The 6:45 rooster crows at the break of dawn...
and pulls me out of my mosquito netted bed. My jogging shoes find their way on, my legs take me out into the still-cool morning air. The village is waking up slowly to the patient pleasant thud of the breakfast millet being pounded. My two 12 year old sisters stand over the mahoghany mortar each weilding a pounding stick, pounding out the sweet ryhthm of breakfast...i call out my thank you, which the appropriate greeting for anyone who is working, but my stomach knows I mean it.
I run past the women's garden, lush now with ripe cabbage, onions and tomatoes. My friend Roxi is watering. She calls out my name and asks if I've slept in peace, and notes truthfully that I am, in fact, running. I give her a big Peace only and note back that she is, indeed, watering.
I run past the fields of Jamagen, giant swaths of land, recently charred black by a major forest fire. These bush fires are way too common here, encouraged in the dry season by the loss of topsoil and trees and the dry Harmattan winds. A few large trees that dot the fields are blackened, but surviving; all smaller trees that were being left in fields or along field borders for their beneficial leaf litter are toast. I can see blackened mango and gmelina wood lot planted last year by the village youth group and feel a sense of urgency to help get a new orachrd started. New growth is popping up now in-between the black, giving my morning scene some nice neon green zing.
Home again, I wash up under the big mango tree in my back yard. The effortless morning songs of the birds above me are in stark contrast with the pained bray of donkey- he tries so hard! I laugh out loud, then text a good morning haiku about it to my up-country friend Cam. I listen to BBC and sweep my house. I'm called to breakfast, yummy coos porridge shared my my two moms and 5 sisters from a large bowl... as always, there's much giggling and hasseling, laughing at the babies, talking about the day. All in Bamara, my family's first language, with snippets relayed to me in Woolof.
The day goes on... in the morning I go to the school, 2 k away. I teach general science to 3 classrooms of giggling seventh graders, two days a week. We address each other with the same mild amusement; our small grins say wow we really suck at each other's languages but this is definitely interesting. They take lots of notes, notes in English containing words like "combustion" and "room temperature"... they are used to understanding little and memorizing lots but I do my best to make these concepts real... I move students around to illustrate attractive forces in chemcical reactions... I translate to broken woolof often amid shreiks of laughter. Are they learning? Ummm... it's debateable, for sure, but if I weren't there, they would sit through that period without a teacher so for me that ends the debate- it's better than nothing!
Back at home, after lunch I lay around with Roxi and her daughter, her mother and others... it's hot. We lay, we chat, we appreciate the "sweet wind" when it gives us a little breeze. And then! They hear it- I do not- but there it is! The alcalo's son is banging on the rusty wheel rim haning from a mango tree in the middle of Jamagen- the meeting is called!! I bring attaya, sugar and also canned condensed milk to brew (yeah, it's wierd, but it's delicious). The meeting is held by the Alcalo's son, Osman Sar, the closest thing I have to a counterpart. He speaks in Woolof and his words are translated to Mandinka by another women. The women sit on matts, shelling peanuts, shushing their kids. The meeting is called by me, Osman says, to tell everyone that I want to help them start another woodlot. HHe talks about how great the last woodlot was, before it burned, and that we can do it again. He tells them I have brought sisal (a live-fencing species that I collected seedlings from from a neighboring village) and that this year we will work on a live fence and firebreak to surround the woodlot. We will call another meeting next week to plant the seeds of the fast-growing melina (prized for firewood) as a village. The fruit and the firewood can be sold for money in just a few years. Yes great! They say. The meeting was good... we'll see if it pans out and tree seeds get planted.