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

jeudi, octobre 19, 2006

To Fast or Not (September 27, 2006)

“I hope you are eating enough. I will have lunch sent over at noon,” the sous-prefet said to me. He has been incredibly nice since I got to town. In an attempt to regain some independence I have even indicated that I can make lunch and dinner for myself but he continues to have it prepared and sent over to me.

“No, I am going to eat at night like everyone else. I will skip eating during the day,” I replied having decided that I would join the daily fasting. For those of you like me who do not know much about Ramadan, it is a religious event for Muslims that is currently taking place. It started with the new moon and will last during this lunar cycle. I do not know all that happens, but the most apparent occurrence is that Muslims fast from sun-up to sun-down. Fasting forbids people from allowing anything to pass their lips (food or water). Knowing that I would get to my village about the same time as the beginning of Ramadan, I have had an ongoing internal debate whether to fast. Do I show solidarity with my community or do I eat and drink as normal within the confines of my house. It probably would not be too polite to prance down the main street around 2:00 with a large sandwich and an icy cold beverage. I decided to fast.

Some chuckling followed my statement that I would fast and then my principal chimed in, “Be careful with what you say. Not everyone is fasting. Those that are traveling, are sick or are children do not fast. Also, it is a question of faith. We are Muslim, so we celebrate Ramadan. Not everyone here is Muslim. When we fast, the Christians carry-on as usual and when they fast, we continue. It’s all about faith. There is no need for you to take penance with us unless you believe as we do.”

Here I am already making blanket statements. It was even more ridiculous to say that I am going to act like everyone else because I know that one of my neighbors is Christian. In Guinea, the overwhelming majority of people are Muslim though there is a small Christian minority. The Forest region of the country (southeast Guinea) is where the majority of Christians live – colonialistic maneuvering.

“Ok,” I reply.

“There will be plenty of new things for you to adjust and adapt to while in Guinea, but your beliefs are your own,” continued my principal.

I manage another brilliant “Ok” as I reflect how nice it is for people to simply accept religious differences and not attempt to force their beliefs on someone. So much for showing solidarity…

“I’ll have your lunch sent over once we return from visiting the Prefet in Coyah,” smiles the sous-prefet.