Hunger

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My ability to eat the food I am offered has gone down during my time here. Now, even when I am hungry, I am unable to stomach the starchy white rice or the sauces drowning in palm oil. The smells make my stomach twist. The family keeps encouraging me to eat the communal rice dish on which they all eagerly feast, and are perplexed that I never join in. I feel that I’m being rude in my refusal of the food, but even social graces can’t get me to eat.   Read the rest of this entry

American Culture Through Guinean Eyes

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Just as we learn more about ourselves by visiting other cultures, so can we learn more about our own culture when seen through the eyes of others. For this, I have my partner to thank. For his family and friends here in Guinea, he is the paramount of wisdom of life in the US and there are a few stories I’ve listened to him share in my time here.

Many Stories are exchanged in the shade on a hot day

Many Stories are exchanged in the shade on a hot day

One that never fails to amaze is his story of one of the first times he shared a home with roommates. Sharing a home is certainly not strange to Guineans, nor is sharing resources. In this instance, my partner shared a home, kitchen, and specifically, refrigerator with others who were paying by the room. One day he ventured, hungry, out to the kitchen and found an orange in the fridge. He ate it gladly, and was later shocked when the owner of said orange confronted him when he went searching for his fruit and found it gone. My boyfriend will act out the confrontation with grand gestures, demonstrating how angry the man was to not have his orange. His listeners will invariably be amazed at somebody getting so angry over sharing such a small item of food – something so common it goes without saying it will be done here in Guinea. The story ends with my boyfriend cooking up delicious food and not sharing it with the stingy, salivating roommate. Read the rest of this entry

Little Heartbreaks

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It’s hard not to get mad about bad medicine. On the one hand, I want to respect the culture I find myself in, and that includes respecting their beliefs about what makes us ill and what makes us better. On the other hand, medicine practiced poorly can have results that resonate far and wide.

The day started out early and joyful. Mafinle, pregnant when we arrived, has been growing by the day. She would regularly go to doctor’s appointments, free for pregnant women, and return with news of a healthy pregnancy. Yesterday, we awoke early to her leaving in a taxi for the hospital. Her husband and other family members followed, two by motorbike and one by taxi, then returned to gather blankets for the coming baby. The men sat waiting on the porch of the hospital, not being allowed to enter the room. “This is Africa,” they told me. The household was elated to receive news of birth of a baby girl just a few hours later. The girls started cheering and jumping up and down. The new baby was named Libby, for me.

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Ajna Chakra

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The sixth chakra is located between and above the eyebrows.  Most often referred to as the Third Eye Chakra, the sixth chakra gains the moniker Ajna in Sanskrit meaning “to command.”

The Third Eye Chakra governs the neutral mind, allowing us the perspective to balance the warnings offered by the negative mind with the optimism of the positive mind and see reality for what it truly is beyond the veil of maya.  The gift of the sixth chakra is to see beneath the surface.  A balanced Ajna chakra gives insight and strong intuition – the ability to perceive what is, and a strong imagination – the ability to see what is possible.

Los Angeles Spraypaint of the Third Eye Chakra

Los Angeles Spraypaint of the Third Eye Chakra

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Historical Manifestations of Poverty and Class Divisions

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I’ve been doing a lot of reading.  With the African sun beating down, I don’t have much energy for a vigorous yoga practice, so I find a nice shady spot and if I’m lucky, one that comes with a breeze, and I’ll settle in with a book.  I was gifted with many electronic versions of books ranging in subject from yoga to Reiki, fiction stories to historical non-fiction.

The fact that the books are electronic posed a bit of a challenge, given the constraint of electricity here.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m lucky to be in a city that has electricity even for a small window most days.  Out in the rural areas, electricity only comes from a generator, and those are few and far between.  I’ve discovered, though, that the smartphone I have will hold electronic copies of books, and will also be recharged by my computer.  Thus, I bounce back and forth between laptop and cell phone devouring book after book.

I’ve been reading a lot of Dickens, as well as more contemporary fiction and non-fiction set in the late eighteen hundreds and also encompassing the two world wars.  I’m struck by the descriptions of the poor because they mimic what I’ve observed here in Africa.

Dickens describes a world of poverty coexisting next to a much smaller realm of wealth and privilege.  He speaks of trash building up in the street and the smell of human waste running open in throughout London.  While the human waste disposal here does not run in the streets, the trash is omnipresent.  There is also a huge disparity of wealth, with a small sliver of the population living well above the poverty level that most Guineans occupy.

An ostentatious house sits well back from a roadside covered in the build-up of trash

An ostentatious house sits well back from a roadside covered in the build-up of trash

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Movement as Memory

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Snapshot

She walks here barefoot every day, sometimes wearing a little shift of a dress, and sometimes, inexplicably, wearing a knit sweater over it.  Her name is Rama and she just watches.  When I make eye contact, she’ll raise her eyebrows and give me a small smile.  Her name reminds me of one of my favorite yoga mantras, so I’ll chant to her sometimes, “Sitta Ram, Sitta Ram, Sitta Ram Ram Ram.”  She sings back, “Sitta Libby, Sitta Libby, Sitta Libby Libby Libby.”

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School time

The children here respond wonderfully to the language and movement classes I’ve begun.  Read the rest of this entry

Medicine

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One of the things I’m asked for often as a foti is medicine.  When somebody isn’t feeling well, they assume that I have the cure.  I count myself blessed that I’m usually able to help.

The complaint I hear most often is pain in the belly.  Sometimes, it’s exhibited as a small pain where the person has a more subdued energy than normal.  Other times, the sufferer is lying down in too much pain to do much of anything else.  When the case is the former, I mix up some white clay that was gifted to me by a girlfriend in California.  One spoonful of clay mixed with water followed by two more cups of water, and my patient is usually feeling better right away.  For more severe stomach pain, I mix up some water with a spoonful of activated charcoal, gifted to me by another friend in California.  For extremely severe pain, I’ll follow up the natural medicine with a Reiki healing session.  I’m lucky to have happy patients each time.

I’ve offered several Reiki sessions here in Guinea for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes for stomach upset, others for fever, and other times for life issues compounded by energetic blocks in the chakras.  Even though Africans here haven’t heard of chakras or Reiki before, they’ve been extremely receptive to the healing.  I’ve received feedback that they’re able to feel the energetics of the treatment, have a sense of calm afterwards, and feel relief for the symptoms that led to me offering a treatment.

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I’m lucky to have more than just natural medicines and Reiki in my toolkit.   Read the rest of this entry

Vishuddi, The Throat Chakra

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The fifth chakra vibrates to the color blue and governs communication.  This chakra sits over our throat and literally gives a voice to our internal inspirations and creativity.  Thus, the Vishuddi chakra is a chakra of manifestation; connecting Shiva with Shakti, limitless potential with life-giving energy and consciousness.

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The throat chakra finds expression through speaking, chanting, and singing.  When one is able to clearly state one’s unique view on the world, the throat chakra is open and energy is moving freely.  Read the rest of this entry

Poverty and Community in Guinea

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Kçbri – money (soso)

I’ve already mentioned that the poverty in Guinea is profound.  The truth is that I have never seen this extreme poverty before.  Guinea is in the thirteenth poorest country in the world.  That’s the macro view. What this looks like on a micro level is a lot of people who are very hungry and in need and very few with the capability to make some money.

Many walk around in clothes that would have been tossed in the trash long ago by somebody in the developed world.  Shirts with a collar but no material at the shoulders, pants that flap in the font and back because the material is long worn away, t-shirts that looks like netting in the back because there are so many holes in them.  Many colors are faded, the clothes having taken on the color and texture of the African dust long ago.

Clothes dry on a line in the hot midday sun

Clothes dry on a line in the hot midday sun

Polygamy is practiced throughout Guinea. While not everybody has multiple wives, it is more common than not.  In many families, a man will take two or more wives and father a myriad of children.  Read the rest of this entry

Glimpses of Life

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Maakiti

It’s only 10 am and the market is crowded.  Vendors line the left and right in small wooden booths and converted shipping containers.  In the center are an array of ladies with large bowls holding rice, potatoes, tomatoes, and an array of other vegetables while other vendors move throughout the market, one carrying brightly folded material on his head, another with a basket of fish in her hand.  People press against each other to move through the mass.  Voices rise as vendors shout their prices, a girl in a tatter of a dress stands quietly in her own small space waiting for her mother to finish a transaction.

These women pause their wig making to smile for the camera.

These women pause their wig making to smile for the camera.

Percy

A medicine man told my boyfriend that in order to ensure health, happiness, and abundance, he needed to buy a racer chicken and leave it at the house to be cared for.

Percy peeks in the front door to see if the coast is clear.

Percy peeks in the front door to see if the coast is clear.

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