Monthly Archives: February 2014

Food as a Path to the Spiritual — the Diet in Guinea

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I’ve experienced a different relationship with food since arriving in Guinea.  I was blessed during my stay in the States to be extremely spoiled by good eating.  In California, much of my time was spent with health-conscious friends who also possessed a talent for cooking the often garden-fresh meals I enjoyed.  On the east coast, my family kept me well fed with home cooked favorites and restaurant meals.

Here in Guinea, the food is nourishing and freshly made, but I must confess that I don’t relish it.  I eat to nourish only, rarely for the flavor or to enjoy my meal.  This brings to mind a discussion we had towards the end of my yoga teacher training.

The teacher was leading the class in a study of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and she was speaking to us of the importance of withdrawing attachment from the material world in order to cultivate a stronger connection with the spiritual.  Moksha, freedom from attachments, is the ultimate goal of practicing yoga.  Patanjali suggests the complete severing of all attachments to achieve this goal.  In creating this separation, Patanjali speaks of the importance of drawing away from the narrative of our lives, observing the passage of emotions without allowing ourselves to be caught up in the sticky details, and to stop identifying with the many masks we wear.

Moksha

Moksha

I found myself agreeing with all of these points and fully understanding the importance of making this separation between the atman, the eternal self within, and the ego.  However, I recoiled from my teacher’s next point that we must also break attachments with the joys of life.  She said that we should not fully immerse ourselves in the joy of music, dance, or relishing of good food.  Read the rest of this entry

Hube

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“Hoo-bey” – dust (Susu)

The Dust in Africa deserves its own religion.  It billows when the wind blows and sticks like a second skin to children’s bare feet.  It clings to chicken’s feathers, goat’s fur and lamb’s wool.  When the sunlight slants in the window just right, you can see that the air is made up almost entirely of dust.  Cars that aren’t washed daily are quickly reclaimed by it, laying thick as paint over tires, hood, and windows.

A wandering mama lamb and her babies rest a moment in the shade.

A wandering mama lamb and her babies rest a moment in the shade.

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Soso

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Soso – “sue sue”

I try to spend at least an hour and a half each day on language training.  I’m focusing mostly on Soso, as I have more resources on my computer for that.  My resources for French language learning are all internet based, and as I learned in my first week, the internet here is not usable for much beyond sending email, and even that takes a looooong time.  Luckily, the French I learned prior to leaving the States has stuck, and the rest I can figure out with my background in Spanish, Latin, and English due to the root similarities of the languages.

So my sit-down and study time is devoted to Susu.  My boyfriend, with his many languages on hand, is my preferred teacher, but it’s difficult to get him to sit down for ten minutes, let alone ninety.  It’s been five years since he’s been in the country, and the home is a constant parade of long lost family and friends coming by to catch up.  That means that he’s usually to be found in the midst of a crowd animatedly telling a story about life in the States or a recent adventure we’ve had here in Guinea.

Gacim, 3 years old

Gacim, 3 years old

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La Toilét

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“Where is the bathroom?”

Donde está el bano? – Spanish

Haandey ana mindee? – Susu

où est la salle de bain? – French

Let’s talk bathrooms for a moment, shall we?  My boyfriend was kind in warning me prior to our arrival in Africa that most people don’t use toilet paper.  I had some terrifying visions in my head of what this would mean, but a girlfriend who has lived and traveled extensively in West Africa put me at ease.

SAM_0888

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Once Upon a Time in Guinea

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Travel

The snow began to fall the day of our departure.  When I checked JFK’s website for flight info, I saw that almost all the flights leaving between the one-hour time frame as mine were canceled….except my flight!  With fingers crossed and a cell-phone text alert engaged, we piled into my aunt and uncle’s SUV with our small city of luggage.  Only 2 suitcases held personal belongings.  The rest were packed full of the donation of soccer uniforms, deflated soccer balls, as well as an accumulation of shoes, clothes, and school supplies that we’d been buying the previous months. Read the rest of this entry