Bizarre! I’m listening to a scratching radio show out of Montreal on winter sport fashion on the short-wave radio that’s propped up in the lone corner in the room that picks up a radio signal (have been trying, unsuccessfully, to pick up
This past week has been spent largely on the road. It started with a two-day workshop in Makeni for teachers, students, and community members on eliminating corporal punishment in schools, a very timely initiative of Defence for Children International, an organization that is working on a number of common issues. The Makeni trip included a harrowing classic motorbike-chase through Makeni following a speeding motorbike that was to take us to Mabinty sister’s house (we lost the lead bike and had to rely on suggestions and directions of many strangers). My friend Mabinty, who has been asked to work as a volunteer teacher at the community school, had taken her son to stay with her sister in Makeni in preparation for this assignment and Kouame had promised to check in to see him. It’s very common here for children to be raised by aunts or uncles and I’ve been offered children on a number of occasions, including at the Moyamba junction yesterday (have gracefully declined so far, though am under some pressure from Kathleen and Cecilia to find them a brother or sister).
Yesterday we traveled for about nine hours by motor-bike on sorrowful roads to visit Moyamba, a town renowned for its schools (the sole place I’ve heard of where corporal punishment is banned). The roads were sorrowful both for their condition (though I love bad roads best as the slow journey allows for good viewing) and the history of this area. Most of the houses on this line had been destroyed during the war, and this area suffered greatly. On the way we stopped at the community where peace is reputed to have been born (where negotiations with rebels led to peace) and we stopped in to see my new friend Dan Lavin, who had just been crowned chief. I met many wonderful people at Moyamba whom I hope to continue to connect with and brought home lots of ideas and inspiration for the schools here (we really, really need to work on boarding for the students from outlying villages and until we can create our own senior high, I’m thinking we need scholarships for students from here to attend senior high schools).
Sunday was truly a day to remember as it involved five back-to-back memorials and a good grounding in local politics (one of the key functions of funerals and memorials the world over, I think). One year ago the paramount chief of the neighbouring chiefdom (who is rumoured to have 80 children) passed away, as did a local Fullah leader in Magburaka. Both memorials were attended by hundreds if not thousands and it was an opportunity to connect or reconnect with many. I had hoped to meet with Louise, a volunteer human rights lawyer from
This week we also witnessed (and tasted) the first bread to be baked in Mapaki. Led by the town headman, Brima, a group of young people baked delicious loaves of bread on classic stone fire-pits, while waiting for a mud oven to be completed. I have mixed feelings about this initiative. On the one hand, I’m delighted to have access to bread and to see it boost the local economy (current bread-eaters usually bring it in from the junction). On the other hand, the world news this week raised a few red flags. First of all, the
This past week we were also visited by several doctors from
Again, as I’m typing this, I was just visited by a local human rights NGO rep, who is interested in supporting a local resource centre to address human rights issues and we agreed to combine our efforts and limited resources. Things do have a way of working out and I'm looking forward to seeing what this trilateral partnership will yield (apologies to Chinua Achebe, author of the favorite book here, Things Fall Apart) .
And it's official...the grasshoppers have won! After an absence of several days, I returned to the garden this evening to find it....gone! Nothing left but lettuce, parsley and tomato plants. The many pepper plants, carefully nurtured for the past two months which had previously withstood the onslaught were reduced to a few twiggy stems, as were the beans, carrots, and radishes. My first response was to give up, to forgo the hours of hauling water, digging heaps, seeking compost, weeding. But by the time I reached the village and shared my sorrow with everyone I passed, I discovered that we are all suffering the same fate (all the cassava have also disappeared). While the loss of cassava can mean the difference between eating or not, most people were very philosophical about the situation, and I believe there must be alternatives that we can find together. For starters, we'll keep experimenting with other grasshopper-resistant crops (and do internet research), I'll seek loads of netting (the cauliflower growing under nets are also fine), and probably plant more lettuce, parsley, and tomatoes. Thins have a way of working out.