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, novembre 23, 2006

End of Ramadan (October 26, 2006)

The majority of the Muslim world ended the month of Ramadan on Monday, but in Guinea things are always a little different so it was ended on Tuesday. I returned to Wonkifong from my weekend in Conakry on Monday so I was ready to see what the villagers would do to celebrate.

At 3:00 in the morning I am suddenly awakened by loud, intense drumming. The griots (a Guinean equivalent of a bard) begin the celebrations by going to the houses of all the important people in town. The sous-prèfet lives beside me and his house is the first. The sound is impressive. For the next three hours, I hear drums at different volumes depending on the distance from my house.

Around 9:00, a large procession of villagers passes my house en route to a large field for prayer. After prayer, everyone returns to their home for a large meal. This is the first meal that they have eaten during the day in a month. Kids then go door to door wishing people good cheer in the hopeful return of some Guinean francs.

Things are relatively quiet for the rest of the day with people relaxing and paying visits to one another. Then, around 8:00 that night, loud music begins behind my house. I live near the youth center and the festivities there will include lots and lots of loud music. Guinean sound controllers seem to always turn up the volume past the point that the speakers can handle. The music finally died around 3:00 in the morning.

The next day was officially a school day but only one other staff member and four students showed up so we went home. By Thursday, class counts were almost at 50%.