What to do about the count pilgrim?

Visiting Africa has truly been a wild journey. Yesterday, Sunday, I was taken to a town called Dande. It was a while from the city of Bobo. Mostly I tried gesturing to people when they spoke or I used my un pau francias. Wasn’t feeling so great so I sat under a tree for most of the day with Stephan, Larry, and the other folks in the compound. The people are so relaxed.

Some of us took turns in a way shooing the goats from the food bowls. Baby chickens walked straight over my legs while I laid on a mat trying to rest.

The women of the compound were all active cooking foods, holding children, and assisting in offerings. When they saw me breathing slightly funny one came up to me with a blue cup with red water in it. They motioned for me to sniff the liquids. I did, my nose started running it was as if i had taken in cayenne pepper water. I could breath better which was nice. My nostrils however were burning.

I’m really glad to have had the opportunity to hang out with the women. Before it was all said and done I was placed on a stool and somekind of plant resin was burned while i held my head over the coals with my shawl to keep the smoke from escaping. A woman had grabbed me layed me across her lap and held me really tight, yep I needed a hug. i was offered something that tasted like donuts, and danced for the family with my shawl over my head in rhythm with beautiful music on the radio. I loved dancing for them they made sounds like eh’ when they liked something and one of the women danced too while singing the song she knew.

I needed to dance barefooted on the earth. I needed to shake off the winds around me and dance. Silly, theatrical, and like it is the medicine that brings me to myself again. I do imagine it was a sight to see.

But thats why I came. To tell a story, to dance and sing, to see and grow. To touch mama Africa hands and barefooted on Mama Earth. To say hello.

Call me a pilgrim if you will.

Today is Monday. It’s been a day no doubt. My blood test results spoke of iron deficiency and low counts in the iron and b vitamin departments. There are no real super veggies about except Moringa as far as I know. So I am going to take drastic action and eat meat voluntarily after 5 years of being a veggie lover. Oh goodness wish me well.

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Update: I ate chicken! Thank you thank you thank you.

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Beware TMI

Last night Larry and a friend of his  whose name I don’t know took me to the clinque (thats how it is spelled). Opened the door for me and both of them sat on my bed as I waited for the doctor. I was in a room with three other people. A crone I imagine, who was lying on her side in and out of sleep and a child and her mother. The child was probably no more than four.

Then came the part I didn’t like…they wanted to check my blood. Prick one, my finger, prick two my arm. Cotton swab. Rest. As for the glucose IV bag by the bed I said no thanks for the sugar and three men tried to continuously convince me it was necessary to have the IV. It took twenty minutes then I sat all pricked and upset.

I noticed it but didn’t say anything but you know you have to leave it to someone else to say it. Larry said, Sabrina haha look girl over there iv no problem but Sabrina big problem haha. Everyone laughed. Very funny. On this.trip.I brought a big bag of candy chocolates and three blowpops. I had put the blow pops in my pocket that day and so being in a room with three people I gave them the three candies. Seemed very serendipitous to me.

Larry and his friend came in and out of the room keeping me company. Then came the next big deal. They put medicine in the iv that made me feel tired, then they wanted to put more in my arm. I said, oh my gosh what!  and everyone laughed again the elder in the room kept trying to convince me by pointing and making gestures and speaking french, Larry translated.After a long time I consented. They were trying to get me to relax and go to bed and the way they thought to do it was that way. It took twenty minutes, Larry must have known cause he said you feel sleep, and I finally couldn’t do it anymore I was out. So many dreams.

When i woke up it was just us.the women. They were sleeping under their blankets I was cold. I opened the door of the room. I just wanted the iv out of my arm. It wasnt easy sleeping with it in. I tell you one thing …I would like to donate blankets to hospitals in Burkina because there weren’t any. It was a cold night. The women must have brought covers from their home.

I went to the desk and woke the man who was the receptionist lying on the floor. I gestured that wanted the IV out because the bag was finished. He went to get the doctor who at first didnt understand probably because he had just woken up too. Then he thankfully removed it and I layed out to go to bed. About six in the.morning, or shall I say four hours later, a woman was washing the floor in the room she was so thorough that she was hitting the beds with the mop. Then about seven something i was still pretty much tired on the medicines. But awesomely I turned and saw Larry’s friend. He walked up to the bed lifted the mosquito netting held my arm and helped me out of the room. Larry was thanking the doctors who asked him do i smoke? No. Do i drink? No. Am I on any drugs? No.

Then he handed.over my blood test results and we were out. By the time I made it to the hotel I had many messages from friends wondering about me. Larry was adamant about bread, eggs, and tea.

One message from a friend was that I should come home. And to send them my info so that my ticket could be changed. But it was so late there in america and so early here I called the airline. They changed my ticket for free  because of all the hastle getting me here and because I had to come out of pocket. So that was great news. I just told them the truth.

I would like to go home early. They were nice about it. They just changed it and said something like ma’am have a great flight home.

What’s wild and this is TMI is that every country I have been to including Canada I have had to go ernestly but here nothing. I hope thats a good thing. But i have only been eating hot foods, and bottled water. I only stepped out once when an elder offered me food. I ate some of it out of respect. Whats cool is that she offered me moringa stewed. Larry’s friend whose name I didn’t know brought me Moringa seeds yesterday. If you know about Moringa…all it takes is a few seeds or a a dose of the leaves and it will give you lots of Vitamins and Minerals but at the cost of having to go ernestly to the restroom.

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A guide for a week p.1

It’s like no place I’ve ever been. My sensitivities has been ringing alarms and also shielding me. Instead of jumping fully in I have been having to introduce myself. Say hi and be on the outskirts looking about.

First off this is the first place I have been where french is the language you use if you want to speak. The universal language. Then there is the mix of indigenous languages weaved in like julu and others.

But let me get to that. So the next night i was invited to dinner at a cafe by a friends friend and his family was there. He’s the best at the english language I’ve spoken to so far, however his child was grabbing unto his leg and he affectionally said this is my son. I was like word….certainly looked like a girl to me with her hair in cornrow braids and her fingernails painted. She was probably also playing in make up because the little one wore hints of pink lipstick. Either way i asked for his childs name and he said Anna. So. I knew he meant daughter but I was being open minded like hey maybe it doesn’t matter here. But I know I know he meant she was his daughter.

I sat down. Before coming to  Africa I had been briefed on water. Do not drink the water and even.if its in a bottle put your steripen in it and zapp it, wait ten to thirty minutes and then drink. I ordered what I spaghetti no tomato sauce but my stimach wouldn’t let me finish so sadly I spent the rest of the meal needing to go sit kn the toilet wit the seat down and my head down to calm the nauseous feeling. The man’s family was nice and wanted to share their pizza and french fries but after having lost my pizza the day before i figured maybe i didn’t need it.

Oh the scents oh the scents! You need a mask for one whose nose is sensitive a mask will help you to be outside. I smelt mens cologn, dust, chemicals, and food scents. I readily went to the room i rented and layed down. The next day we were to take off i wanted to be ready for the trip to Bobo which I heard was five hours from Oaugadougou. The next morning came and i was so ready to go from the capital that i had.my bags packed and turned in my key by 8 am. I sat and waited. I glanced outside. Waited…drank water. Waited. Nothing. When the guide and I finally talked he let me know the students in Oaugadougou were upset about not  having food at the university so they shut down the fuel station for a time. It would be an hour till we were ready by then it was noon.

Okay, I realized something then. My bags were very light. I lost my tent. Oh great. Anyway lets continue. So after another hour and or so he pulled up…just as I was about to order food by the way. But I dropped ordering to get on the road to the music city of Burkina. It was so hot in the car fhe windows rolled down or up the air conditioner on or off. Oh dear. I turned it on high, pressed another button. Mens cologne, no food oh dear. Heat. Just as we were going across a bridge i saw the smoke…it was like someone turned a small fogger on in the car. He pulled over and we got out. The belt of the engine had seen its last days. Oh great. Lol. I went to sit at the roadside plant nursery were did  not go to Bobo that day.

For the evening that follwed I spent time handing mini chocolate candy bars to kids. The next morning we were on the road. Five hours of me trying to just go to sleep to take my mind off of the air, the scents, and my stomach.

When we did arrive I sat down in the lobby of the hotel. Up to then I was amazed at the wild ride this trip had been. But lets recount the many times I’ve gone somewhere and found out what was happening.

2011: I thought, you know what I’ve never heard of a black girl sailing. I will go do that. The day we decided to set sail we learned a tsunami had had hit Japan and Hawaii and the coast of Cali was  bracing themselves. My friends told me later that someone said where the hell is Sabrina? Of course I was the one on the ship on the Pacific Ocean off the southern coast of Cali. They knew because I had them drop me off at the train so I could make it to the docks a few nights earlier.

Maybe I should write a memoir. I remember telling my bestfriend that I want these stories to inspire my grandchildren.

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Up next: A Guide for a Week P.2

Gator ~ a poem

Slow and steady
Too big for all that rushin’
Saving energy for the meat of a savory large fine
Pray

Prey, look both ways
Dream hunting in the cool
Mud caking up the shoes
Hidden in the leaves
Taking naps in the breeze

Fall back in the ease
Waves passing as a sneeze

Blessings
Bless your heart
There are caverns, then there’s carts

Braiding up the hair
Kicks for kicks
Snare for snare
Curtains cover
This and other

Ever exchanging.

Raise your toast
Spit your liqour
Banish ghosts

Eye and eye
Above water
Belly know them both
Up and over, deep and slumber
Crackling lightning
Lions den
Wings return to their dragon
When the illuminated stretch
Wide awake
Froasted cake
Sugar toothed
Though are loosed
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P.3 anyone

So it worked out, that night I walked up to the agent at the desk and she stamped my itenerary. The woman at the help desk from the night before was glad too, she stopped what she was doing…helping some customers to ask if I had everything squared away. Walking through the hallway to the plane was a victory! This time when the plane took off I knew my body was simply acting from a remembered stress response to anxiety. just breathe and let it go. Ten hours to Ghana.

The flight attendants made it known that windows were to be closed due to the Intensity of the light from the West African sun.

Kind of private how I felt about seeing the land of Africa and the clouds over. I just felt like I was bringing my ancestors home. No one walks alone. 🙂 when the plane finally landed the drama started.again. It went like this…

I grabbed my passport pouch and must have dropped it. So while standing waiting to be ushered to the main airport I realized it was gone! The airport attendants ushered me back and forth from my bag in the building to the seat I sat in on the plane. About three times. By the third time the seats had fresh little pillows, red blankets in bags, and the magazines put back in their cubby. Check your bag again they said, so I did. Check everyting’ tak’ your time. So I did. Adrenaline. Burkina faso requires a visa upon entry from America, America requires a passport upon entry from another country. A man sat next to me, an officer at the airport, he was calm in approach and questions. He said come with me. They had me check my checked luggage. Trying my best not to sound like a smart alec I said, ” there was no way I could board a flight from america without my passport in my hand, it was on the plane.” Its not there anymore.  They looked at me, some agreed I was sure. Hmmm. I must have dropped it. I thought of the blankets I covered myself with. Nothing. Then a man and woman entered the luggage area she with my passport pouch in her hand. She was holding it out looking at me. I ran up to a stranger and gave her a big excited hug. Don’t think she’d ever recieved one of those before. Lol, she got out of it and said give me 100 dollars. I looked at her like oh shit woman. Come on! She said and give him to $20 dollars, referring to the airport attendant. I grabbed my wallet gave her twenty bucks…my debit card was in there I was Uuuberly grateful. The pouch had a protecting layer in it so that none of my documents could be illegally scanned.I said I would pray for her every night. The man who was helpful to me said in a quite voice, come on lets go. He signed me into thier guest book and had me sit in a seat for the next three hours. I was so bored I didn’t know what to do. Music, no. But by then I started to notice that my body was feeling funny. Nausea, restlessness, and birping. Oooh shit.

I had to stand then sit then stand. Oh no! Then I thought maybe it was because on the flight I hadn’t had much to eat and I drank a bunch of orange juice. I didn’t know what to do. So I made a request to please let me get up and go to the main airport I needed to eat something. It had probably been a day and I hadn’t noticed because of the traveling. It still took them half an hour to let me into the main airport. But with a perk, a card which permitted me to miss most of security because I was with them the whole time. It was to verify I did only come there to go somewhere else. It’s just that my flight was later.

I found something to eat. Fried rice, i think it was. But it only intensified the feeling I had. I had to gather my strength then. I had to look well enough to get on the plane. The plane to Burkina was small and someone had dosed themselves with soo much Cologne it was nauseating. I started breathing in through the nose out through the mouth as slow as I could. Then we took off.

The Gold Mine Boys

On the plane was a man who previously in the airport I noticed wss staring at me. I sat down and looked to my right and I mean staring. He was a white man maybe in his fifties, french is what I thought. I said are you staring at me. he said he didn’t know. I got my things and went to another seat. Well well well boarded the plane and guess who had the seat next to me. It was stated on his ticket. Ahhh shit. Lol. He said he was a geologist. I thought okay geologist. He said he worked for the gold mines industry and made more money in Africa than in Canada where he was from. At the same time a conversation between two white men behind me started to really take off and what do you know they delt in the mining business as well. It was the most uncomfortable, stirring, annoying twitch moment. Men who wore thier suits and spoke of how much money they made in the business while the people whose country had the gold rightfully under the ground under their feet had a life expectancy 56 due to malnutrition and polluted water.

Calm.

The man next to me was a strange fellow indeed. I looked out the window and just as I’d turned around, you guessed it he had been staring at me and mouthing something. Oh dear.

Turns out it was an hour and some flight and when we were descending to land he was nervous on the airplane and said he didn’t like that part. He was gripping the seat and covered his eyes. I thought okay, scene. I fanned him with an immigration card. No fainting allowed.

So we finally got off the snug little plane and got to the airport building. Saw my first african mozzy! In the building I had to pull it together. Look okay? I did and walked away. Then the test stand in line. I was shifting from foot to foot. Breathing slow. Got in! went to the luggage grabbed my bag…”you American!” I wish I could go back with you was the end of that statement.

I was looking for a friend of a friend. He appeared at the door. He said, “you hungry?” At that time I thought don’t mention it. I didn’t eat anything till late the next night.

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Next up… A guide for the week P.4

No sleep

It’s the second night before the day. Well before four am, I can’t sleep. So I will continue the story.

Decision made, I am going to Africa, I worked three jobs this summer for one special round trip ticket with my name on it. Then came the visa, check. Yellow fever vaccination, you can’t enter the country with out it, check. When you walk into the airport your vaccination is the first thing checked not your visa.

Malaria pills, check.

The evening before my flight, I was pushing my bike up a hill when I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. The airline texted me informing my flight from France to Ouagadougou had been cancelled due to Air France’s pilot strike. So began the fight to get to Bukina!

First, I wasn’t sure what to do. I had two layovers for my trip to Africa. SFO to ATL, ATL to Paris. Paris to Africa. I could make it to France but there wouldn’t be a flight to OUA, Ouagadougou. After sitting on the couch stunned for a moment I decided to call the airline. Eventually the agent let me know she could get me to two places close to the country, I would have to choose one and find my way from there. The airline would pay for my ticket to the place I chose but it stopped there. Nigeria or Ghana? I chose Ghana.

The ticket was changed, instead of leaving the next day in the afternoon I would be leaving early the next morning. I packed one bag! ( an accomplishment from days of carrying too much with me). One simple backpack, and my small tent..hey keep your options open.

When I reached JFK, part of my new flight, JFK straight to Ghana, no need to go to France fly direct from NY. When I reached JFK I was relieved and excited. For one when the plane took off from SFO my body had a sensation of a large weight flying off of me. I was so intense I jumped, I though it was anxiety. The woman next to me assisted me by telling to breath through my nose and out my mouth. She gave me water to drink. At JFK I had two hours two hours to board a flight to Ghana.

Ten minutes before boarding or so a man on the intercom mentioned, for the flight to Ghana if a passenger did not have blue visa stamped in the passport, that passenger would not be allowed on the plane. I went up to the desk of the agent, they asked…What’s your final destination? I said Burkina Faso. They asked…how do you plan to get there? I said, bus. Sorry ma’am, you are not allowed to enter the country of Ghana with out a visa as an American. You could be fined $5000 usd. And so could the airline.

I went quickly to the help desk. Explained what they knew, Air France pilots were on strike, the agent on the phone changed my ticket literally only the past evening. How could it be that this is okay. I had no idea it would be such a hassle. The woman said, ma’am it’s the passengers job to make sure they have the required visa for the country not the agent. She put me on the phone. The woman on the phone said, ma’am i don’t know what the woman at the desk is talking about it clearly states on the computer that you do not need a visa to enter Ghana. The woman at the desk and the woman at the phone debated back and forth…turned out the woman at the desk was right and the woman on the phone hadn’t read everything. It clearly states you must have a visa as an American citizen. The woman on the phone apologized and hung up the woman at the desk started listing options:

A. Delay the trip, go back to SFO

B. Stay in NYC till Friday (it was Monday)

C. Go to the address on the page she gave me to hope to get a rushed visa and she could change my ticket for the next night

Decisions. I chose option C. She said go back to the agent at the gate she has more info. Okay so by then because of all of the confusion. Plus! The disappointment. My teary face was wet and I walked away with a voucher with the words sorry for the inconvenience printed. The voucher was for transport to the hotel the airline was offering complimentary. The agent looked at me and said…you don’t need a rushed Visa what you need is a ticket. Show me a ticket tomorrow that clearly states you are not staying in Ghana and I will let you on the plane tomorrow… So budgeting for this trip became a little interesting…She said by the way you can keep your luggage here. See you tomorrow. I Ieft the airport in a nice car to a nice hotel and a nice room in Jamaica, NY. I immediately began looking for tickets. I went to bed probably around 2 am. Woke up around 6 am. Dressed and caught the 6:30 shuttle to the airport. Walked in and began looking for that ticket. I needed it by the time the planes began to load and my main concern was how much time was needed for a small airline in west africa to issue a ticket for next day travel. Would’nt you know! I found one! Received confirmation email in my inbox.

It was Early in the morning considering if 7 to 8 am is early. Rainy New York? No thank you! I spent the whole day in the airport. Walking and sitting, walking and sitting. When the afternoon came a woman stood before me, it was the agent from the night before. I could see she’d recently arrived. She said, you got that ticket? I smiled, Yes! She said, alright see you tonight. We both walked away. This was during my walk abouts, exercising, finding something to do. I only packed a small bag. No card games, rubicks cube, sodoku puzzles, nor art supplies this time. And I wasn’t that impressed with the book I’d brought along which was the only book I’d brought with me, Doorways in the Sand.

By the way. I realized something. That day I ate one thing. A veggie pizza which I couldn’t finish because my stomach was like, have you lost your mind. So I closed the box and remembered going to the hotel with it. I remember grabbing everything I’d brought with me. At the airport was when I realized that somewhere between admiring a tree across the street from the hotel while waiting for the shuttle and going to the airport I missplaced my pizza.

Alright ahhh!

Wow let me begin with…this year I felt yes I must go to Africa. I have been to South East Asia and all of these beautiful places with its residual African resemblances and yet my feet hadn’t touch the soils of Africa. I remember in Oakland there was an African centered woman who made clothes in the Lower Bottoms, I used to phone her and ride my bike to her home with lentils I intended to cook for her. She had a special place in the hearts of young black women who would visit her.  She reminded me of my aunts, you went over to her house, she had a rule everybody cleans up. I found myself doing the dishes, sweeping, and helping sort out fabric. My favorite part was if we all spent the night like a mother hen she read us stories. Can you imagine us early twenty something year olds lying everywhere heads resting on their palms looking up to a woman reading passages from books she wouldn’t let you borrow nor bend.

She used to say you want to go to Africa, all you got to do is confirm it and you will go. She was right, this year I decided two things were for certain I was going to see Hornby again and I was going to go to Africa.

Went to Hornby, thats another story. Now, I’m in Africa.

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