Monday, February 25, 2008

Angels and Demons

The craziest thing happened at church yesterday.
Pastor Mbaya spoke about evil spirits in his sermon. It just so happens that one of the men in our congregation, without knowing that this would be the message, decided to exorcise his own evil spirits. Mr. DeCosta is a really nice guy with a wife from Code D'Ivoire and with a sweet little daughter, Angel. After the church service, Pastor had us all assemble in the courtyard outside. I guess Mr. DeCosta bought this soap stuff from a witch doctor in Cote D'Ivoire, and was using it as sort of a good luck charm. The witch doctor told him that if he washes with this gross black paste every day, that he would find a good job and success with his family. He said that he paid 50,000 CFA for it = over $100. DeCosta has realized that African Animism and Christianity do not jive, so he can no longer live with feet in both camps. He wanted to get rid of all vestiges of his old life, involved in all sorts of gris-gris practices, so he decided to burn this soap with us as witnesses.

Anyway, Pastor opened up this big tub of chunky tar-like substance and lit it on fire as we prayed. There was such a wierd aura and I couldnt take my eyes off of it. All of a sudden, the skull of something emerged from the flames. It looked like a dog skull, but Sandra said she thinks it was the head of some giant snake. I cant even really descibe the moment, but the flames didnt just burn away to expose something underneath....no, this head came out of the paste. Mrs. DeCosta screamed and I got the dry heaves. We were all taken aback. This thing with teeth started melting...or oozing...not burning and turning to ash like normal bones. It was probably one of the creepiest, most demonic things I've ever personally experienced.

After most of the substance was burned, the guys dug a hole and buried it deep. I felt relieved and...light, I think is a good word. How incredible it is to be able to be free from that dark of a force. I know this description may sound cliche or dramatic, but it was just an insane experience.

Talking with Freddy afterwards, he said that stuff like this is a normal part of African Traditionalism, and that he's seen people die by the power of some demonic force. I mean, even if you watch a sporting event on TV, for at least an hour before the match, the Islamic marabouts and animist leaders are out on the field, doing all sorts of rights and rituals and prayers, like dousing the players with baobab juice or having them wear certain clothing or putting them in a trance. And I wont even get into what I learned in Casamance about the Boite Sacrée ceremonies where village matriarchs do mystic animal sacrifices deep in the woods at night, in order to stop the violence in their region. Wild.

I'm so grateful that I'm protected from this, because the One that is in me is greater than he that is in the world. It's so interesting to me, but it's nothing to mess around with.

Oh Africa, the eternal educator.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Soak it up

My dear friend Meghan Alaska left for America this morning at 4am, under the light of the big bright moon. Ugh, horrible, sad Februrary.

I copied this from a travel magazine that I found on the airplane while coming to Senegal. I think its appropriate for now:

THE TRAVELER'S CURSE
By Elivra Lindo

¨It's always me who says goodbye and promises to be back. It becomes a curse which marks your life, an order you obey with resignation, knowing that your soul is scattered around several places in the world and you'll never be able to stop until you're old...until I'm old.¨

Monday, February 18, 2008

Too much coffee

Ive been drinking too much coffee. I feel ill.

...I cant sleep. Ive been in the computer room since before the sun rose, trying to write about African regionalism before the conference of Addis-Abeba. Ho-hum, theres a lot on my mind. Ive discovered that there is not one single place on campus thats actually conducive to studying. Ive just to go suck it up.

When I get to america, I want to start wearing more cardigans. I miss cardigan sweaters.

I went to a Che Guevara themed bar the other night. Highly ridiculous.

Yes, I think this is the week to make gluten-free brownies.

Im glad Im missing winter in WI this year.

I got a free drink at a boutique in town for speaking arabic with the Mauritanian proprietor. I miss that language. I wish I had my books here.

More than halfway done with Februrary. Yes.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentines Day: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Well, Valentine's Day started out well. Great, actually. Megan Alaska and I pumped ourselves up with cafe touba and ate so much chocolate and so many peanuts that I thought I would be sick. We sat in her room and listened to hip hop and Moulin Rouge and made valentines day cards for all our friends here on campus. It was a riot. After that, at about 3 am, she and I dressed up as Valentines Bandits and began the delivery/espionage/banditry. We snuck around campus, delivering the cards individually, and never once breaking our 007 personas. Once, we were forced to freeze in our best ¨tree poses¨, so the passersby wouldnt suspect a thing. Genius!
So much laughing phlegm.

The rest of the day was normal. Class, resto, etc. It turned sour, though. Really sour. Long story short, bad guy situations. Lost all faith in these men. Men I trusted, too. I was just livid yesterday, and I just feel discouraged and disappointed today. Mawr. Just want to be alone. There is no alone here, though, in Senegal. Except if you're in a big group of Senegalese and you're the only one who doesnt speak Wolof. Stupid Februrary.
Whatever, its nothing I cant handle. Just...sigh. Cry me a frickin' river.


P.S. I dont tell you I love you enough. Yes, you are loved by me. And I dont need a Valentine's Day to say this.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

How I Came to Judge a Drag Competition in Senegal

Yesterday was a Mardi Gras celebration, hosted by the caltholic community here on campus. The catholics are the big partiers, so it promised to be a real blow-out. About 10 pm, my friends and I went to the cafeteria where they had pushed tables to the outside of the room. Mardi Gras, here in Senegal, is essentially a drag show. The girls dressed up as men were pretty silly and tame. Slightly sacreligious though, as some of them dressed up as leading conservative Muslim leaders. They made my friend Megan be Jesus for the skit, because she's white, like the picture of Jesus on the wall. She protested, for the record. The guys dressed as girls, however, were scandelous! Oh man, I havent seen so much leg since The Terrace in August. Each group of dorms, called villages, organize a skit and wear costumes, but each sex is supposed to dress like the other. These skits were....trippy. They were a cross between slapstick comedy, Religious lessons to celebrate the beginning of Lent, and a full out drag show. Clever and hilarious. Before the competition between villages, I was sitting in the back, laughing at all the enormous muscular african men stuffed into sassy miniskirts and prom dresses, with full makeup and wigs. Anyway, a guy came up to me and asked if I would be a judge for the competition. Why sure! So I got to sit up front, and they poured me a big glass of, yup, whisky (told you the Catholics were frisky) and the competition began. Let me tell you, Senegalese guys know how to work heels. I judged them on punctuality, animation, number of participants, and creativity of theme. It was often hard to see where the moral biblical lesson ended and the comedy started. It was funny to not take it seriously.

I got to play Vannah White at the end, and hand out prizes. I will try to show pics later, but I do have to say that one of my most shining moments here in Senegal has to be me posing with the winning village: 20 Senegalese men who were all prettier than me.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Dear February: Bring it on.

Yesterday, February 1, I woke up deaf in my left ear.

HAH!
It was actually more funny than scary or painful. It was kind of like, ¨You would, February.¨
It's better now, though. So...no worries.

This is going to be a great month. Last night the girls and I went in town to celebrate Feb and the 5 months we have left. I had some killer fried plantains and the best ice cream sundae of my life...strawberry and coconut ice creams with fresh fruit and whipped cream. Oh baby. Hanzy, you would have died.

Yesterday I went to my internship. Senegal has recieved $4.5 million in donations from the Mormon church in America, and my organisation is in charge of giving a large portion of it away. It was so weird to be on the recieving end of American charity. Boxes full of used toys with missing parts. Home-made cards from little American kids, with cut out magazine photos of happy toubabs playing football of having a cookout in their Tommy Hilfiger outfits. Sacks of vitamin-enhanced flour. The worlds largest supply of pencils- a hot commodity here in Senegal. Baby socks. Its too hot for babies to wear socks. It was just a strange sensation sorting through all of that. It was similar to walking through the market of resale clothes here in town. These clothes are the unsold items from Goodwill and Salvation Army, shipped to Africa and bought wholsale by the bale by vendors, who sell them for a little profit. worlds apart.

Anyway, quote of the day: ¨Sometimes you carpe the diem, and sometimes the diem carpes you. I feel like I've been getting carped all week.¨ -Alan P.

Quote of the life: (British Accent) ¨I love you so much, that I'm buggin'.¨ -Hannah W.