I'm sorry I haven't posted in a few days. At midnight on Friday, all my grades for the Spring Semester were due. I had a bunch of Public Speaking students that had prepared sermons for me to evaluate and, well, no time to do any journaling. I leave for church in 25 minutes or so, so I doubt I will have time to complete this entry, but thought I would get started.
The missionary here who is hosting me is also from Korea. I guess the fact that I am part of an American consortium of mostly Korean pastors on this trip sort of makes this make sense. He is kind beyond belief and has worked hard to make sure that I am at home. I am staying in a guest room at his church. It was designed for Koreans, so it feels just a tad out of the norm for me, but the bed is comfortable and it has AC. YEAH! The shower is the Asian style, a bucket and a scoop. I don't mind it, but it takes me longer to get ready in the morning. Just not used to doing things this way. I guess I'm getting better at it. A place I often stay in the Philippines has a similar style shower. I could be more descriptive, but I'd rather you not picture me getting showered in the morning.
The class meets on the top floor of one of the larger churches in town. I believe it is Pentecostal. Hard to read the signs. It isn't as convenient as the last location, but it is a big room that fits the 20 or so students. And it has AC. Yeah! The students are from all over West and Central Africa, not just from here. They all speak French, and I have two translators that tag team, but more of the students seem to be able to speak at least some English. They tell me that English is taught in the schools here and in many parts of Africa. But, of course, the number who can attend school is limited. My host told me that over half of the people in this country are illiterate.
I like the students a lot. They think well, ask good questions, and keep me on my toes. They also have quick smiles and warm handshakes.
One of the funny things that tends to happen is--someone will ask a question. Regardless of what I say, someone else will want to chime in. This begins a furor of something that may be discussion, but looks like intense argument. The translator almost always just sits there and stares at them until they finish. She will then look at me and say, "OK." I ask, "What was that about?" She just says, "It's OK." Um, well, OK.
It is Ramadan and this is a Muslim country. So, the streets are crowded with angry motorists who have had nothing to eat or drink since the sun came up. I get kind of angry, too, if I don't at least have a cup of coffee in the morning. The upside is that there is not one in the restaurants. To be honest, I can't quite figure out why they are open. On the other hand, folks can't eat or drink. What else would they do besides go to their shop, sit back, and see if any foreigners come for food.
We are half-way through the class. My grades are in. When Pastor Lee asked me if I wanted to do a little sight-seeing on Saturday, I jumped at the chance. He, his wife, and I jumped on a VERY crowded ferry and headed to Goree Island. The island has a crazy history and most of the people on the ferry were school age boys and girls, younger kids and teenagers, wearing school uniforms and apparently on a school trip. The ferry costs about a dollar if you are a local. For permanent residents, like the pastor and his wife, it is about $3. For me, it was about $10. Hm.
Well, I'm about out of time and this day was too funny to skip through quickly, so I go here.
Before we got on the boat, some African woman was trying to befriend me. I didn't get it at first, wondered why she was trying to chat me up. Finally, she said, "Paul, when you come to the island, come by my shop if you have time. Will you?" Um, sure. If I have time. While we were still waiting to get on the boat, another lady told me, "Come by my shop, too. Will you?" And they were telling me their names and acting like I was their long-lost cousin or something.
OK, let me give you a clue. Here, there is a never ending line of ladies with shops, especially on Goree Island. Never promise them ANYTHING.
We reached the island and were immediately met by a cacophony of guides and shop owners offering us their services. Pastor Lee's wife is actually an excellent tour guide and I think has been to the Island more times than...well, than most Koreans. She is really awesome. I struggle with pronouncing her name, but it means Fear Love. So, I just took to calling her that. She doesn't seem to mind, but Pastor Lee is a bit confused by it.
So, Fear Love led me first to the Maison du Slavery. Sorry, mixing French and English. I've been doing that for weeks. Makes me feel cool to use a word like Maison, instead of house. Somehow it sounds more rich than house. The house was actually rebuilt some time ago. But it sits on the site of one of the old slave houses. It felt a little surreal going into it. Downstairs there were small rooms for men, women, and children to await their sale and departure from their homes in Africa. Most were members of minor tribes in Western or Central Africa, capture by the major tribes and sold as slaves to European traders. I was broken-hearted by it all, but perhaps most by the room marked "enfants"--children. Perhaps the most tragic sense of this is how many children are still in slavery to some strong man today.
There was a door at the back of the house heading out to the see. It was the last door, the door of no return. When someone was sold and passed through that door, they were certain to never see their homes again. They were taken to a life of slavery in the Caribbean, South America, and the United States. I've uploaded a picture of a map that shows the dispersion of slaves. Funny, I never realized that slaves coming to the New World were mostly placed on plantations in the Caribbean.
The island holds strategic location. France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, and England all fought bloody battles trying to possess it. Slavery as well as other exports flowed from all over West Africa through Goree Island. The name, I learned, was the name of a little Dutch town, the home of the first Dutch captain to lay claim to the island.
From the Maison, we made our way up the street, past a little Protestant Church to the Goree Catholic Church. It is a pretty little church and, from what I understand, is still an operational Catholic Church. Unbelievably, prayers and blessings were offered here for the ships and captains who would carry slaves across the Atlantic. Captains and mates came here to pray for a safe passage---I suppose for themselves, something like 2/3 of the slaves died at sea--and for a lucrative sale on the other side. I suppose future generations will look at our own selfishness with the same disdain I feel, but it is hard to imagine people believing a loving God could condone their barbarism.
Outside, shop owners were chasing me down. Come see my shop. Here, look at this material. So beautiful. I made it myself by hand. I made these bracelets and these necklaces. Take one home for your wife or your mother. (I tried telling them my mother was a vicious woman who would shoot me if I showed up at her door. Their eyes got big, but that didn't slow them down from trying to sell me. Um, sorry mom.)
We turned to walk up to the old fortress at the top of the hill. Yikes! We walked right past the woman who had first met me in Dakar. "Ok," I told Fear Love, I am going to just go have a quick look. She gave me a knowing look that said, "You are going to be sorry," but she followed me over to the shop. It was the tiniest shop I think I have ever seen, smaller than the souks at the Grand Bazaar. But it was crammed full of every kind of trinket and bobble you can imagine. She had shirts, scarves, key chains, refrigerator magnets, anklets, bracelets, necklaces, ear rings, carved wooden animals...the list went on and on. After a quick glance around, I said, "Well, this is a very nice shop, but I am not ready to buy anything." Oh, that started the wailing. "Why you no like me? Buy something from me. I am your friend." And on and on. Somehow, with Fear Love's help, I got out of there with one 500 franc keychain--about a dollar. But there must have been 50 shops in this little building and every lady felt like, to be fair, I must buy something from them as well. We walked up the hill with an entourage of trinket sellers at my heals.
At the top of hill, the gates to the old fortress have long since been broken. An old gun with two 20 foot barrels was still poised toward an unseen British ship. Of course, there were also lots of shops. One large shop-keep named Fatima was maybe the most persistent of the day. She would ask me to buy something, when I would say, "I'm sorry," she would say, "Sorry is no good. Buy something." One of the shop keepers, an artist, told me the gun had actually only been fired once, but it sunk a British ship. I guess it would.
I was drawn in by a low-key shopkeeper who had a nice selection of local masks. He said the style was from one of the tribes in Senegal, but he did the carvings himself. After a little negotiating, he offered me a mask for 4000 franc, about $8. I looked at Fear Love and she told me she thought it was a fair price. Seemed like a bargain to me. So, I agreed. I only had a 5000 franc note. I asked if he had change. He said he did, but somehow I ended up with a little carved monkey instead of my 1000 franc.
Fear Love really wanted me to see a little art studio in the fort. An artist there makes paintings out of colored sand. We went in and he was working. He told me about each of the sands. I forget where they are all from, but there was a variety of colors. He showed me the basic style he uses, pouring sand, and explained that once it is set, it won't ever chip or deteriorate. Hm. Unless you get it wet. He grabbed a little piece of wood and began painting with glue. Little by little, I noticed the glue taking the shape of an African woman carrying a package on her head. Then, he masterfully used the different bowls of sand to produces the color. It was quite remarkable. OK, so I'm fairly easily impressed. I actually almost bought a picture made out of dead butterfly wings. How creepy is that?
I chose a couple of small pieces he had already done to buy. He engraved the back of both with my name and the date, in sand of course.
We had missed the ferry that Pastor Lee intended us to take back. Fear Love seemed a little more interested in tour guiding than Pastor Lee had time for. Still, it gave us a chance to try the Yassa Chicken at a little restaurant. The Yassa sauce is made from a sweet onion, and the taste is really special. It was maybe the best thing I have eaten since being in Africa. It is a native dish to Senegal. When he saw it, Pastor Lee asked the waiter to bring me more of the Yassa sauce. A little on my last few bites of chicken. A little on rice.
Of course, the table where we sat had a nice beach path just on the other side of the wall. It was a great place for sellers to stop by. And they did. It got funny. They didn't talk to anyone else, but they kept coming by to sell me stuff. When I said no to one thing, they were undaunted. They found something else in their shop and brought it to me to buy. I heard so many stories about fathers who needed food for their children, people who were hungry, people who just wanted to sell something because I was their first customer, and people who told me I should buy from them because, of all the people on the island, they had chosen me. Um, thanks?
Pastor Lee kept laughing and laughing. "You are a magnet for sellers," he told me again and again. I assumed they treat everyone like this. "No," he said, "I have never seen anyone get so much attention. Hm. I guess I am blessed. So, I came back to Dakar with two key chains, two sand paintings, a mask, and a monkey. I guess it could have been worse.
I took a long nap and then began working on my sermon for Sunday.