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I Stay, I Go


28th May 2002

2:16pm: From James, From Senegal...
Returned from my trip to find this in my e-box from another friend, James, who is now in Senegal, W. Africa. I thought it beautiful and wanted to share it with you...


"..fruit bats come out when the sun is done. Youssou N'Dour tries to be jazzy for the jazzy festival...he is better at being afro-pop. His percussion section is UNfriggin' believable anytime, anywhere...... I am put on the radio twice in one day while Massamba(for the new folks, my Tama teacher) is doing radio interviews for promotion of his new tape. I cut up some Wolof and goof a bit in English. St. Louis is Massamba's home town, many people are listening. The next day I decide to journey into the city from the family compound alone. Instead of getting right into a taxi, I decide to walk for part of the way. Enjoying myself I think 'I could walk the whole way' (4 mi), then I see the ride a big BMW touring motorcycle with a nice looking African feller getting on. I greet him in Wolof to prove my coolness, then ask for a ride into St. Louis. VVRROOOOOOMMMMMMMMM>>>>>>>>>>>>>> and am I ever enjoying the risk and adventure of a renegade thrusty cycle hitch. Happily, he was a skillful pilot and I arrived at my destination safely, and quickly. In St. Louis I walk around town for some hours and shop a bit....I find out that many people heard me on the radio.....funny......"...I look you, I know you, you on radio."...... The next morning Massamba is going visit to his parents gravesites. I shyly asked to join him and he easily agreed, a sweet intimacy. After the quite solemn walk I expected him to burst into tears when we arrived at the graves. Instead he grew a warm smile as he squatted next to the first grave, a mound of sand, body sized, with a concrete head stone. In the cement of the headstone the epitaph was written in arabic and french, probably with a finger. He smiled and said,"Momma", then began pushing the sand back up the sides of the mound and generally grooming the gravesite. He seems to be caressing his living mother, rather than pushing sand over what is left of a body... he continues this process for his father and grandmother and I move away a bit so he won't feel rushed. The graves should be leveled from the wind but every one is a mound about a foot tall and marked somehow. The ones with a bit of concrete with the arabic and french engraving must mark the graves of those with a little money... the others are marked with bits of metal, a cam shaft, a radiator, or some corrugated fiberglass that is the lid on most of the buildings I see. I seems like anything you can pick up and stick in the sand is a good headstone....it is a very peaceful little graveyard.

back in the compound I write in my journal...
'...outside the babies scream, the parents talk, the girls wash, and the pans clank. In the corner two spiders dance and make brief spidery love. The flies never stop and the pink wall heats up. There is something I cannot give you in words about this Senegal, it is sweet and sticky, friendly and fearful...it is fight and flight at the same time...why am I crying...maybe it is for the baby...she has everything and she has nothing.... they tell the babies here,"Fight little baby, Fight to grow up." Outside the bird sings, as it has since I woke up this morning..surviving. Surviving is how it is, everywhere, weather you see it or not. So many want to run away, somewhere easier, but everywhere we are surviving, the bird sings on. Every soul is ties to the next, when one leaves, others pick up the weight.....Africa is tough.... Africa is love roots......The want to modernize is like a cloud hanging high above promising to rain money and relief, trying to erase the reality that things are rough down here in the sand, and the rain ain't gonna come and when it does it will likely wash away everything deep out into the ocean, leaving you to start again from the beginning......'
Africa is tough. You see taste smell hear touch and spiritualize exaggerated extremes. it is a place of extremes... the beautiful is so so very beautiful and the ugly is so so very ugly. Smiling babies play to near the overflowing sewer stench. In the same wiff I smell ssweet flowers and burning rubber. A boy sits on a big rice bag stuffed with styrofoam, floating in the water under a bridge...small chuncks of wood on each hand for paddles...the shore rife with litter....another boy shitting in the shallows. And yes, the two foot cockroaches (er uhm, I mean two inch) can make your skin creep and crawl.

I am learning popular dance rhythms for the tama and sabar.... and some older stuff too. I look forward to sharing upon return......which brings me to ............
I changed my ticket(hence the sublet) to return to Seattle July 18. Peace.
Anyone who wants a Tama should let me know..... it is difficult to get good Tamas and these, as many of you know, are the best. I will have three to sell for sure, but 'spect they will go quick.
jamm ak jammmm (peace peace)
james guthrie..."
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