The year's great fires burned high and bright as each village in the region struggled to build a flame-proof belt beyond its borders to prevent a catastrophe. My village was no different. I saw the smoke spires looming not far away as I attempted to learn Mandinka in my outside classroom. A windy afternoon brought the fires so close that they were visible from the village garden. I doubt my green plastic watering can would have slowed them much. Eventually, however, they appeared to retreat again. Sitting outside chatting in the late evening, I noticed the orange glow hovering patiently over the village like a flying phoenix waiting to swoop down low. Tenacious embers were pursuing our small town. I went to the road and could see the fire's horizontal battalions advancing around us. The flames could clearly be seen and even felt as they were perhaps merely a couple hundred meters away. As conquest by inferno appeared inevitable, the fire leapt and danced at our perimeter, its crackling war cry deafening. And then there was a change of wind and we were spared.
Dreams. Kind of silly to discuss in formal settings beyond their mysterious meanings. What environments are the most encouraging for their inception and their rememberance? Do the people in The Gambia dream about the same concepts and senarios as those people residing in other regions? Is it possible for a person who has never been to West Africa to conjure images of a masquerading character clothed in organic fibers - like the that of the cerimonial Kankurang we have in these parts - independent of the cultures that spawned it? I guess anything is possible nowadays in the era of globalization...even our minds are intertwined. But should that scare us or inspire us?
In his finest traveling shirt Babanding prepared to leave. His faded red duffel with the two rabbits carefully stitched on it was packed and ready to go. He walked towards the door, but stopped in the doorway and placed his bag (and its rabbits) carefully by his side. Then he slowly bent down and wrote two lines in the sand with his finger while reciting a prayer. When he was at peace enough to elevate the rabbits (and the bag) again he did so, and then took one large step to ensure his writing remained unscathed. He said his goodbyes and walked through the compound gate across the plot where the new mosque is planned to be. He headed towards the crumbling yet enduring road. The last time I've seen him since. One really must wash their hands before they write and then again afterward as well.