Always in the deep woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is an ancient fear of the unknown and is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into. What you are doing is exploring. -- Wendell Berry

The TRIP: GUINEA - wonkifong --> MALI - bamako, djenne, douentza, Dogon Country --> Burkina Faso - ouagadougou, bobo-dioulasso, bala, ouagadougou --> GHANA - tamale, mole national park, tamale, yeji, volta lake ferry, akosombo, accra, green turtle lodge, elmina, cape coast, accra, hohoe and wli falls --> TOGO - kpalime, atakpame, lome --> BENIN - cotonu (transport stop) --> NIGER - niamey, tahoua, agadez, camel trek in aiir mtns, niamey --> BENIN (abomey, grand popo, ouidah, ganvie, cotonou) --> CAMEROON (douala, buea, top of Mt Cameroon, limbe, sangelima, yaounde, kribi, douala) --> MAURITANIA (nouakchott, atar, chinguetti, camels into the sahara, terjit, choume, ride the coal train, nouadhibou) --> MOROCCO (western sahara, dakhla, agadir, essaouira, marrakesh, imlil, summit of jebel toubkal, fes, chefchaouen) --> cross the Strait of Gibraltar --> Malaga, Spain --> fly to Geneva, Switzerland --> Les Grangettes, France
Click for a map. Updated April 30, 2007

lundi, septembre 25, 2006

Chicken Suit (Sept 19, 2006)

The Farewell Ceremony is only days away. Do I go to the tailor and have him make local clothes for me to wear at the event or do I just hope that my family gets clothes for me? I opted for the “it’s better to be safe than sorry” scenario and got clothes made.

By Monday afternoon this was looking like a good thing. The ceremony was the next day. I was essentially living in a bachelor’s pad. My mother had been away for a week now because my sick brother was in Conakry and the other females of the house have seemed to disappear. It was amazing that I was even eating every day – how could a bunch of guys remember that tradition calls for the making of clothes for the stagiere?

7:15 Monday night. “I’m going over to Patrick’s house for an end-of-stage celebration that his family is having,” I say to Modaf, who is standing on the edge of the porch.

He has a somewhat worried look on his face and has been glancing towards the entrance to the concession for some time. “Umm, do you think you could hang out for a little longer? Seydouba left a few minutes ago to get some fabric for your outfit. You know the ceremony is tomorrow, right?”

A few minutes later, Seydouba comes running around the corner with three pagnes in his hands. A pagne is a measure of fabric that is 2 meters by 1 meter. It takes three pagnes to make a “complet,” which is a top and bottom outfit. The traditional Guinean clothing has the same pattern for both sets. I can find almost any pattern imaginable in the market from amazing colors, to swirls, leaves, tea pots, lamps, Africa, abstracts…What would my pattern look like?

Chickens. Mom and her little chicks. Rooster heads. Even eggs. Oh yeah, I am going to be styling tomorrow.

“Don’t go anywhere,” Modaf tells me. “Seydouba, where is the closest tailor? Go get him and bring him back to measure Youssouf” (my Susu name).

I’m almost cracking up inside. By now, it is a little after 7:30 at night and Seydouba is taking off in search of a tailor with chicken pagnes under his arm. Would he even be able to find a tailor at this time?

Minutes later a tape measure was flying around my arms, waist, chest and legs as the tailor hurriedly took my measurements. After a quick haggling over cost he left with a promise that I would have the outfit by tomorrow morning.

The next morning I woke to find chicken pants, shirt and as an added bonus a hat. I was ready for the Farewell Ceremony.