My stepdad pretty much dropped everything in the US to come here and start working on this year’s cashew campaign. At 60 years old, I’d say it’s a pretty courageous thing to do because there is no guarantee how things will turn out. He told me he often can’t sleep at night because he is up thinking about how we are going to pull this cashew project off. Mamudo offered a solution to ease his worries.
|Village boys carving out gourds|
My step dad is not Muslim, but he wanted to see what Yaya had to offer. So off we went to Gabu, this time via public transportation.
On a bus in the US, an aisle is an aisle so people can move around. Here, aisles mean more space for more passengers. The autocaro, or our greyhound bus equivalent, was packed! People were stilling in the aisles, there were at least 7 people standing up next to the driver and we all still had to get on and off the bus to show our ID’s at the rest stops. As you might image, it was a very long process.
After 4 hours we arrived in Gabu to wait another 4 hours for another vehicle that would take us to the tabanka. This vehicle was bigger then a van but smaller then a small bus. It was probably one of the scariest rides of my life! The van was filled with 40 people and the top was loaded with personal belongings, bikes, and there was even a goat up there at one point.
|The Van we rode to get to the Village Seao Folbe|
The driver stopped along the road to left people off at different tabankas and eventually we arrived at our destination; sweaty, tired but in one piece. The tabanka we arrived in was made up of maybe 20 families, the neighboring tabankas being a 5/10 minute walk away. We were stayed at Mamudo’s Aunt’s house. Her husband had passed several years before but she lived with lots of Mamadu’s other family members.
Here is a rough summary of my week there:
Day 1: We walked one and a half hours to Yaya’s tabanka. He only speaks Fula, so Mamudu translated Fula to Creole for Ramos. Much to my disappointment I had to wait outside with Buba, Mamudu’s cousin and our guide, while they went into his room. I was told that Yaya would ask for my step-dads name and the name of his mother. He was going to pray that night and would have news for us in the morning. When I got back to Mamadu’s Aunts house I met the infamous Concoran. The Conoran deserves its own blog post but, to be brief, it is a spirit or a human in a trans? I’m not exactly sure what it is, but it is something not human that comes to the villages when young boys get circumcised.
I had not been in any way prepped for this. So when everyone was running away from this thing looking like a pile of carrot shreddings come to life, I, out of ignorance or amazement, but definitely out of confusion stood around and watched. Mamudo’s aunt had to come and grab me to tell me to get out of the way. Apparently the Concoran is a women beater, which is why all the women were running. For some reason in my mind I thought I was untouchable. Spirits can tell the difference between locals and foreigners too right?
|The Concuran and women drumming|
Day 2: We woke up early and made the same hour and a half walk to Yaya’s tabanka. This walk was a lot more quiet. We were all wondering what the ‘divine revelations’ would be.
He gave Ramos some really good news about how everything is going to turn out, so that was a great relief. But he also told Ramos he needs to be careful. Apparently Ramos has enemy’s who don’t want him to be successful, some of them being close friends and family members, and that he needs to learn to keep them at a distance.
|Ramos and Mamudu give bread to school children|
A quick note on the location: As much as it felt like the middle of nowhere, the international presence in this region was much greater then I would have thought. The Chinese came and put in a water pump, the Spanish had several red cross building, the Japanese had invested in building several schools and I herd that folks from Brazil come every year to help with the bolanhas, or community gardens. There was also a huge absence of men. Women and children could be found everywhere, but grown men were hit by the plague of emigration. They left make money and find better lives for their family. So in the villages it was women running the show.
|Mamudu's Aunt and neighbors pounding rice|
It was noon, so we paid for the bus that said it was leaving at 2 o’clock. 3:30 rolled around and we still hadn’t left. We were told the bus wasn’t going to leave because there weren’t enough passengers. So instead we paid for a car to drive us, which is 3 times as expensive, but it’s a much faster trip and guaranteed to leave Gabu that day. As we waited for more people to fill up the car we saw a sudden wave of people filling up the bus we just got off. The look on my stepdads face was priceless. He had just gotten his money back from the bus to pay for the car only to watch more people get on the bus. It was a game of claiming a seat on the vehicle that leaves first. Fortunately after about 30 minutes enough people filled the car so we could hit the road. As we were leaving we watched more people filling the bus. The driver of our told us it was better we took the car because the bus wouldn’t arrive in Bissau before midnight. It was just past 4 pm at this point.
|Women working on the community garden|
After a week of bucket showers outside in the open and sleeping next to people I didn’t know, I am more then happy to be back in Bissau taking bucket showers indoors and sleeping next to people I do know (I share a bed with Avo Alice).