that is shaped like an old fashioned lipstick cylinder and pour me tea, holding the kettle at great heights & filling my cup. I try to talk with them in Wolof, but they speak Pular.

The mothers scold the girls but I tell them it's okay. Jasi wants to taste the tea so I let him. The girls grab my hand saying stand - they want to continue playing.

We are pushed and pulled around corners, huts, trees to another gathering of women, where we partake in the same ritual - and I drink more tea.

Then we are taken to yet another home where women and children gather out front and share more tea. Finally, I return to our original landing place, passing the goat in various stages of dissect, and sit among the women in this spot to drink more tea.

Tess is horrified that I am drinking tea. She wants me to stop but I cannot be so rude. Besides the tea is good and our little lunch was a long time ago. Dinner looks far off too, and I am having a tough internal debate over eating goat.


We head out a few hours later then what we are supposed to. It's just the way things work here. The stress of rushing, making deadlines, expecting things to happen "on time" does not exist.

We are heading to Dia's "village", two hours north and east of Dakar. Dia is the healer who is the friend of Bah's.

Even though I am still the elder, this time I am seated squished in the back with Tess, Jasi, and Bah - beside the scratched, plexiglass window that does not open (neither of them open in the back seat) - so my view of the country-side is not so detailed.

Jammed into the 2-seater front seat is Bouba, driving, Dia who is an elder but I'm sure I have at least 15 years on him, and another male relative.

After fighting traffic to leave the city, we pass miles and miles and miles of open land, dotted infrequently with short trees and a few bushes.

On glorious occasion there is a boabab tree, the amazing huge ancient tree that Bah says can live more then 1000 years, thousands of years even - which makes it even more painful to see some of the majestic giants cut down and lined up along what appears to be property borders maybe.

The land tends to be brick red like Georgia soil, and mostly flat - we are moving slightly inland from the ocean, which is no longer in evidence by sight or smell - and sparsely covered with short grass.

Dead cow carcasses are more prevalent then trees. On occasion, we pass by villages which are clusters of the square/rectangular cement houses and several round, grass-covered homes.

And every few miles, a car is stranded by the side of the road, steamy & hood raised up as men with tools work to get it back onto the road.

Sometimes women are selling mostly mangoes at the side of the road. Sometimes people of all ages have found shade from a wall or an occasional bush or tree, spread out a beautiful rug or blanket, and are either languidly talking or resting quietly.

We stop in a bigger village, pulling into a shady spot just off the road. Bouba opens the hood and steam pours out. The radiator has a tiny hole.

Dia (who speaks no english) goes shopping in one of the small, wayside businesses that line this part of the road. He comes back with a new pair of shoes for himself, puts them under the seat and heads off again.

We have been on the road for about 3 hours. I ask how far away is Dia's village. No one knows - or says. We smile and wave to the women and children, who shyly greet us with wide, generous smiles. Jasi plays in the shaded dirt as we eat our lunch, while we wait for the engine to cool.

Dia returns, this time with many loaves of bread, new blankets or rugs, and a couple bags of foods that he shoves into the cubby behind the back seat.

He has to provide for 4 wives and 7 times as many children living in his home in the country. And then the five of us.

Bouba closes the hood after adding water - and not repairing the spurting hole - and we continue along the road.

The roads are now small but still paved. No shoulder but no steep drop-off either. Soon we turn onto another somewhat paved road - or should I say once-paved road.

It is so full of potholes and cracks that we are forced onto the red dirt where others have pounded out a some-what smoother path.

After several more grueling hours of bouncing along dirt and sometimes asphalt, the sun begins her descent when we get to the village store of Dia's home. He jumps out & buys soda & juice along with dates & the men in the jeep break their fast.

We travel another 5 or so dirt road miles, past a huge lake, cross many plains and finally approach Dia's compound of several cinderblock buildings and straw covered homes.

Man ye den

Learning the language - or making a fool of myself.

Wolof: the original language of many Senegalese (before the French)
j ray giff - thank you

jraygiffity - very good

non ga def - how are you

Hadi - name of one of Jasi's friends

Isatu - name of the other one of Jasi's friends

man ye den - good bye

bal'ma - sorry, forgive me?

dafa danka - it's hot

dafa seda - it's cold

kay (rhymes with sky) - come

demal - go

no' tu do - what is your name?

man e tu da - my name is....

yo - you

fo' da ka - where do you live?

nyata (with a n like in manana) - how much?

balrena - too much

dedit - no

mil - 1000

diamrick - peace, good

cannie - pepper

horum  - salt

saff - spicey

bugina lu saff - i like spicey

dama - me

sona - i'm tired

horma - wait for me

yay - mother

dame - daughter

mame - grandmother

damagaheif - i am hungry

moitoul - be careful