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Published: October 10th 2006
Hot But Happy
The end of another day's teaching with no electricity - which means no fans - which means SWEAT - LOTS of it.
There’s more to life than goats
I’ve been a “resident” of Foundiougne since the 16th September - Two and a half weeks doesn’t make me a fully fledged resident I know but it’s enough for me to start feeling a bit more involved in the town and slightly less obsessed by the weather. It’s long enough for me to know the difference between two different types of Thiebu Dien (The “National Dish” comprising some kind of fried fish, rice of one of two colours, a mixture of obscure vegetables and the all important tamarind sauce which gives it the unique taste - I love it). Actually 3 types of Thiebu Dien if you include the one played on the “Tam Tams”
Yes, I’ve found myself a drumming teacher. Ousamane is actually the towns Maitre Batteur which means that he leads the group of 10-15 TamTam players in the town’s festivals and celebrations.
TamTamming isn’t sitting on Brighton Beach with a Djembe bought in the Lanes. TamTams are hard core - about 200 beats per minute with the left hand and double that with the right (which holds a stick). The rhythms are very complicated - most I simply
Jean-Pierre gets ready to get it on with the ladies
don’t get. Ousmane tells me that it will come and that in a couple of week’s time I’ll be joining his group in their “Korité” (end of Ramadan) performance and showing Foundiougne that the Toubab DOES have rhythm. My arms ache just thinking about moving that bloody stick that fast !
Things have looked up since I explained to my minder Jean-Pierre (14 year old boy trapped in the body of a 32 year old) that I really didn’t want to sit and watch like a lemon, understanding nothing (spoken that is) while he tried his luck with 3 girls working in his favourite restaurant. (Best line so far - apart from the daily mantra of “c’est pas prevu dans le budget” which covers everything from sellotape to paper for the printer - is, “if I talk to one of them the others will get jealous as they all want me”). Hmmm. I decided to leave the teenage wrestling behind and break out on my own, trying places on my own and generally making it known that I was keen to meet some real Foundiougne residents - so that I might grow to like the place I’ll be living
My hut at WAAME with another approaching thunderstorm behind
in until the start of November. That’s still 4 weeks away and they tell me that things will start cooling down after I leave - thanks!
Talking every day to Tabara the peanut seller opposite the Hotel De Ville led to an invitation to have dinner (yes, Thiebu Dien!) with her family and all of the in-laws. I was a hit with the kids, who loved my interpretation of “Frère Jaques” - the only French song I know apart from some by MC Solaar or Les Negresses Vertes.
Asking my students about drumming led to an invite to meet Ousmane at a mutual friends place. Michel is a French ex-pat who has lived in Foundiougne for 6 years. He runs an Auberge in town and is an avid planter of trees. He told me that when he first arrived, the road from Foundiougne to Kaolak ran through dense natural forest. Six years later and, apart from the odd Baobab and “Fromagère”, it’s pretty much vanished - stripped bare for charcoal and firewood. Proof, if I needed, that solar lighting and solar ovens really could have a big impact on deforestation.
I know have an open invite to drop by for a Pastis and Syrop de Menthe whenever I’m on that side of town.
I’m no longer “Tubab” (White man) to everyone in town. Word of mouth works quickly in a town like Foundiougne and I’m now being approached by people I’ve never met who know that I’m "Andy" and that I’m the one doing the solar training at WAAME. Playing havoc with my memory as I start wondering if I’ve already met them somewhere and have simply forgotten.
The teaching? You’ll have to read another entry to find out more about that but you can imagine it’s a bit tricky to teach people how to build solar panels when the main component, the solar glass, is still somewhere lost in a cargo hangar in Germany.
Teaching during Ramadan? Well, you just have to accept that after about 3 in the afternoon people will start to drop like flies, heads will lean on the desk and people will actually sleep unless you make sure that you do something practical, participative and engaging.
Teaching during Ramadan with no electricity, no fuel for the backup generator, no paper, no pens and no solar equipment - now there’s a challenge.
You know what - It’s hot and uncomfortable, frustrating, difficult, painful, exhausting and still riddled with mosquitoes but I’m really enjoying this challenge. The group are starting to imagine themselves running a small business and have started doing some market research before deciding on a range of products (yes Oli - I taught marketing. . . for a whole day !!!!). They’re enthusiasm, even with a complete lack of materials, is keeping me going and keeping me strong in the face of NGO bureaucracy and budgets. I feel very much alive.
MORE PHOTOS TO FOLLOW WHEN I HAVE A BETTER CONNECTION
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