Monday, April 27, 2009

Mapaki today, my last full day here this year, lives up to its reputation as a community full of beauty, hope, life, death, wonder, pain, and mystery. It’s been a contemplative day for me as I wandered down this morning to my last year’s garden to sit once again in the shade of the mango tree and think of many things. This year’s garden (not mine) was a work of art with flowering okra nestled among the corn, potato vines, brilliance of pepper and spreading tomato. The grasshoppers seemed slightly less plentiful and not overly interested in these varieties of vegetable. The view, unfortunately, brought a sense of doom as one full side of Kafoima, the revered sacred forest, smoldered black and charred from the clearing that had recently been done (probably by the other village, often blamed when the forest is damaged). After enough time for quiet contemplation, I wandered back to discover that during my brief visit to the garden, tragedy struck at the house next to the garden, and the young mother of a suckling baby died during the brief moments I sat under the tree. No one knows yet who will care for and nurse the baby or exactly why the mom died. Oh, Mapaki and the sorrows of babies and young mothers and poor families!

Continuing on my way, I was passed by a small gathering of men and boys in some kind of ceremony that involved drumming on what looked like tortoise shells and blood on the young man in the centre of the gathering. I didn’t stop to ask questions. Rather, I stopped at the porch of my good friend, Pa Sankoh, the wisest man in the village, who had gathered around him about twenty other of the chiefdom’s blind people (I’m not sure why). This was a good opportunity to make arrangements to visit his garden in the morning before I leave, fulfilling a long-overdue promise.

I’m not sure which has affected me more…the water crisis we have been experiencing for the last six weeks as the wells go dry and pumps are locked for hours each day (lots of washing in small amounts of murky water and lining up at midnight or early morning when the water trickles back) or the internet crisis that’s been in effect for one week (our service has been migrated to another satellite but the dish not yet realigned and I’ve been virtually email-less for too long). We’ve had two rains now this week so I expect the water crisis is ending and today we are expecting a team to realign the dish and restore internet to Mapaki. Apologies for all the emails I have missed over the last few weeks. Here’s hoping I can actually post this blog entry tonight.

I suppose this will be my final posting for this year. The last few weeks have been hectic with many visitors and new and old friends from Canada visiting; the opening of the new Mathombo community school (to replace that which was burnt during the war); wrapping up school twinning; the visit of 100 ambassadors, U.N. officials (including Canada’s ambassador to the U.N.), and others to Mapaki for lunch yesterday, and preparing for my departure. The good news that came through yesterday is that, on the third try, Saidu’s application to visit Canada was approved and he’ll be traveling with me on Wednesday (I received this call at the moment of meeting the Canadian ambassador). This means, of course, another whirlwind layer of final preparations and changes. It’s been quite a month, bringing an end to quite a year and I look forward, again, to chatting with many of you in person over the next four months. Back on-line in September!
Photo - "Love is Free" poster made by Parkview students for Mathombo students presented at the new school hand-over ceremony