This was my first visit to
After three days away, returning felt very much like coming home. While the morning preparations for the UN were hectic, all went well, they’ve come and gone (through the gauntlet of all the students and community members lining the road with song and welcomes) and I’ve been happy to be able to do my rounds of greetings, unpack,
“brook my cloths” on the back porch, and return to the computer. When I’m done I’m scheduled to give bike riding lessons to the girls of the house.
Later…so, it turns out the fabled “cutting-grass” is real! I just had a call from the chief to come see five brave hunters and their prey…three large rodents the size of small dogs with pig-like bristles and beaver teeth (perfect for cutting grass). The hunters would not sell the cutting-grass to the chief because they said they could get much better money selling them in Magburaka to the drunkards (who apparently buy cutting-grass pepper soup in the bars for a high price). The whole episode put me in mind of the warning signs I saw in Freetown…”beware, bad dog lives here” next to a hand-painted picture of a smiling Saint Bernard…not overly terrifying but taken very seriously. One of the hunters was a young boy who stands out because he wears his hair in dreadlocks and I see him with his hunting gear on distant roads quite often. When Kouamie stopped to ask him why he didn’t go to school anymore (he should be in grade five and is apparently a brilliant child), he told us it was because he had no book or pen. When we asked about his dreadlocks (very unusual for this area), we were told he had them because he was born that way.
I just received a message, incidently, from my three teacher friends, Kouamie, Benjamin, and Usifu, who left on Sunday for a three day education workshop in a far-off town. It turns out the three day workshop is actually three weeks and they are stuck with no money at all and only the clothes on their back for the duration (all three are volunteer community teachers and generally get by on about $5 per month). While I can’t imagine enduring a similar experience, this is not uncommon, and people manage to get by with no money at all for extended periods (they get a daily meal at the workshop and have been given a place to sleep).
Very soon I will be doing a workshop on alternatives to corporal punishment with teachers in Makeni, at the request of people at the local college. This (corporal punishment in school) is the only cloud in human interaction that I have witnessed so far in the north. Other than my run-in with the driver the first week (which was completely my fault) I have neither had nor witnessed any negative interactions between people. I did hear the story of a conflict between two students, which was immediately resolved through counseling with the headman and the chief and one hour in the village jail cell (the slap by one student to another was not to be tolerated) and the students came out saying they were good friends and the problem was solved. Abdul, one of the disputants, has written the whole story of the conflict and resolution at my request. As I’ve mentioned often, I continue to be very impressed with the conflict resolution structures and strategies in place and have such a hard time reconciling this with what I know about the war. Much of the issue is, I think, that the traditions in place in the villages were eroded when desperation and economics forced young people to leave their home communities to search for sustenance in the city and mining areas. The fear, I hear in
Another interesting follow-up to yesterday’s post. This morning I read the newspapers that the chief picked up in
Shortly I’ll be heading to Makeni with the chief with a long list of errands to run for various people in the village, emails to send, and an appointment to meet with a German volunteer who has set up a computer class in Makeni and may come to Mapaki to help us. Tomorrow Mary arrives.