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

Singing of the National Anthem (November 21, 2006)

Like beams radiating from the sun, the students line up around a circular dais each morning. Each line represents a class group – there is the 7th grade – Class 1 line, the 7th grade – Class 2 line, …, to the 10th grade line. In the center of the dais, a flag pole and a student stands holding a Guinean flag attached to string, ready to be hoisted.

A student standing to the side yells, “Attention for the rising of the colors.”

The student begins raising the flag and all of the other students begin singing the national anthem. The job of pulling the string so that the flag climbs the pole is more complicated than you would think because it has to be timed so that when the last word of the national anthem is sung, the flag is at the top of the pole. Some days a slow moving flag speeds up rapidly at the end to make it in time and on other days the flag races up the pole to finish its climb at an agonizingly slow pace. Once, the string lifting the flag caught on itself and there was danger that the anthem would finish before the flag was lifted.

As the students were singing, the principal was saying, “Pull harder, pull harder.” The student was still unable to dislodge the flag so other professors chimed in, “Pull harder, pull harder.” Finally, the flag was free and raced up the pole just in time for the end of the anthem.

I actually have no idea what the words to the anthem are as the singing borders on the dreadful (it’s not like a rousing rendition of Country Roads sung at SES). Today, the singing was at such low volume that none of the words could be heard. Whether in a bad mood or struck by national pride, the principal took offense and decided to make an example of seven 10th grade boys who he observed not singing.

One by one he made each student sing the national anthem solo, in front of all the other students. The first boy began singing and after one or two lines the principal shook his head, laughed a little and said, “No, you don’t know it. Next.” By this time the other students were starting to enjoy this early morning entertainment and had started laughing.

The second boy started once the laughter was stopped and he also was dismissed rather quickly. The third actually passed muster as the principal began using the student body as judge. “What do you think? Does he know it?”

“Oui, monsieur,” the students cried back.

Out of the seven boys, two passed the “Singing of the National Anthem” test and the other five were sent to do work somewhere.