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

samedi, septembre 02, 2006

Rain, Umbrellas and Bucket Baths (8/30/06)

During the past seven years, I did my best to become a good Oregonian by walking happily in drizzling weather. Rain that continuously fell at a sow and constant pace hardly warranted a jacket and an umbrella was out of the question. How could someone try to be a “native” while owning an umbrella? With that mentality, I scoffed at the mention of an umbrella on the Peace Corps Guinea packing list.
The rain is a bit different here. Days of slow, cool drizzle are welcomed but are few and far between. Instead pounding, driving rain announces itself through dark, towering rain clouds and an arrival that sounds as if a freight train was barreling through town. This is bone-soaking rain.
After being caught once in a driving rain storm and arriving home to the laughter of my host family, I invested in an umbrella. The next few rain storms were met with secure confidence. I would be dry. Others of the non-umbrella owning persuasion were converted one by one. Unfortunately, the quality of umbrellas available in Guinea are not quite up to par and today I faced a walk home in heavy rain without the confidence that I had only a week ago. Of the ten spokes forming the frame of the umbrella, three from one side were broken. Yesterday, I spent time with my Leatherman bending and breaking the fragmented spokes so they would not poke additional holes in the fabric. On the walk home, I held the handle of the umbrella with one hand while pushing out on the remnants of a spoke with the other.
The hard falling, driving rain knows its course once it hits land. Walkways turn to gushing torrents, small paths to turbulent tributaries and surrounding areas to slippery mud. With “stream crossings” reaching mid-calf, I continued balancing the umbrella around me as a protective shield though knowing that one ill-fated slip would drench me from head-to-toe.
Soon after, I was enjoying the wound of the rain falling as I ate my dinner on the covered porch. At the same time, I was “drawing” up my bath. In Guinea, this involves setting a bucket under the overhang of a roof and waiting for it to fill with rain water. My definition of running water has changed to become a more active one. I shower with a large bucket full of water on the floor and a small “gobelet” in my hand. By candlelight, I fill the gobelet and then pour the water over myself. Remember that the water has been collected from rain. This means that it is cold water. Cold, cold water. Some days this is refreshing but at six in the morning I often carry on an extended monologue to convince myself that pouring the first gobelet over my head is a good idea. And the second.
Pounding, pounding rain. Even as I write this, I am treated to the sound of rain striking and then falling off of the room. I have been thoroughly introduced to the rainy season in Guinea.