Tuesday, April 30, 2013

It's the last day of April, but it feels a bit like Fall to me.  In four weeks, the school year will be over and I'll be somewhere else.  The ship will be getting ready to sail to the Canary Islands.  Three of our families will have moved on to the next page of their adventure, somewhere else.  Some really good friends are going away.  Also, the dry season is on its way out, and one can feel a touch of coolness in the air.  So many endings.  I can't help but feel a tad melancholy about the whole thing.

But we're not saying Goodbye today, so let's give our heads a shake and get on with the blog.  I'm sitting at my desk right now, listening to the first graders on the other side of the wall learn about Magnetic Force.  My friend Kayleigh is the first grade teacher here, and she loves teaching science lessons.  Seems like every time I come into her room for a chat/venting session/stare out the window time/cookiefest, there's some fun-looking science activity afoot.  I think it was last month they were soaking gummi bears to see if the dye would come out of the gummi.  And then there was the month or so when tiny plants were sprouting out of six little well-loved cups of soil--so exciting!  When the walls are thin, you either become real good friends with your neighbor or else you try to avoid eye contact.  I'm so glad Kayleigh is the first kind.  I wonder what my class sounds like from over there. 

A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit a mosque and spend the day with a Guinean family.  It was a truly amazing experience.  Here are a few pictures.

This is the view from the women's balcony, looking down on the rest of the mosque.  You may not be able to see it, but the walls are covered with beautiful designs incorporating Arabic writing.  Our guide translated some of the words.  Something about living righteously to please God, I think.  The red carpets are for all the people to kneel on, and there are small wooden shelves every few yards along the row for people to put their shoes in.  It was very cool and quiet inside, and pretty to look at.
The man on the left was our guide, while the one on the right was a student of the Immam (I think) who explained to us about muslim prayer beads.  There are ninety-nine beads on the string, three rows of thirty-three, each representing a name of God.  While there are some significant differences between what I believe about who God is and what these fellows believe about him, I found myself really appreciating the reverence that they show in their approach to worship.  Also, I was grateful that the men at the mosque were willing to show us how they pray, and answer all our questions.  It's so nice to have one's curiosity satisfied without having to be afraid.

And now for my favorite part of the day:  spending time with the Selah family!  All the aunts, uncles, and cousins live together in one largish compound, and everyone takes care of everyone else's children so that you can't really tell who belongs to whom.
This is my room mate Michelle and me helping the ladies fix dinner.  We were tasked with chopping onions.  What we really did was mangle them until the patient lady in the red shirt took them off our hands and did it proper.  Oh well...  we can't all be cooks, can we?

This is the newest edition to the family, a beautiful little albino baby.  Her name, I believe, is Stephanie, and I got to hold her!!
This is me playing (or trying to play) the Balafon.  See how the poor musician has to hold the tops of the mallets?  He was showing me, for the fifty-first time, how the pattern went.

This was my very favorite part of the day.  It took me a while to learn the game, and I can't really remember how it goes now, but that little girl and I just clapped and clapped forever.

This is what we did for a good fifteen minutes, between the time our leader said we had to go home and the time we actually climbed into our Landrover and went.  Can you find me in this picture?