Wednesday, January 27, 2010

13 hours...

I'm ready to go; just finishing up quick tasks for deadlines that will pass before I return. Tomorrow, Thursday, I will fly to Atlanta, then Paris - staying one night - then on to Bamako by Saturday evening. I'm excited, but I wish I was bringing Phil and Walker and Taimir. That would make it the best trip. In lieu of that I will bring the trip back with me, in every way I know how.

This photo was taken on Oct. 12, 2009. The tall man with the white scarf is Le Mairie de Segou, Ousmane Simaga. To his left in light blue is Madani Sissoko, head of the Segou Comite du Jumelage or Segou's Sister City Commission. To the mayor's right, wearing pink, is the mayor's nephew, Nouhoume Simaga, who works in the ministry of tourism in Bamako. And there is Taimir wearing a bag made in Segou, decorated with the chi'wara - antelope - Mali's national symbol. Mali actually means hippopotamus, and as one of the most dangerous animals in African waterways, constitutes a potent symbol of protection.

The group is being serenaded by a group of 2 year olds at the Southside Child Development Center in Richmond, Virginia, and Monsieur Simaga is holding a gift he received from the children only moments before they began singing. Taimir acted as an ambassador to SCDC because he is a graduate of this wonderful center.
Posted by Picasa
It was during this visit to Richmond that the Sister City agreement was signed, on Oct. 13th, by M. Simaga and his counterpart, Mayor Dwight Jones, both of whom had taken office in 2009. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Mayor Jones' assistant Cheryl Ivy-Green for her role in getting the two mayors schedules to align during a very busy time and in very short notice.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Departure in 6 Days

In six days I will depart upon my first international trip, barring one afternoon in Tijuana MX in 1974. Mali is my destination. Before 2005 I never thought of Mali. My father has traveled extensively to Ghana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Senegal; other nations have been featured in the news, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Egypt, Morocco, Namibia, Ruanda, Uganda, Congo, South Africa, Madagascar, Angola, Togo, Chad, Niger, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and so many more. These were the countries of my awareness though of precious little knowledge. I make this trip on behalf of a relatively new organization, of which I am about to become president: the Virginia Friends of Mali.

I have not written like this, in a journal, for many years. I haven't drawn or made a really good piece of art in about five years. Since I will be traveling alone at the front and back end of this trip I look forward to some writing time. Time to get over myself, out of my way, into a place of intention and openness. I'll see. I might also use this opportunity to return to using haiku as the basis of my literary structure. That and a little automatic writing. I used to. I hope to journal daily and by hand. I will take no laptop (I don't think - a friend has offered me the use of her mini).

I will have one night each, going and coming, in Paris. I have been trying on clothes with the goal of packing as few as possible to leave room in the suitcase for souvenirs. 2 outfits, 2 pair sandals, 1 jacket, 3 scarves, 1 dress, 1 bubu (pa grande, je n'ais pas les pantalons). Oh yes, I may write occasionally in French, as my confidence and vocabulary build. Don't be surprised, reader, if I also wander between voices and stylistic rhythms. I won't know what they're called, these rhythms of literature, but you might, so don't call me on them, just inform me of them. I will appreciate that. By adhering to a haiku structure I hope to cleanly and succinctly illustrate my impressions of Mali, of Segou - its places, paces, people and things. what emerges (the river), what grows (a mooring), what sings (the trees), what plays (the wind), what drives (oar), what moves (my hand)...

I'm looking forward
to orange brown dust beneath
my feet, above my eyes

I'm looking forward
to bright water rushing by,
pushing me aside

in my boat, so deep
so wooden, so ancient. it
carries life to shore