Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How the Day goes by.....

Drying rice grains has usurped the place of drying clothes on the street.  Now is the ‘recult’ (harvest) and all able hands are busy gathering and preparing the staple crop. (Ive heard Guineans say that they can eat and eat and eat everything and have a huge feast, but they don’t feel satisfied until they’ve eaten rice….of course they’ve never had lasagna so the bizarre situation of asking for a side of rice with the lasagna hasn’t ever occurred to anyone here).  Anyway, the division of labor usually plays out that boys and men go out to cut the rice and women whack the stalks so the grains fall off at home when they bring the rice in, and then they dry and store it (but Ive seen sexes swap these roles too).  After the harvest is the time for most traditional dances to take place, and even more so in the villages – I hope I'm invited to partake !
      I’ve been told that if people wait too long to gather their harvest people will come and steal it at night! Also, I just found out this applies to bananas (which explains why these green bananas I bought have taken over 2 weeks to ripen !)  I would think villagers would be more contentious about each others' harvests, but , maybe this is sign of 'Guinea’s difficult times.
    After a 2 week break due to the general election confusion, the kids drum & dance school started back up again today with balaphone (xylophone) practice.  I get in on the action with a tin can filled with seeds aka a shaker.  I marvel how the balaphone teacher taps out a fast rhythm for the kids to learn, and isn’t even watching his hands !  Each instrument has its own unique sound due to its rustic wood, twine and gourd construction.  One of the young girls sings out a “Yankadi” rhythm, a boy and a girl are on the balaphones, and one boy is on djembe along with the balaphone teacher accompanying and motivating the song along.  Yaya (the principle teacher at the drum school) taps out at will his syncopatic volition's on djembe.  Its all quite groovy. 
     We go for a breather in the shade of the building but then move under the mango tree because we cant talk with all the banging on the drums the kids are doing.  They’re so amped to be back on the drums after their vacation – and listening to them you wouldn’t think at all that a group of 10 year olds was creating such a rocking sound!  Yaya sits askance on his chair, as usual, smokes a cigarette, and digs into telling me about a village he lived in for 6 years and the old men that talk to the ‘djenes’ in the baobabs.  He does it so nonchalantly I listen and don’t try to sway the conversation but just let him get out what he wants to put on the table --- is he trying to test my comprehension?  He’s going deep but I follow; but then the kids come out and the conversation shifts.  One of the boys has a homemade instrument consisting of a 2ft long stick with one fishing line tied along it and running through a tin can fastened onto the bottom end.  He’s playing out a fast rhythm picking with a small twig at the can end and plucking with his thumb at the other; the sound is twangy and catchy, and he’s got a huge smile on his face.  I'm impressed that he’s able to keep a beat with such an unassuming instrument, the mark of a true musician  - real cool.  I dig it and his big smile is mirrored on my face too. The song he’s playing is foreign to my ears, but Yaya immediately recognizes it and humors him by humming out the rhythm and correcting him in an encouraging way.  The old teacher sees himself in the actions of the young pupil, and so the generations appreciate each other and keep each other going. 
      Yaya wants to drum with me a bit, so we go inside and jam for 15 before lunch comes.  The school is sponsored by UNICEF and each day the kids get a simple lunch – today its rice with bony-fish and oily pepper sauce (oh these peppers are serious ! ).  All the kids huddle around a large bowl and eat with their hands and Yaya and I share one bowl with spoons (he insists on me eating here, as well as giving me a gargantuous share – I eat some but leave the rest, knowing that the kids are more than happy to finish what I leave behind).   School’s now done for the day so I walk through the sweltering , humid heat back home across the village and assume my rightful position at the hammock.  I ‘drink’ a few oranges (as they say here , because people don’t eat oranges they squeeze peeled ones into their mouth….sometimes a very messy process indeed, depending on the cooperation of the orange).  I read for a few minutes before I doze into mid-day dreamland; and 45 min later I awake sweaty and disoriented.  “ah, yes” I see I’m in the hammock.  I change scenery and play guitar for a while, sitting on the ground in the shade of the building because my favorite morning spot to practice is in full sun now.  I get a call from Adrissa aka street name ‘9-6,’ who’s wondering where the group’s English teacher is??  I started street side English lessons for a small group of college students yesterday, and 6 students came to study and another 5 looked on.  I appreciate their enthusiasm and interest – they seem to get that motivation is key to life.  So, I tuck my baby (my guitar) away and head out across the village again.  After the obligatory ‘big-up’ fist punches and greetings in French we sit down on the rickety wooden benches (which I must include, are actually in the gutter) and get started.  The group has seemed to have picked up some English along their way in life – movies? Rap music?  So we can have a little more than basic conversation.  Their favorite phrase of the day was after I told them how to say " I have a headache," I switched it up and said jokingly, " You give me a headache!" They laugh and get this right away. 
      Sali, one of the stylish girls that hangs out with this college crew, was supposed to come by to teach me some dance but she's getting her hair done (most girls/women here do this once a week - braids, extensions, you name it, they create it. So, word to the easily confused, don't try to recognize women here by their hairstyle!)  She comes later and we start to dance a bit, but its now dark and there's a big ditch behind our small practice space, and its hard to see her movements as her skin now blends in with the night sky.  So I say I think its better to practice earlier and another day.
     As promised, an elder lady that likes to take care of some of the college kids has adopted me as one of her own, and prepared for me a big pot of dinner which she sends over with her grandson.  I open the lid and it turns out to be a sort of soup with potatoes, yams, taro, manioc, green banana, hot peppers and fish.  Ital food, yum!  I was very surprised because this is remarkably similar to what they call "fish broth soup" in Trinidad and Tobago (which is one of my favorites).  I will remember to share with her tomorrow how 'its a small world after all' , and that ancestors all the way over the Atlantic are making the same thing too ! ..... yes I can almost smell is wafting across the sea.........

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