Sunday, October 29, 2006

Serious Boy Part 5

So what do you when you’re lost and come upon a strange village? Do you call out Hello, Bonjour…Youwhoooo? There’s a worn path ahead that goes directly into the center of the huts. I gingerly take a couple steps down it, but I’m uneasy about walking into the silence and into the strangeness of those red mud structures. My ears feel like those huge listening stations pointing into universe to detect signs of life....alert for any noise, creak, movement. At this rate, it’ll be nightfall before I reach the first hut.

A tall man silently appears from behind a hut on the far right. He’s ebony black, shirtless, and wearing flimsy torn tan shorts and old muddy flip flops. He doesn’t smile but nods once. He has some type of mixture smeared on the top of his short black cropped hair—its looks like a combination of red clay and fresh leaf bits. I wonder if it’s an herbal medicine treatment for a headache or lice. I’ve seen nits the size of rice grains on some folks. As interesting as the concoction is…I decide it’s best not to stare.

Bonjour….Bonjour……Ou est hommes et femmes……..blanc?

In bad French, I believe I ‘ve asked….have you seen some white folks? I think that's about the easiest way to sum up my group.

He walks past me without saying a word and heads down one of the paths. I follow him. Of course he would know where they are, this is Africa. If there is one thing that impresses me about this continent is how everyone is interconnected. The people here may not have a lot of what capitalism buys…but they have a strong social network based on clans or tribes. Everyone seems to be related and everyone seems to know everything about everyone. Alberto has mentioned that if someone steals something, something big like a car or truck, in about three weeks everyone would know who did it and perhaps even where the stolen property is located. How could they not know? Someone would see it, someone would talk about it, and the word spreads between this cousin and that cousin and that friend and this friend…. pretty soon you have a good idea, for better or worse, of who stole your property and where it might be.

That’s why tourists traveling alone are more vulnerable to crime in Africa. If you rob some German boy in a village…who does that affect? No clan is shamed, no tribe is insulted….the tourist is probably just passing through with no personal connections to the area. It’s unlikely his German relatives will come down for revenge and it’s unlikely the German government would step in over a minor infraction. In our group, we’re traveling with a heap o’connections . Alberto has been in Africa for over 30 years and has made friends on both sides of the law. Many of our drivers are from powerful clans. Hajee, who we left at the Niger border, is a member of the Tuareg clan responsible for starting the nomad rebellion in Niger in the 90’s. Now tell me, would you want to rob me when I’m traveling with a former rebellion leader? Do you want to take the risk of offending his influential warrior clan and all the clans he’s allied to? Alberto made an interesting observation over dinner one evening, that still resonates with me, he said that the only people you really have to worry about in a confrontation in Africa are the rebels. Bandits don’t want to be killed and can be scared off….but rebels are proud to die for a cause.

I'm following the guy down the trail when he suddenly turns around. “Donnez moi cadeau.” In Africa, every child asks you for a gift a hundred times a minute and many men and women also ask for gifts. Sometimes when they ask for a gift it sounds hostile, other times pleading, and sometimes it even sounds like there’s entitlement behind it…you have lots of money I don’t…give me some.

“Donnez moi cadeau.”

I don’t understand how the gift is being demanded. I don't sense hostility but I don't sense he's friendly either. Is this a fee for service? A sudden good idea? An ultimatum? I play dumb. “ Je parle francais un petite peu.” I only speak a little French. I give a couple of shrugs to emphasize the point. No comprend. No comprend.


Obviously we’re not going anywhere until this is resolved. I look around…and suddenly I feel it…the squeeze on my heart and guts... as my adrenalin starts to pump. The once beautiful landscape turns into a menacing environment …I’m alone in the middle of field of grass somewhere on a mountain top with no idea where my group is….and let me be butt honest…other factors seeped into the situation…man-woman, black-white, African-American. I am never an optimist when I'm afraid. My logical brain, the part of me that would have analyzed this situation is simply is not working. I feel like one of those ahhhhwooogah alarms from a submarine is going off inside my head.

Gina Think Cadeau.

Shit. I left my CFA’s (local money) in the car. Maybe, I have 2 CFA in my back pocket …the equivalent of $4.00. My heart sinks…a cliché…. but that’s exactly what it feels like in my chest. I’ve got my digital camera and then I remember…I slightly move my hips… Yes, I have my money belt on. I don’t even feel it anymore…it’s just a constant sweaty lump at my waist which I’ve learned to ignore. This morning at the hotel, I consolidated all my money and put it in there. I have $4000.00 in cash.

Maybe instinctively realizing I have some bargaining power or the ridiculousness of carrying that much cash broke my sense of danger, because I laughed. Not a big ha ha laugh but a kind of half chortle….half little ha that escapes involuntarily. It surprised me and it must have surprised him too.

“Cadeau?” It seemed like a question now, like it could be negotiated.

“Oui, oui, marchez.” I motioned for him to start walking…yes yes walk…a cadeau when we found my group.

So we walk … for about 5 minutes and then I could see huts from a different village. Diana is standing at the edge of the village looking out onto the trail. She reminds me of pictures I ‘ve seen of sailor’s wives on widow walks…peering out into the horizon for a sign their partner has returned. I want to run up and hug her. Obviously, she knew I was missing and probably had said something to Alberto. Alberto always struck me as the type of guy who not rescue you immediately, he would remain cool and calm till some internal timer went off which indicated you've had enough time to save yourself. Apparently, that’s what happened. Diana told Alberto I was missing but he was chatting with the elders and that timer mustn’t have gone off.

Just before I reach the village, I search my pack. I had 4 CFA’s….$8.00. I him the money. Alberto often gave 5 or 10 CFA’s as “gifts” so I felt it was probably fair for the guidance. I don't look back at him; I sprint forward to meet Diana.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Serious Boy Part 4

I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but I'm now hiking through a grass tunnel. The waist high grass slowly turned into nose high grass and was tinged with red. Since I’m 5 feet 4 inches tall (on a good day) that’s makes the grass about 5 feet tall. It's an odd sensation to walk in this tunnel, I feel like I have blinders on since I couldn’t see past the grass. But it’s blissfully quiet, there's a breeze … and this is exactly what I was hoping for...a little privacy, a little quiet time.

So I keep walking…until I feel a slope. Should I be going down hill? It doesn't seem right. I stop and listen. Now the quiet seems scary and even the damn birds have stopped chirping. My heart is instinctively giving out a distress signal….thump, thump thump.

I stand on my tiptoes and try to see above the grass. I pivot; looking around for any sign of my group. A hat…over there …a hat! One of those expensive droopy Patagonia-type hiking hats my group favors. It’s bobbing far-off to the right and up another trail. I yell, HEEEEY, but the hat disappears.

I turn around and to try and find the fork I missed. The close confines of the tunnel…turn me into a human waterfall. I see the little trail off the main was easy to miss. Well, at least I’m on the right path but I wonder how far the group is ahead of me. I take a long swig of water and decide to walk quickly and steadily up the hill till I catch up with the group. I'm not going to panic. I want to panic but I promise myself at this point not to do it. I was lost now I'm found. ...right? The plan lasts for about 10 feet. The trail suddenly becomes wet and muddy. I have to navigate small streams and wet rocks. I puff along and find ...another fork. I have no idea…which way to go.

I think about sitting down on a rock and just staying put. Isn't that what you are supposed to do when you're lost? But I’ve been with these folks for a couple weeks now…. if the group is busy talking and taking pictures in some village… one is going to take a head count….this isn’t like elementary school where you have your special buddy you’re supposed to stay with.... I could be waiting a long time. I’m sure Diana will eventually notice I’m gone but she was busy talking to Alberto as they went up the path.

I decide to take the left fork…a few minutes later –there’s another fork. This is my punishment…the Pier 1 and Pottery Barn Gods of Capitalism have put me in a labyrinth for cursing their presence on this mountain. I probably cannot escape unless I promise to subscribe to their catalogues.

I take the right fork this time... simply because there’re more trees in that direction. I don’t know if it's a logical choice or a lucky choice but I now see the tops of some straw must be a village.

I head towards it but I don’t feel comfortable…. it’s as if some sixth sense is telling me...nahhhh this isn't going to work. As I get closer, I see three little naked boys playing around a tree. They freeze and stare at me with their mouths open. I know I look scary--a puny white woman with a red face and by now my cheap Wal-mart pants have stretched so much at the knees I look like I'm sporting camel humps on my legs..... but despite my appearance....these kids looks too startled. If my group was in this village, the boys wouldn’t be so surprised to see another woman (even with secondary legs) come along.

As I approach the village, the little ones sprint away. I stop a few feet from the huts. I don’t see a soul. I don’t see where the kids have run off to… I’m definitely not in the right place.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Serious Boy Part 3

We visit two villages with huts that are made of hardened red mud and a traditional roof of straw. The points on all the roofs are covered with a clay pot, usually at a jaunty angle, to prevent rain from getting into the hut. There aren’t many people in the villages. The chieftains tell us most people have moved down to the savannah to farm and work. They return to the mountains for ceremonies, festivals, and other special events. Their move makes sense when you look out over the lush savannah and compare it to rocky thin soil that exists on the mountain top.

Alberto marches forward to head towards another village off in the distance and we follow him like little ducklings. I’m almost at the end of the line on the trail. The grass is waist high, the view of the savannah is stunning, even the grey clouds seem perfect.... creating a gentler light than if the sun had been out. Do you remember the hill from the Sound of Music….where Julie Andrews spreads her hands out and starts singing? Well, this mountain top looks like that to me….rounded… grassy...panoramic. The only difference between me and Julie Andrews (okay I won’t go there) is the height of the grass. If I ran out to the edge of the hill, I’d have to hop like a bunny to get through these reeds. Julie Andrews skipped over the grass, she didn’t hop.

The savannah below also triggers another movie memory… this time it’s one of those “Out-of-Africa” romantic type films. In the desert, I never felt I was in Africa. I felt like I was in the Sahara. Here I feel Africa, I sense a wild heartbeat that’s very different from desert and the dry savannahs of southern Niger. I almost expect to see gazelles and prides of lions instead of the distant clumps of small tress and shrubs.

My feet seem to have decided not to move anymore. . My Sound-of –Music-Out-of-Africa sensation has rooted me in place.. A butterfly flits by me. I can hear unseen birds chirp. The wind rustles the grass stalks….and then I hear…..

“I buy all my shelves at Pier 1.”
“I love Pier 1.”
“But I like Pottery Barn shelves.... although they aren’t very wide.”
“Do you really? I’ve never looked at their shelves.”
“Well I need them wide enough for my photo albums. You know I have so many of them.”

No!......Julie Andrews please throw a thunderbolt at these people! Pier 1 and Pottery Barn can’t be on this mountain top in Africa! I sprint down the trail a to get some distance between me and the furniture accessories but my traveling companions seem to keep up an even pace with me.

“Does Pier 1 have photo albums?”
“No, but I did find some at Pottery Barn I liked.”
“Really? Did you see the new glass vases they have?”

I stop and pull my camera out from my shoulder pack.

“Hey I’m just taking some photos of the view here….you guys go right ahead of me. I’ll catch up to you in a minute.”

My traveling companions nod their heads as they discuss the latest imports.

Finally when I could hear only the din of their voices, I start walking again.

It was just me and the grass and Julie Andrews…..and that became a problem.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Serious Boy Part 2

The trail is gentle at first and I’m grateful. My body has developed a cha-cha type rhythm that seems to be working….step step…. ouch ouch ouch….step step….ouch ouch ouch....but at least I’m walking. The new green grass sprouting along the trail after recent rainfalls is simple and comforting on this overcast day. I try and keep my eyes focused on it's inherent positiveness rather than thinking of the aliens in my stomach. I let Jay and another person from my group scoot ahead of me. They’re hiking fast up the trail and don’t seem to be bothered by the heat or the humidity. I'm the desert...the heat seemed to sap my in the's the humidty. I feel a flapping sensation against my legs and look down to discover the ends of my cotton pants are so drenched in sweat that they’re actually starting to make noise. Great… talking pants!

The last part of the trail is steep. I deliberately set a slow steady pace for myself and take lots of deep breaths. I’m thirsty but I don’t want to drink any water. I’m afraid of “slushy stomach” snydrome…which happens when you’re overheated and drink lots of fluids. It feels like your stomach becomes rigid and the fluid is sloshing around inside it—kind of like a milk jug being shaken. There’s a flat granite rock on the trail and I decide to stop and stretch. Even though I’m carrying a small lightweight side pack, I feel hunched over ala Quasimoto. I stretch with my arms high up in the air and realize my stomach feels better afterwards. I’m amazed and happy. I start walking and feel an occasional sharp pang but nothing steady. I'm convinced I won't give birth to aliens anymore. Of course, now I’m soaked in sweat, flushed, and probably dehydrated so I can always worry about heatstroke.

When I reach the top of the mountain, I find a friendly rock to sit on and catch my breath. The village chieftain, an elderly man, greets the group and Alberto, our trip leader. Alberto tells us he discovered these villages about 15 years ago while hiking through the mountains. He was looking for a secret passageway from one of the towns into this area. Folks built these villages here as a defensive maneuver to hide from slavers. Africans and Whites would come up from the coast and scour the countryside eager to capture people for the lucrative slave trade. These villages often had great views of the savannah because the villagers wanted to keep an eye on who was in their valley.

The chieftain is talking to Alberto in French, so there’s lag time before things get translated. I can’t help but notice the massive outcrop of rocks which starts behind the chieftain--huge moss-covered boulders and trees growing out of crevices. There’s even a baby goat precariously balancing on a ledge munching away at some greenery. I slip away from the group and wander over to the rocks. I feel like an electric switch just got turned on inside me….ohhh this is spiritual sacred place and has been for a long time. I can feel it…I can sense it in the rocks......I turn towards the group and a breeze…God’s gift to you in Africa….meets me.....almost like a kiss on the cheek. I spread my arms and embrace it. I’m suddenly awake and alert and out of my travel stupor. I must be in bad shape if a bunch of rocks help me reconnect with my soul.... I've noticed I'm becoming more and more withdrawn and quiet...but my travel companions for the most part aren't my type of people....and the constant stress of being with them ....and never having privacy or a chance to get away is wearing on me.

Don't get me wrong....the folks I’m traveling with are nice people…but the first week we talked about all the countries and tours they've been on, the second week we talked about all the trips they've booked for the coming years…and this week we are still talking Netflex, computers, TV shows and pizza. The one thing we’re not talking about is Africa….the landscape, the people, the culture…what we've seen throughout the day that was wonderful, new, and beautiful.

At least Diana and I talk it about it…and if she wasn’t on this trip I know I would be totally insane by now. There’s also a petite Korean-American woman who’s an artist back in California...we haven't communicated a lot ..but I enjoy seeing her studying a flower, or gazing at a pattern in the sand or rocks. She's complained the landscape has been "too strong" in places for her... and she needed to rest. I love the idea that someone can be overwhelmed by visuals....whether they are real or shows an imaginative soul at work.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Serious Boy Part 1

My alarm clock rattles on the nightstand but I'm sure it's a mistake. I can't see the numbers clearly anymore. The plastic clock face is opaque after three weeks of intimately interacting with parts of the Sahara desert at the bottom of my duffel bag. I move my toes but they feel numb. I'm sure they are frost-bitten but I also realize I'm suffering from African paranoia... and tend to believe the most lethal consequence is the best explanation for everything that happens.
I'm in a nice hotel and there's even an air conditioner in the wall that works (having an air conditioner in a wall in Africa does not guarantee that it will remain in the wall throughout the night, or that it can be turned on, or that it's capable of emitting cool air.) The problem is the vents don't move and are aimed directly at the head of the bed. At first, the cold air feels exotic and refreshing after being in the desert, but when I wake up in the night and can't feel my nose...I figure this isn't the ideal sleeping position. I grab the pillow and sleep at end of the bed...sacrificing my feet to the god of cold air.
I know it's time to get moving because it's getting light outside my window. I roll out of bed... and quickly roll right back into my original position. There's a knife in my stomach. I look down expecting to see one. But there's nothing there...just my panties...which were once pink and are now streaked with old dirt and sweat marks creating an interesting camoflage look. I have endured tummy rumblings and the threat of Traveler's Diarrhea,but this sharp pain is new and different. I reach for the clock, read the dial and sigh. There's no down time when you travel in a group, no time to baby yourself. I take a cipro (an antibiotic for diarrhea) chew two chalky shocking pink pepto bismo tablets and head downstairs to meet the group.
The pain seems worse in a sitting position and I can only eat a little French bread and drink a cup of black tea. I ask Diana to stake out a 4 door car to ride in today....maximum escape potential from every seat...just in case. Once in the car, I don't wear my cheche... I roll it up and use it as a pillow. I take deep yoga-style breaths as we drive along and diagnose my pain.. a massive tapeworm the size of a garden hose is obviously eating it's way through my stomach wall and will soon enter my intestines and emerge out of my abdominal wall just like the alien baby in ....well... Alien. Happy African thoughts again.
We're scheduled for a hike today to see some unusual villages in the mountains of Benin. After sitting for so many days in the cars..the idea of walking....of using my body and what leg muscles haven't atrophied sounds wonderful. The only trouble is the pain in my stomach. I consider staying behind and snoozing in the back seat of the car for the next few hours. But as everyone gets ready to leave for the trail, I don't want to be left behind I quickly put on my socks and athletic shoes. Diana is already out of the car..and heading towards the group....but I can't move. I sit and stare at my's the first time in a month I I've had socks and shoes on and my feet feel heavy and alien. Great..I 've been taken over by aliens! ( I did mention African paranoia right?)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tribal Africa

The desert was so captivating it seems almost hard to move on to Tribal Africa but that was a portion of of my trip too. It was in its own way amazing....from vodoo hiking up into the hills (the small village pictured here was on a mountain top in Benin) to African hotels and to the discovery of creative drinks made with "Sports Active" and Gin. I plan to skip around a bit....none of these stories I'm going to tell have been written yet....but one of them is a favorite in my heart....and I have mentally called it "Serious Boy." So I'll start there...and hope to many other types of pictures posted.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Romance of the Tuaregs

Today while I was at the bookstore, I happened to see a copy of Lawrence of Arabia. The cover of the book had a drawing of Lawrence in his long white robes astride a camel...obviously the book's cover was trying to portray a romantic idealized version of a desert man. I had to smile, I'm spoiled now....and I have my own images of what a romantic desert man looks like.....and they all revolve around the Tuaregs.

My first image of a Tuareg man was so utterly romantic and mystical... it felt like it came out of Hollywood movie versus real life. We were on a small van traveling from the Niamey airport to Agadez, the city were we would meet our cars and begin travel in the desert. We had just spent hours stuck in the mud from an early morning rain and subsequent flash flood in the desert. The sun was shining on a flat landscape of sandy soil and small tight clumps of grass. Our group was cheerful...if our van hadn't escaped the mud, we would have been forced to wait for the cars to come down from Agadez and rescue us...a wait of probably 12 hours or more without food and water in knee-high muck. On the horizon, we could all see what looked like another storm heading our way. There was a dark-colored wall advancing towards us even though our van was still traveling in the sunlight. We were passing through a small town, a place that had only a few square red adobe buildings and some market stalls. The wall hit us ...and it wasn't rain but sand....we were in a sandstorm! I looked out the van window and there was this man....this tall elegant a dark-cheche, dark sunglasses, and royal blue overgarment....he was pulling on the reigns of this tall white camel which was spinning in the wind could see the panic in the's mouth's eyes blinking against the stinging sand ....and you could see the authority in the man....his bare feet digging into the camel's neck to control the animal....his redleather-covered sabre swinging out from his waist.....I felt my jaw drop open....the image was so desert....that I couldn't believe I had actually seen it....the van moved on....people were running for shelter towards doors and inside buildings....a small clump of camels were huddled and hugging the wall of the building...their huge eyelashes fluttering against the stinging wind....and i sat back and just shook my head....wondering if I had actually seen the image or if it was a dream.

My other romantic visions of Tuareg men are smaller and less dramatic but still add to the collage of the desert watching Hagee walk up and down the dunes to survey their height and depth....his garments flowing as he moved......walking tall and confident....knowing exactly how to place his feet on the he looked like he was floating....rather than climbing or exerting himself..... no doubt a prince in his kingdom.

And I have a funny modern Tuareg image that still makes me smile....I was standing on the side of the wide flat sandy road in Timia, a small oasis town in the Air in the distance.... I could see a white Land Rover speeding towards me....the windows were up ....which meant the air conditioner was on......I thought it was one of those United Nations cars....I had see them here and there....with the United Nations emblem on the door....always with the air con on ....the tinted windows..... and a driver with shadowy passengers in the back seat. As the car passed me ...I smiled......No, it was the not the United Nations....but a car full of Tuareg men....four of jewel-colored garments....white cheches.....and sunglasses.....all looking straight ahead....all looking cool and elegant....and mysterious...and they whoosed by me--a puny white sweating woman in oversized clothes....I actually laughed after they passed by.......God those guys are hotties!!! .....No wonder you read about all the European women who brought home a Tuareg.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A Desert Prince Who Looks Like Prince?

The Tuaregs are believed to be descended from Berber nomads who originated in Northern Africa/Spain. They have a caste system which consists of a nobility, a working class, and a blacksmith caste ( smiths were often segregated in nomadic tribes as well as in tribal Africa because they worked with iron and fire...and were thought to possess magical powers since they changed the earth's elements.) The Tuareg nobility are often fine-featured Berber descendants while the working class Tuaregs were often from Black African tribes which the clan had raided in the distant past and brought back to incorporate into the tribe as servants/slaves.

This is Razz, a cousin of our lead driver. I thought he looked just like the singer....Prince....Notice how beautifully his cheched is wrapped around his head.

A Grand Tuareg

This older Tuareg is dressed in a grand boubous....a very flowing outer garment and an exceptionally long and eloborate cheche....up to 20 yards of material are wound in his cheche.

Peacocks of the Desert

The Tuaregs are a colorful lot....they often wear jewel colored outer garments and a white cheches as part of their "in town" look.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

President Cheese Unconditionally Loves Me

Yesterday, Katie, a person in my real life here at home saw me for the first time since I returned from Africa. In her comments on my post, she noted that I was "glowing" and wondered if I had been dabbling with the Muhammeds (Little or Old or any others around) on my trip. So I thought I better nip this in the bud right away....and state with absolutely certainly I hadn't been romping with Tuaregs (and I'm not going to be foolish like Jimmy Carter and announce there was lust in my heart)....but in all fairness I thought I would share my secret.

For a whole month, I have been.....eating Africa. Not just any cheese, but President's after day ....wedge after wedge....breakfast...sometimes lunch ...sometimes dinner. At certain points on the trip, meat--especially fresh meat-- was very scarce, and they often had canned tuna or sardines. Neither of which I am fond of....but the President was always there....and the President....besides erasing my hunger pangs....did something else....please note in the pictures below....that President Cheese official supporter of my passion.

Can you imagine what a difference that makes in your life? To realize that a whole cheese empire, an entire company in Europe is supporting my passion....unconditionally.
Do they know who and what my passions are? No....and yet they are willing to support me.

Folks when doesn't unconditional love bouy you to the surface of any crisis....when doesn't love set you feel to be yourself and centered and glowing? Muhammeds can be fickle.....but you know when you have a cheese empire behind you.. you have an anchor in any storm.

Official Supporter of My Passion

Only a President Could Do This......

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Did Africa Change Me?

I received an email from a friend of mine this week who asked me ….Did I come back changed? Outside of having a few bits of me removed by insects…I wrote her my first thoughts….and I realized later this evening….it actually said something important to me……so I will share them here.

Did Africa change me?

I can tell you that on the return flight home….I felt depressed and sad….I remember looking out of the plane window onto a sea of clouds and thinking… shit …maybe my expectations were too high….I had gone to Africa with some questions and hurt in my heart and all kinds of life stuff that a baby boomer and mother and wife accumulates by this time …I had hoped the fierce landscapes would somehow sweep me clean…I was hoping my soul would be so light on my return that I would look like a neon glow stick at night….but I could feel most of what I carried to Africa was still there in some shape or form….but in the week since I have been home….I am also feeling the weight of all the things that are now inside me from my trip…from Harry the fetish….to Harrisa pepper paste….to bubbling Hooka pipes…to soft silky sand …to the image of a full moon rise above a dune in Fachi…and the people…. I still feel the people I interacted with…Little Mohammed, Big Mohammed, Hajee…Susan…Alberto…Diane…and so many others…...their personalities…their quirks…lol…..and even in this desolate place… were you reek and look like a dog….. I had the startling pleasure (and it was really a pleasure) of watching a man and woman….become interested in each other…and seeing that spark that comes about when people begin a special connection….so many many things my subconscious and consciousness has absorbed from being in Africa and living drastically different for 6 weeks…….

Maybe I just wanted to be lazy….maybe I was hoping fierce landscapes and the heat shimmering off a sand dune would do all the work for me….come on...we all want breaks...LOL>>>I was hoping all I had to do was show up in this rugged landscape and things would get done..….instead I've realized that old cliché….you don’t escape the jobs you're intended to do….but I have fresh eyes…and new resources in my life and perhaps that’s Africa true gift to me… tools in the toolbox….

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Obviously Harry Needs a Cigarette

Harry the house fetish was getting cranky.....I know this because things in my house were getting out of I walked into the laundry room and couldn't see the floor because the boys had left so much laundry....and the picture I just hung up in the family room...went strangely askew in the night....and a bunch of bills disappeared....and the cat woke me up a couple of times for no reason....and all these little things started to I began to worry that my house fetish was cranky....the fetish priest told me that if I didn't give Harry a cigarette at least twice a year he would get that way.

So here is Harry getting his first cigarette....he looks pleased....I even took a puff with we could mutually set the house right....I decided Harry would live on my staircase between the first and the second floor which is also near the front door. This way Harry can keep an eye on everything. Since I also keep books along my stairs.....I decided to be funny and place Harry on a stack of books he might find interesting. LOL>>> Harry is sitting on the paperback novel of "The Story of O" ...this should keep Harry occupied for a bit....although he may need another smoke for a different reason.

My Cache of Fetishes

My fetishes.....the traveling fetish...the sled---which is the love fetish ( so you can carry your love around) the round ebony seed pod....for intelligence....(which you activate by holding in your left hand and pouring water on three times...then taking it and making a sign of the cross on your forehead)...and the little pouch of wonder with its magical herbs and spices.

My Recyclable Travel Fetish

The traveling fetish....when you make your travel plans whisper into his open mouth...then close him up with a plug and carry him along till your travels are over......then release his plug....he's the next trip start out with a new whisper.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Puny White Woman is Sick

In the case of Puny White Woman versus African virus.....African virus threw Puny White Woman down on the mat today.....hopefully it is its last trick....its final curtain call....but for right now....(with face firmly pressed into the mat and exhausted) all I can manage is to post some of my pics of the desert....

Actually one of my favorite pics of the trip is the first photo.....if you study it....look hard at it for a few will understand how it feels to be in the Sahara small and silly you are bouncing around in a tin can in an ancient land that has no need for you.... and does not put out the welcoming mat to greet's often hazy too....which leads to a dream-like quality...a feeling of unreality....are you really in the Sahara desert or is this some dream you have found yourself in? Will you ever wake up?



The Beauty of Simplicity

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Officially Cheched

I was hoping to tell some stories today....but Africa had it's revenge on me.....I survived....acid flies and numerous blisters from insects bites.....managed a rumbly tummy....but I was only home a few short hours when I was hit with the respiratory virus from hell....or more likely Lome, Togo. I hear puny white people are great targets for viruses in Africa....we have no resistance to these exotic bugs because we've never met them before....and like kids sent off to day care for the first time....we get everything and anything I thought today I would take it easy and just send some photos and commentary and hope you enjoy the show.....

This is how I started my trip into the Sahara....I was officially cheched by a fabric man in the compound of the hotel before we left for the desert....I never quite looked this put together again... some people on my trip....had deft hands and looked like they were cousins of Lawrence of Arabia....I always looked like I belong to cheche challenged folks who couldn't quite come off looking like a native.....eventually I created a pattern of wrapping that fit me....and did the trick....but I thought I would provide you with a pic of how one should look in the desert......

Harley Sunglasses Rule!

Yes....that's I have my Harley Davidson sun glasses on.....which managed to save my eyeballs and contacts throughout the desert.....usually I had my cheche a bit higher up....covering my nose....but I felt a bit risque at this moment......

Finding Shade in the Desert is Tricky

Stealing someone else's cheche is sometimes the only way of finding shade in the desert....and if you're saying to youself....hmmmmm.....looks're was my outfit of the learn quickly a big bulky shirt and loose pants are your only hope to survive in the sun which if given a chance would fry your skin like a pork rind....

Getting Stuck in the Sand

Getting stuck in the sand is a frequent occurence in the desert.....the sand is can be moving along and suddenly you hit a soft a weird way it's comparable to driving on ice....where suddenly you hit a slick spot or a piece of black the temperature rises in the afternoon....the chance of sinking also rises.....which is why we often ate lunch and stayed put for an hour or so.....better to rest than to play push the car out of the sand....we also carried sand ladders.....plates of metal that you put in front of the back tires once you dug the sand away from the wheels....the ladders lift the car up and out over the sand.... the tires are very underinflated for driving too......trouble is....a nasty rock can easily cause a flat with the pressure so low.....of the 5 cars in our caravan....two of them looked like Toyota in the picture and were lovingly named the "tin cans" by us....they were the work horses....capable of carrying the heaviest of loads....they also had thin seat cushions and bouncy springs....(thank god i read the suggestion that women wear sports bras or my most wonderful assets would have been shaken right off me) these cars also seemed to get hotter than the other cars....we never had the air conditioner on in the desert ...too taxing to the cars....also note that in the picture the sand and the horizon/sky are the same color....that's actually true....and not a camera problem...the sky is often hazy and the sand is tan and its like a big white out at times.

Traveling with Your Goat Bag

In the States, you may not want to travel without your American the Sahara you don't want to travel without your goat.....this goat skin started out on the front of our lead vehicle and then moved to the side.....the nomads use the goat to carry water... because the skin is porous...evaporation occurs....and the water inside the goat is actually cool....we didn't drink from the goat as the nomads would....( no surprise they say there's a fleshy taste to the water) but Alberto our guide....put the bottles of wine we would drink at dinner in the we could have cool white wine....and acceptably cool red wine.....we also on one occasion hid Libyan Pepsi's in the have no idea how good a cool soda can taste after drinking liter after liter of warm water......or flavored one town in northern Niger... a couple of us... raided all the coolers in the market to find the last few cans of Libyan Pepsis ... which we hid as if they were got that simple in the desert......where the sight and fizz of a cool can of soda.....made you feel joyful.....and thankful.

A Truck Headed for Libya and Stacked High with People and Goods

Folks you meet in the desert are often clumped in large's a truck headed for Libya....with a normal sized load of goods and people ......standard desert travel.......lots of folks and goods head for Libya in order shall I say this politely....enter Europe whether they have the legal right to do so or not.......the only time the trucks stop is for prayers and fuel....otherwise no matter how hot and grueling the road....the people, goats, and goods remain in place......

Finally Meeting a Scorpion in Person

More interesting friends you meet in the desert.........

Could This be my New Second Career?

It's good to know that once you learn how to shoot a gun....there's always employment consider

Monday, October 02, 2006

First Day Home

Today I sat and looked at all my pictures.....I thought I would share these two from Tunisia before I sent more pics and stories from the desert and the southern tribal lands. The first one is a picture of henna hands....quite the elegant decoration for Tunisian women ...often used before festivals or celebrations. This young woman said she was either going to be married soon or was going to that is why her hands were so elobarately decorated.....

The other pictures is one of many door pictures I took in Tunisia....painting and decorating doors like this is a Tunisian tradition....if a family can afford it...they hire an artist to decorate the doors. This sky or ocean blue color is the traditional color for many of the doors....and you see this blue all the way from Tunisia to Tunisia it reminds residents of the Mediterraine and in Togo it ties people to the deep blues from the Gulf....but even in the middle of the desert you see this color of blue decorating wooden doors and shutters....I asked a man in Niger why they paint doors blue in the desert....he says its an African tradition....but I couldn't help wondering if the blue in the Sahara is connected to water too...from the long ago memories of ancestors who knew lakes and huge majestic rivers in the Sahara that flowed through tall canyons......and created a lush grassland where giraffes and cattle grazed....I've climbed up cliffs and into caves in the middle of the desert and seen the stone paintings of these animals....and I've driven in the dry beds of enormous rivers that must of the made the surrounding land lush......I learned to love this blue during my trip......and I've decided to paint our large patio doors leading into our house from our deck..... African blue....

Beautiful Tunisian Doors

Henna Hands

Sunday, October 01, 2006

across three continents

well hey i am in chicago....just one flight away from
being home///sitting here at ohara
airport....realizing i will be in my own bed
tonight.....despite the fact i have been flying since
yesterdqy i have had good in chicago the
custom mann decided not to check my bags and i was
quite would i have explained a camel
bag or the little cloth sack i have filled with
"insurance" from the fetish doctor.....i went to the
fetish market in lome which is like a pharmacy
walgreen's for your fetish really
does ccontain eye of newts and bats...dried....and
gorilla heads...terribly sad and about every animal
and plant you could think of in various stages of insurance plan for my life
contains a fetish to protect my house a small head
which i must give one to two cigarettes per year to
smoke or the fetish will get love amulet so
those of you out there in the male gender best be ebony pod to help with my
intelligence...obviously he too thought i was
suffering from african brain....and one traveling
fetish a little red leather man with an open hole for
a mouth///you say your traveling wishes into his mouth
and he comes equiped with a peg so you can seal the
wish up till you get home.....and one general good
luck amulet contain 41 secret herbs which suspiciously
sounds like the colonel's country fried chicken
recipe....but hey who am i to argue with a man who
deals in skrunken anyways so far my
travel insurance fetish is working and i hope to be
home in two too for the
first time in 5 weeks i had that
remarkable too...well wish me luck more later on my
trip and hopefully pics too