Thursday, April 26, 2012

An Amazing Feeling

Today before taking my weekly ride into Kedougou to do the radio show and other random things an amazing occurrence happened. I really should have taken a picture but I was just too damn excited and it was getting dark.

What I saw wasn't an animal or an amazing feat of strength/balance like the women who stack things on their heads. It was much simpler. It was people, the people of my village, all gathered in one place to learn how to read and write their local language from one of their own. They were studying, together, and supporting each other. My idea isn't crazy it can happen.

Most of the people there were women as the women's group's successful garden inspired a NGO to bring materials for them to study reading and writing. However, their children also has to come since mom went meaning they also get an education and all from a local guy who lives in the village and went through a previous NGO's training. Maybe the event was more beautiful because it was Aid work actually working and in a sustainable way.

I had to share this because as you, my followers, know I am building a Reading Room. This class now, which takes place under a make shift shade structure will move to the Reading Room once it is complete. I can't think of a better way to break the room in. People are actually excited about reading and following through. Man! I really hope this keeps up.

Wish me luck.

Friday, April 20, 2012

When you’ve only got one things to utilize why wouldn’t you utilize it? Over the past year and a half I have been attempting to “help” people by sharing ideas, demonstrating techniques, and adapting to a foreign culture. I have had some successes in setting up gardens, becoming proficient in a language and sparking interest in ideas that could improve people’s day to day lives. However, my most profound finding is that no matter how hard you plan, no matter how many times something gets discussed, and no matter how much someone says they want something that thing will never happen unless they take the initiative and do it themselves. I believe it was Ghandi that said something along the lines of, a great leader’s work is plentiful and hard for his people but when the work is all done it is the leader’s people who claim the work to be their own. I could find the actual quote online but the internet is slow and well I need to prove to myself that my reading comprehension is at the least still there. As many of you know, I have begun to build a “reading room” for my village to have the necessary materials to continue their education after the school year has ended or gone on break. I solicited moneys from you guys and drew up an agreement for my village that once the allotted monetary amount was met the village would commence building. My project timeline for the construction of this 4x4 meter room was a month start to finish. I thought the biggest hang up in the construct process would be my lack of resources in bringing out cement and other materials for completion of the room. To say it bluntly I am probably the hardest worker pushing to complete the room now. The project has been funded for over a month now and the village has only gotten the foundation done. The hang ups range from them having to do other work, worries of someone moving in after I leave and just plain laziness. I’ve become a broken record in asking, “Do you guys actually want this? Why aren’t you just doing it? All you have is your energy! Use it to make something you can eat, sell or develop!” The words only get a smile as they give me some extra because they think the extra food will cheer me up. However, with a bit of patience and the will to continue things usually work out in Senegal. Only having labor to give is sort of a double edge sword in which it truly is your choice on when and how you are going to complete something. For now, I share the beginnings of the Togue Reading Room before the foundation was built.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Funeral for a Friend

I now sit in a legendary hammock waiting for two exchange students from america to arrive and, if God agrees, to take a small vacation to my site. We call this cultural exchange. This time has allowed me to throughly reflect on past event that took place and is reoccuring every hour if not minute through out the world. Some say it's too much and others too little. What ever you think that fact is death is a necessity of life.

For some unknown spiritual, scientific, or galatical reason there have been a lot of deaths over the past 3 days. The first of which I would like to talk about because it happened to a man who I know a little bit but mostly because I got to attend his funeral. Maybe the only ceremony/meeting Senegalese people go to and don't expect to be fed. Fortunately there is a religious offering for the deceased a few days later and everyone who came to the funeral is invitted to eat until they can't eat no more.

I'd like to be a bit more serious though because the funeral I attended was rushed but perfect. Senegal doesn't have a morgue or 700 different chemicals to pump into a body in order to delay its natural decomposing processes. Instead, Senegal with the aid of cell phones must call the area, family, friends to come quick and help dig a grave.

Truth, I got to watch how they dug the grave. It's a square room with a shelf roughly 20cm from the top that will be sealed with wood once the body is palced in the newly dug dirt. The cemetery, if you will, is down by the river and riddled with old mounds of dirt where bodies still or used to lie. Now, trees and shrugs grow over the graves allowing animals and humans to walk or graze on them as they please. Trust me, my viewing point for the ceremony was on top of an old grave.

Anyway, the digging is done by the river in a freshly cleared space. There are no machines. Only the tools one uses to live and farm the land with are welcome. I never would have guessed a pick, garden hoe, shovel, and machete could create such precision when diggin a hole. Everyone took responsibility for the constrution of the room. No one was allowed to get too tired and no one refrianed from making a contribution. The digging process was really beautiful as it was the perfect example of how all people are the same. Death comes along and we are able to put our emotional energy to a cause (I'm saying digging a hole is better than retaliating against whoever you felt was responsible).

Even those who didn't dig brought a fresh batch of leaves, instead of flowers, (there are three different types used for funerals) to be put on top of the body and sealed in with it. When the body arrived with it's caravan of chanting religious leaders, family, friends, and spectators (no women) it was dressed in all white cloth and quickly lowered in to it's new resting place. Leaves were then used to fill the rest of the hole and closed in once the hole was full. More leaves were added ontop of the pieces of wood used to close the new room and finally the dirt was added and we prayed. They gave a short and sweet prayer filled with please for God to accept his sould in to heaven.

The ceremony ended with everyone greeting eachother and telling eachother to be patient. I didn't notice it at first but no one had greeted anyone upon arrival. All arrvived and went stright to work. The final clod of dirt provided the closure they needed. The body, leaves, wood, and dirt now belonged to the earth and his soul was God's.

The men quickly left for the mosque to give one final prayer all together for the sould of the newly deceased once the room was completely closed. We, the men, then went to greet the women and ask them to be patient and after that it was over. The man's wife will mourn for 40 days. She won't leave the fence, she won't cook, wash, or lieave the house at night. Women and families then flock to stay with her and aid her during mourning. After that she will be cared and care for the family of the deceased.

In my personal opinion (sorry), I thought the procession was perfect. Everything came full circle even though the room was a rectangle. He came from the earth's nutrients and went back to the earth's nutrients by being buried by the people who daily use and need the earth's nutrients to survive.