Keur Mame Diarra

Trip Start Jan 14, 2014
Trip End Mar 16, 2014

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Flag of Senegal  ,
Saturday, February 22, 2014

   This post is dedicated to our gracious hosts, especially Mame Diarra (Grandmother), Youssouph, Ibrahim and Ami, who have been spending all kinds of time and energy to keep me and my family fed and clean in Senegal. Theirs is a beautiful, walled compound with a host of beautiful trees, some having been planted from seed more than 30 years ago. We live in one of three round rooms on the garden side with the men, all family members (brothers, uncles, coussins, nephews) helping to construct Mame Diarra's new house. The women share the other side of the compound where most of the cooking, cleaning, drying, poultry raising, etc. takes place. Youssouph and I have planted some tomatoes and other veggies in new garden beds and finished mulching existing trees.
   A new 2-story house is going up. Piles of sand, gravel and concrete bags and blocks are stacked neatly here and there. A huge John Deere brought more sand yesterday. The boys really got a kick out of it. I couldn't believe it fit inside the gate. Concrete blocks are made with forms on site. Construction is leisurely. There are many coffee/tea/cigarette breaks, but also many hands. They only work in the hottest part of the day, yet the work gets done. We have seen an Africa-shaped swimming pool go up from scratch in little more than one week. 
   Before and after work you can find all the guys sitting around the fire making coffee, tea or drinking bunu (palm wine) and reasoning about spiritual and economic matters. It is so good and pleasant to see this day in and day out. There is never any squabble or fierce argument. They are truly guided by Chez Ibra Fall and his teachings. They live "dimbal ak yirmande," or "help and compassion." Everyone is treated the same, and nothing is assumed. I have seen in other parts of the world that groups of men do not function or socialize so intimately and peacefully. Family is most valuable. If you need help, or work, or an employee, you first look to your family. To say you have no family is to say you are lost. Here, family trees can be recounted and recited on command back many generations.
   In this part of Africa, ancient traditions are strongly intact. Hospitality is one of the more striking cultural traditions visitors will note. Newcomers are freely given everything they may want. It is sometimes overwhelming or challenging to have a meal or tea paid for by someone with very little money. Still for them it is a great blessing to be of service, as they know it will come back around to them in some way eventually.
   At Mame Diarra's house, we worked out a daily rate for room and board. It has been a great vacation from housekeeping for Annie. We are still able to cook if we want. We can also pay a fee for our laundry if we don't feel like doing it. Water comes from a clean, hand-dug well, and we feed it through a Basecamp filter we brought with us just in case. We get lots of R&R and feel like are hosts are duly compensated. If you are interested in staying at Keur Mame Diarra (Grandmother Diarra's House), send me a message and I can help put you in touch. 
   Last night was the conclusion of carnival week. Carnival is a new thing here cooked up by the tourism industry in the late 1990s. It has been great for us because all the music is happening about a kilometer inland. The usual discotech noise has been silent for two weekends and a week. We did make it out to the musical programs for two of the 8 or 9 nights it was happening. There have been all kinds of artists, solo guitarists, kora players, lots of djembe and dance groups, guys dancing on stilts, even local dancehall artists. The whole town comes out, and there are vendors selling peeled oranges, coffee, tea and other snacks. Tickets are 1000 CFA for a seat, 500 for standing room. It is great to see. There is always a positive vibe. The audience is free and welcome to join performers on stage, as traditionally they would be participants. The energy is so high, still I am too tired to ever see the end. They will play well beyond 3 a.m.
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Sarah on

Chris, I love reading both your and Annie's blogs and seeing all the pics. What an awesome adventure! And congrats on the successful fishing outing ��
Much love.

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