Day Nineteen: Just Sitting

The span of three photos … left to right. I brightened the middle one so hopefully you can see the woman in the shade.


Within the flurry of fast French and many people around, it’s too easy to forget the lingering, the silence within, the abiding in place. Yesterday I made room for the quiet. Some of us were out walking in Toubacouta and I saw cement steps in the shade. I sat down … and I stayed there for an hour. My friends continued on their journey.

How will I know a country and a people? Part of it is focus, study. And part of it is simply “being” in the environment – seeing what’s there and who’s there. Not interacting, not judging, just watching. No hurry at all. Here’s the world that came by:

1. Seeing the boutique across the street where my friends were. Letting them be there, letting them leave, staying put.

2. A very tall black fellow, dressed all in white. Even his pointed hat was white. He walked slowly. Sadly, he reminded me of the Klu Klux Klan but of course the skin was different. And his bearing spoke of the spiritual.

3. Chickens and roosters scurrying in the dirt, across the way and then almost at my feet, pecking here and there. The moving was jerky, almost frantic, and then they were gone.

4. A large water bottle seemed to have a life of its own until I spied a young boy continually launching it down the playing field that was the road.

5. For a few minutes, Mariama sat with me on the step, watching me write the moments on white index cards. I wondered what she was thinking as my black scribbles hit the paper.

6. Above the metal rooves and thatched huts, large black birds soared against the blue sky. Were they vultures? The question didn’t need to be answered … they were simply artists of the air.

7. A young boy rode by on a bicycle, probably his sister hanging on the back. Clearly they had places to go, for the street to the right soon swallowed them.

8. Perhaps twenty white goats came into view, managed into rows by an old man wielding a long stick. Bleats abounded but there was a casualness to it all as the family headed down a narrow alley.

9. What? A dark blue Honda CRV blasted past me from the left. Dark faces looked over through tinted glass. This does not compute. But still I smiled with the mystery of it all.

10. Over the hour several women in bright dresses strolled by, their arms at their sides and baskets comfortably riding on their heads. They moved with grace, and some shifted their eyes to me with a smile when I greeted them with “Bonjour.”

11. Five goats wandered over curious and a baby’s eyes came within two feet of mine. Neither of us felt the need to say anything.

12. Teens with a ragged volleyball played soccer in front of me. A long kick from the left split Main Street and landed on the instep of the receiving fellow. He brought the ball softly to the ground and arched it back to his friend. Such grace of movement.

13. Along came a fragile-looking wooden cart, occupied by two donkeys and six kids. No stop and go … just the languid pace needed under a burning sun.

14. Over the way, there stood a huge shade tree, brilliantly emerald and lemon, with long strands of leaves fluttering in the breeze. “Hey, it looks like a maple tree back home.” But it wasn’t.

15. A woman in a pink dress had set up shop under the tree before I arrived. As the heat climbed, she packed up her shiny coloured objects for sale and walked away, complete with basket, tiny table and plastic chair. Maybe it was time for a nap.

16. Apparently not too hot for running. A young black fellow sped by. Above his eyes were blond locks – logically out of place, but actually not.

17. Three young boys and a bicycle joined me in the shade. After the ritual “Ça va?”s, they launched into conversation with each other, not minding my presence in the least. Shade is meant to be shared and words need not be understood.

18. A clearly strong 20-year-old walks close, scoops up the youngest kid, and starts away. The adult fellow looks back at me, smiling. Once the young one is upright again, his mouth also curls into a smile.

19. As the earth bakes, the street empties. No human beings to the left or to the right. The woman managing “Chez Sadio Demba” behind me has just locked her door. The world is quiet.


The melodies are soft but they’re still here
Toubacouta reposes
Bruce wanders away, the dirt sliding under his feet
All is well