Family Time in Baila

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

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Flag of Senegal  , Ziguinchor,
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

   We wanted to visit the home town of our hosts. Baila is a small but growing village on the mangrove river about an hour's drive inland from Kafountine. Here the people are and speak Diola (Jola), and very proudly so. They are farmers and are known by their traditional cattle drawn plow. The Diola greeting is as follows:
   "Cassoumay?" (“Peace?”) to which is replied:
   “Cassoumay chepp.” (“Peace only.”)
   Mamadi drove us and would hang with us all day. Youssouph said we were the first ever white visitors to his home. This was where he grew up, raised by his aunt after his mother died. We learned he had joined the army before becoming a Baye Fall. He loved the discipline and training but not the difficulties of war that struck Cassamance a decade and a half ago.
   Now Cassa is peaceful and thriving. The Coly’s is a lovely and large piece of land without fences bordering the bush. There was a grove of mangoes in the back yard with one in the front yard that his grandfather had planted more than 60 years ago. It was huge. We sat in its shade much of the day, eating unlimited koni and oranges. There were also several giant ficus around which, despite their size, were only about as old as Youssouph at 40 years. I realized that once these trees (and the baobabs common here) reach a certain size, they cannot be removed, at least not without giant logging equipment.
   We learned that the koni palms do not produce fruit until the age of 30. I didn’t know that a tree could wait so long to produce fruit. We got to see Youssouph and his nephew climb these giant palms to harvest the bunches of fruits. The harness was a simple hoop made of palm bark and a short piece of rope. The long rope was for easing down the heavy bunch of fruit. Danger never tasted so good.
   His aunt made us a wonderful lunch of fried fish and potatoes over fresh green leaf salad. Franklin took his nap in Youssouph’s old room. They were also building a new house. We got to see the walls going up. Instead of concrete, they just mixed wet sand with some clay and stacked it up. No forms or anything. It was amazing. Like cobb, but without the straw. It was even carved the same way with a machete. It was so simple yet strong, appropriate and elegant.
   We visited with his great aunt who appeared to be in her 80s or 90s. She used a walker to get around, but we only saw her sitting or lying in one spot on the ground all day. She said the women of the village were having a hard time pulling buckets out of the wells to water the gardens and cattle. Indeed these wells were pushing 60 or 70 feet to water. The women were developing muscle problems from all the heavy lifting. I tried to imagine my 93 year old grandmother with a walker sitting and sleeping on the ground. I don’t think she has been on the ground at all in more than 20 years, unless by accident.
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