Monday, November 14, 2016

Cotton Harvest

We like to hike Mont Latahaabout 7 km out of Korhogo.

This last week, it was good to be in the cotton fields and pick some soft cotton with the farmers. Away from the internet and phone for a while. Wandering in and wondering about God's creation, appreciating the harvest season and the new colors. Jumping into and lying on a cotton hill. Hiking and flying! Thanking God for relationships and meeting new interesting people in the variety of their personalities, cultures, ages, and different languages. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

How about Kong -

"We should be astonished at the goodness of God, stunned that He should bother to call us by name, our mouths wide open at His love, bewildered that at this very moment we are standing on holy ground."
— Brennan Manning

Going Dioula - 4th - 11th August 2016
Angelika’s Impressions

And off we went Thursday early morning from the Kong bus station in Bouaké. Damaris and I had the privilege to sit in front beside the driver. People entered and left the little bus as we drove further north. The rainy season had turned the landscape into a fresh green: cotton, corn and peanut fields were in full bloom.

By 2pm we arrived in Kong where Seydou and Tata Coulibaly picked us up. Seydou is the son of BaOuleyman, where Rod lived in 1990 to learn the Dioula language. The Coulibaly family is our first address in Kong. This family also has its roots in Bouaké. BaGaoussou, the older brother of BaOuleyman, is the chief of the Kong courtyard in Bouaké and a well-known teacher of the Quran. Through him we announced our trip a few days in advance.

Seydou came with his motor bike and brought our luggage and the 25 kg sack of fresh ginger home. Tata, Damaris and I walked home alongside the 18th century mosque of Kong. We exchanged greetings in Dioula as we passed by people. 

Damaris, from Leipzig, is at the end of her master’s study in ethnology and wanted to spend the summer with us in Côte d’Ivoire. We wanted to introduce her with the Dioula people and their capital, Kong.

After lunch and after greeting all the neighbors, we went into town to participate in the wedding celebration. Seven weddings were celebrated that week in Kong. Thursday, late afternoon until sunset, the whole town watched the brides riding on different men’s shoulders as the friends of the groom dance with his future wife to demonstrate their joy for their friend and their strength. It was fascinating. 

The next morning, we accompanied Tata to help one of the bride’s mother. As we approached the courtyard we heard drums and singing. Finding out that the whole family and friends were already there since 4am cooking millet porridge for breakfast on a wood fire in a huge cauldron. Later they cooked a huge cauldron of kabato (polenta or corn porridge) and in another pot okra sauce. There were about 50 to 70 ladies who helped. Their main job was to keep everybody happy with dancing and singing. The old ladies used different rhythmic instruments. Only the djembe was played by two young men. To prepare such a big amount of kabato over a wooden fire gets everybody sweating. 

The food then was distributed and a group of ladies brought lunch to the bride, continuing with singing and dancing on their way. There the dance really took off until 3 brides came out of a house and joined in the dancing. This continued every day until Tuesday.

It was a colorful week. In the midst of all there was the national independence day, 7th August, with a parade in front of the mayor’s office.

Damaris gives her insight of the time spend in Kong below, so that you can see a little bit how everyday life looks like.

One Week in Kong, Or: A Fascinating KONGlomerate
Damaris’ Impressions

Long bus tours are not even that bad if you can sit in front and buy roasted peanuts and popcorn through the window. And so our trip to Kong passed by pleasantly quickly. Every attempt to read a book would have disappeared into one of those huge potholes, but thanks to Angelika and her smartphone I could listen to Rainer Maria Rilke‘s „Letters to a Young Poet“ - maybe out of place in the Ivorian bush, but then also not more than me.

Our host family put us into a room next to their little rented house - a room painted in Ivorian blue. That blue in which many houses here are painted (if the owners can afford it) and that makes you feel kind of cool even during great heat. At night, of course, you don‘t see this blue any more, and then the heat keeps you awake, the heat - and the mosquitos.

I had to get used to a lot of things: Washing myself from a bucket, in a shower that was located in the sleeping room of our hosts and also served as a toilet - except for the (big business???). For this, you had to use the squat toilet outside, where in the darkness cockroaches the length of your finger would crawl over your feet. Yey. I would only go by day. I also had to get used to eating with my fingers. That‘s a lot of fun, but it was embarrassing at first, because more food would end up on my pagne and on the floor around me than in my mouth. I also learned that contrary to the title of a popular movie* you better observe birthing goats only from the corner of your eyes, if you don‘t want to be thought of as weird.

In Kong we spend a lot of time „greeting“ people, which means stopping by their courtyard, exchanging greetings and sitting with them. During this sitting and after the greetings, there was not even a lot of talking. Sometimes somebody would put a baby on our lap or offer us a drink of water. Otherwise, we would just sit there while the children and chickens and goats scurried around us.

I try to withhold judgements, but one thing I can say without hesitation: Weddings in Kong are different from weddings in Germany. First, because they are longer, they take a whole week. Second, because most of the activities are separated by gender: Angelika and I cooked and danced and talked and sat with the women for days, the only men present being two or three drummers. In Germany gender is only important while bachelor(ette) parties and the throwing of the bridal bouquet. Third, „western weddings“ are the couple‘s „big day“. It‘s about them and their love for each other. In Kong I got the impression that it was only marginally about the bride and the groom. The groom, for example, I almost never got to see, and I‘m sure he could have said the same thing about the bride. But don‘t ask me what it was about instead, I haven‘t figured that out yet. It all felt more community based, more collective, less individual.

Every morning, the women would cook Kabato - maize porridge - in a boiler that was at least as big as the one Obelix fell in as a child. The women would cheer each other on with dancing and singing and clapping, since the porridge has to be pounded well, and that‘s hard work. When the Kabato was done, it was distributed among smaller pots, and then the women would leave with rattles and drums and deliver it to the brides, who sat, beautifully dressed, in a dark room. Most pots the women would take home and eat there.

In Kong, I also rediscovered crocheting. It has the advantage of giving you something useful to do while sitting with people for a long time - it builds a bridge, so to say, between the cost-benefit way of thinking which takes a lot of room in my everyday life in Germany, and the Just-Being-There which I encountered here in Côte d‘Ivoire and which is sometimes not easy to endure. It‘s like a cold withdrawal, and crocheting alleviates it somehow. Angelika and I had the idea of finding out whether the women in Kong would like to learn it. This way, they could make hats or other clothes for their children while sitting at their market stalls. Maybe they could even sell their crocheting products. We found out that wool is indeed available in Kong for a moderate price. And the women then were excited about the first hat we presented to them. Two of them already knew some basic crocheting and we spend a few fun hours with them and the wool in the shadow of our hut. Others began to learn. It would be great to further teach them and thereby spend time with them and be part of their lives, building relationships that do not build on cost-benefit calculations.

*cf. „The men who stare at goats“ (2004)

Friday, June 10, 2016

we had two Pearl-spotted owlets and then one

It was fun feeding them and watching them grow and hopp around. Unfortunately, one morning when we let them out off their cage to explore, one got too far off and a big crow caught it for breakfast. We got so used to the one left and it was fun watching it trust us and hearing it distinguish tweet whenever it was hungry. We fed it raw meet. Then came the day it flew away and we couldn't find it. Then hours later we heard it tweet and it was right there on our porch again.
After our trip to Kong for two days, we didn't see it again and thought may be it didn't survive. One morning when Rod was teaching his class, he heard our little owl's tweet outside in the trees. After class he looked around and there it was (:

Friday, May 13, 2016

A White Night for a Wedding Cake

I had an amazing “White Night” here in Korhogo. Nothing at all to do with snow, but everything with "being awake all night". J’ai passé une “nuit blanche” is an expression in French that you didn't sleep during the night. 
So I was visiting a friend one Friday afternoon and she was in the midst of baking wedding cakes for two weddings that Saturday. The sound of two mixers filled the house as well as the smell of cakes in the oven. The mixers never stopped as a lot of butter cream needed to get beaten over and over again. I helped her mixing the ingredients together and creating some decorations. Supper for the family needed to get prepared as well and we all had attieke together. I helped clean up and decided to stay for a few more hours. The cakes needed to be ready by 6am Saturday morning. That’s when a car would come to pick her up to drive her 3 hours further north, as the wedding started at 9am. We both were tired but there was no end in view. We worked into the night and hoped to get a few hours of sleep when done. Then the muezzin started to call for prayer at 5am. I couldn’t believe that the night was already over and we weren’t done yet. An hour later, the two taxis arrived. One cake was ready to go to the one wedding. But the other wasn’t all covered with cream yet. We packed all the ingredients together for her to finish it during the wedding ceremony. What a night. I was able to catch up with sleep, but my friend didn’t. She called me Saturday night saying that she finished the cakes at 2pm, but they only wanted to present and eat it in the evening. Making a wedding cake is so much more work then I ever could imagine. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Sacrifices - "Saraka"

Mount Korhogo is just in our neighbourhood. It's good exercise to climb it. Rod likes to bring his paraglider backpack to kite or even fly off the mountain if the wind allows. I like to take photos, draw, write or read and study in the shade.

Lots of people are coming up Mount Korhogo to offer their sacrifices with water, shea-butter, chicken to the spirits. It makes it hard for Rod to put his paraglider down with all the corruption on the rocky ground. His paraglider already has black spots from the melted shea-butter mixed with dirt.
The other day, I took some photos, as we hiked up to the top. Some of the sacrifices look like pretty decorations. Claypots with bark and calabashes. Cowry shells just laid out on the rocky ground. 
Sacrifices offered to the spirits protect from any harm, help for a good exam in school, for luck in life.

It's also a great opportunity for us to meet people and to talk about one's luck in life.
"So you are not making sacrifices", asked a young guy, who just washed himself with water as a "saraka" (sacrifice) to pass his BAC exam. "Everything I do, my whole life is a sacrifice", Rod answered. "How so?" asked the young man. So Rod shared about Christ , who offered himself as a sacrifice for us once and for all. Now living in us the only sacrifice God asks us is to believe in Jesus', to obey and fear Him.

"Therefore, I urge you, bothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living, sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."

the apostle Paul to the Romans at the time
Chapter 12, 1-2


Our Wedding Anniversary

So I did pack everything together and started hiking down. Rod called me letting me know that he had a good landing. He said that he would come up and meet me. Fortunately he did ! I was walking down the wrong direction and it was getting dark. I would have been completely lost....

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

In His Perfect Timing

As I teach a class to ladies about "spiritual growth" I am trying to help them understand the importance of our relationship and intimacy with Christ our Savior. I think that is the point; our personal relationship to God our Father through Jesus Christ. A loving relationship is not about duty and discipline alone. I was teaching about JOY and trying still to make that transition from duty to joyful obedience clear to our ladies who think more legalistically about their faith in God. In following Christ I want to be beyond tedious and stale duty as well as hard discipline. I know I need tho keep both, but if God's Spirit breathes through them, they become privilege and opportunity. I suppose it does come down to a release of control to God to show us that He can connect with us however He wants. As long as we are open to hearing from Him, and always listening. He brings the passion by connecting with us in His timing for us.

I was again way behind my Bible reading plan and desired to listen to the rest of 2. Samuel today, starting at Chapter 16 while preparing lunch. David's attitude in V10 - 12 hit me. Amazing! His confidence and love for God no matter the circumstance stood out. There was Shimei, a man or son from Saul's family cursing David the King. David was at the same time fleeing from his own son Absalom as he put up a conspiracy against his father. One could say again, half of the Kingdom was against David, despite what he all did for Israel. His own family making life hard on David. "But David said as Abishai wanted to kill Shimei: ...If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, 'curse David', who can ask why do you do this? ... Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to."
So I mentioned to Rod at lunch that I liked David's attitude while he was cursed by Saul's son. Rod said that in his class this morning they talked about the same passage and the same verses stood out to him.

God surprises us. He knows exactly where we are at, in time or behind and touches us deeply through his living Word. He is in control and speaks into our situation. That comforts and strengthens us in the difficult circumstances we find ourselves right now.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus - Hebrews 12.2

George Metheson's impact on the world is to be noted; not because of his great writing, preaching or ability to overcome his limitations. Rather his impact came when he realised that the greatest gift he could give the world was his "own intimacy with Christ".
Imagine how the world might be different if you and I understood this as well. There is no telling the impact one can have on the world when he or she understand that it is not the world that should be their focus but the Creator and Redeemer of it.
Josh Weidmann