Well, I've written about some of this to some of you in letters I've posted and some of it is new but all from my journal so it should be interesting, well maybe.TABASKI
So let me start off by saying the Kortiteh was kind of a bust of a holiday. This is the "big" feast that happens at the end of Ramadan and was very welcome by yours truly because I decided to fast with the folks in the village. Not drinking water during the day was pretty tough because of the heat but the food for the breaking fast meal was awesome! The part of this holiday worth mentioning is called Lailat al-Quadr. After the sun has gone down, the faithful gather at the mosque and sing the Q' uran from beginning to as far as they can make it. The scene looked like something out of a National Geographic, but, as usual, I assumed it would be inappropriate to take pictures when it was fine and I missed it. Next year.
So the sun has gone down and you can imagine a little white concrete block building that is about 15 ft by 15 ft. surrounded by grass roofed houses. The stars are shining brightly and the old women from the village are gathered outside the mosque around a fire with some of the girls making treats and singing. They're not allowed to enter the mosque when men are present. They're dressed beautifully, however, in flowing completos (dresses with low cut arm holes that are large and baggy) made of colorful African fabrics with their heads wrapped in matching fabric. Their song and rhythm are set by the men inside the mosque who are singing very loudly. I walk around the women greeting furiously with my friend Mamadi, slip off my sandals at the door and enter the the little building and sit along the wall. The place is filled with the young men of the village accompanied by one of the elders who is sitting in front of a large burning candle. The candle is surrounded by a mountain of wax and is situated on an old tin of Nescafe. The light bounces back in forth, almost in rhythm with the chanting as the old man in his long, flowing, kaftan gets up to distribute some sweet, sugary dough for all of us to eat.
We are sitting along the walls, singing and bouncing to the rhythm, all of us, lit by one single candle. Interspersing my views of the other side of the mosque and the leaders of the singing are older men that come in, dressed in 50-cent t-shirts and windpants, that are there to prostrate and pray. Only half of their faces are lit and I can see their lips moving as they whisper "Allah aqubah" (forgive the spelling) underneath the din of the night of power. By around two in the morning, I get too tired to continue and get up to leave with my friend and am sung to sleep by people celebrating the revelation of the Q' uran to Muhammed.WRESTLING
The Friday before played host to one of the big sporting activities that takes place in my village, wrestling. A place in the field is cleared the day before the event takes place and people begin to show up around 10 or 11 at night. There is no such thing as fashionably early here. Two circles have formed, but my ears have informed me of the presence of drums the entire walk down to the field that is maybe a kilometer south of my home. We arrive and see the drummers' circle illuminated by a fire of palm fronds and dead wood. The men are playing huge djembes, large round bass drums, and smaller "singing" drums. The other circle, a little farther removed from this one is composed of a writhing mass of men and a few women surrounding the wrestlers who are the preview to the main event. Two or three men with large sticks control the ground by feigning to flog the members of the circle surrounding the wrestlers and sweeping the dust.
An eery glow emanates from this place because of the fires and all the dust that has been put into the air. The boys wrestle in a different way that we would. They are wearing very little, a t-shirt and some short, tight shorts. The grab each other by wadding up the material around the hips and grabbing on. They circle around for a small time, while men who are brave enough to face the men bashing the ground like stick jump into the circle and dance in a way that I can't describe. High knees and fast legs with their legs, upper bodies, and arms all moving in different directions at different speeds, obscure my view of the wrestlers until one of the boys is picked up and thrown to the ground. The contest is over and three more have begun.
Around 1 or 2 in the monring the main event starts and people stand in an orderly manner (something that is not usual here) as a gigantic fire is made of large palm fronds at the far end of the circle from me. Each village from the surrounding area is represented by one wrestler and his entourage and they stand in a large group like a picture one would take of a soccer or football team. This orderliness becomes colluded by smaller groups of this larger group when they take off running towards the fire and jump over it. They run circles around the fire like crazed animals and the rest of the crew joins in. All the while the drum beats have never once stopped and the wrestlers begin their pre-event dance to show the vitality and strength.
The wrestlers begin to engage each other in a dance competition that is not quite as funny as it sounds. They strut their stuff like roosters and are still interspersed by bouts of fire jumping. Some of the more virile men will flip and back handspring through the air and never miss a beat as they dance. This continues for another hour or so and then the wrestlers begin to get to business. They are dressed in much the same way as the boys were earlier but they have on some sort of green, white and red waist band with 3 thin pieces of fabric hanging down to the ground. The men grapple with each other, spin each other around and toss each other through the air. The loser gets up and starts dancing like nothing happened, after being straddled and stared down a little. The winner throws his arms in the air and begins dancing again as well. There are ten men doing this all at once and the flow of dancing to wresting to dancing to falling to flipping to dancing to wrestling is constant with no visible system to who is matching up. This continues for hours until by about 4 am I am falling asleep where I sit and decide to walk home. As I open the door to my hut, I remember, oh yeah tomorrow (err...this morning) I have Saturday class at 9 with my 9th graders.