Reflections

It’s after midnight here in Dakar so that means that technically, I fly home to the United States in two days.  Yep, two days from now I’ll be back in Madison, hugging my dad (and probably crying), eating some really yummy food, and sleeping in my bed for the first time in 10 months.  And the day after my mom will be flying home from Utah and the hugging and crying will start all over again.  We’re criers in our family.  But they’ll be good tears.

While I am profoundly grateful for the experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve met, the places I’ve visited and the things that I have learned, I am absolutely thrilled and even more grateful to be going home.

My first two weeks will be a whirlwind of activities, including finalizing things for my new apartment, getting things settled with my car, going through belongings to see what things I can get rid of, seeing my extended family over the Fourth of July weekend, and moving into said new apartment.  And from the minute I step off of that plane at O’Hare – wait, probably from the time I board the plane in Dakar – I will get questions like, “Why did you go to Senegal?”  “Why did you choose that particular topic when you could have chosen so many more positive things to write your dissertation on?”  “Why Africa?”  Those are all  good, valid questions.  But more often than not, I’ll also get the more banal, humdrum, run-of-the-mill, barely-scratch-the surface questions like “What was your favorite thing/place/person you saw/visited/met in Senegal?”  “Do the Senegalese have TVs and drive cars?” “What’s the food like?”  “How was the weather?” And my all-time favorite: “In three or four sentences, tell us about the highlights of your trip.”

HUH??  As Genie says in Aladdin, “What?  Doth my ears deceive me??”  I just spent 10 months over there and you want me to distill all of the sights, smells, tastes, people, joys, frustrations, things-I-wish-I-did-differently moments, cultural adjustments, soul-searching, fear, bewilderment, helplessness, empowerment and happiness I experienced into 3 or 4 sentences?  You’re nuts!  (And evidently, so I am I because I just quoted a line from a 21 year-old Disney film in an otherwise very somber, intellectual post.  Seriously, guys, I haven’t watched that movie in at least 15 years.  But that’s beside the point).

I know that these types of questions are coming because those are the exact same questions people asked me when I came back from my other two residencies abroad… except for the TVs and cars one…  And in all fairness, those types of questions aren’t an affront to me or what I study.  The people who ask them have good intentions, and they’re trying to express interest in what I do and understand what makes me and my research tick.  So I can’t get miffed about it.  And usually I don’t.  Because I understand.  I’ve asked those stupid questions myself in the past, even when I knew better.  But they’re not the best kind of questions that one should ask another person who has dedicated the last however many months or years to a single topic/area of expertise and who will continue to dedicate – or at least be heavily interested and involved with it – for the rest of his or her life.

So what types of questions should be asked by others – including by the one who had the experience (aka – during moments of self-reflection and pondering)?  Well, in essence, the ones that you have to think about in order to formulate and the ones that become springboards to substantial elaboration.  Here are a few off the top of my head:

  • What are some of the most important things you learned during your time abroad?
  • What aspect of their culture touched your heart the most?  Why?
  • What do you appreciate the most about those people/cultures/experiences and why?
  • How has this time made you a better person?
  • How are you going to take what you have learned and make a difference in your life and the lives of the people you will touch in the future?
  • What would you want someone like me to understand about x, y, or z?
  • What were the things you experienced over there make you more grateful for your upbringing/cultural heritage/family/job/blessings?
  • Are there any people/places/things (yes, that is the definition of a noun) that you hope to never take for granted again and why?
  • How have you changed for the better?
  • What did you do when times got tough and you wanted to throw in the towel?  What kept you going?
  • How did you see the hand of God directing you or the people you worked with?

Those are hard questions, and your friend may have a little difficulty answering them.  Or at least putting all of those feelings into words for the first time.  But those are the ones that really show interest, and more often than not, those are the questions that s/he wants you to ask because their answers will embody the complexity of the most important aspects of their experience.  Some of those questions are quite personal and depending on how well you know him/her, they might be inappropriate for you to ask.  However, those questions will get him/her thinking and will help that individual identify and process the richness and uniqueness of their experiences.  If they can’t share them with you, at least you’ve helped them put feelings and heart beats into words.

So by all means, when you see me, ask me those questions.  As soon as I stepped off the plane into the stifling humidity that envelops Dakar in September, I’ve been asking myself those exact questions, trying to wade through some of the answers and trying to formulate them into one cohesive whole.  It’s hard because they’re multi-faceted and don’t lend well to quick, off-the-cuff conversations.

A lot of you ask me why I don’t write more specifically about the things I’m researching and seeing with the children.  Well, there are several reasons.  First, some of the things I’ve experienced here are so completely unbelievable that if I hadn’t seen them myself, I’d question my honesty as I reported them.  Second, you have no idea how much suffering these people go through, nor can you readily identify with how happy most of them remain throughout their horrendous difficulties.  You have to see it and experience it for yourself.  Most of us Westerners really need to suck it up, stop whining, and look for the blessings in our lives.  Because we flip out if we can’t get the smartphone we want or go on that trip we’ve been looking forward to, etc.  We think our life is “over” if we have to go without this or that or don’t do this or that.  Give me a break, guys.  These people are pretty down far the ladder in terms of material wealth and bodily health, and yet their smiles are some of the biggest and brightest I have ever seen, and their laughs have more life and sincerity than the majority of ours.  And yes, I am chastising myself just as much as I’m chastising you.  Because I flip out unnecessarily, too.

Third, a lot of what I’ve been doing will turn into intellectual property and play major roles in my dissertation and future publications.  So it isn’t necessarily in my best academic or professional interest to have them plastered on the internet for others to take and use for their own purposes without being able to control how they’re used.  Fourth, and most importantly, I have seen and experienced things that are so terrible and evil… that I don’t think I will ever be able to talk about them – and if by some miracle I do, it will be several years down the road.

But I can tell you the following.

I am proud and humbled to be an American.  I love my country, I love my freedoms, and I hate seeing them being stripped away by people who think we need to be more like other countries and other cultures.  I will not apologize for or be ashamed of what we hold dear, nor will I bow down to what other people think we should do/be or not do/be.  Because I have seen what such actions can do to a whole society.  And Senegal is a model in West Africa and the surrounding area.  The Senegalese have it good compared to other countries.  Think about that one for a while.  Are they good people?  Do they have things to offer me and others as far as values and the way they treat others?  Do they have just as much inherent potential and value as you or me?  By and large, have I enjoyed my experience with them?  To all of these questions, I respond, by all means YES!  But I cannot tell you how much my heart swells with gratitude when I see my flag and think of the myriad of things it symbolizes.

Similarly, we all need to be careful of smooth talkers – no matter what profession they practice, no matter what social class they belong to, no matter what religion they adhere to, no matter how beautiful or popular or rich they are.  Because they do not always have our best interest at heart.  This is true in politics, and this is especially true in leader/follower or mentor/mentoree relationships.  In my current context, I have seen this time and time again as families entrust the care of their young children to individuals who they think are good men.  But they turn out to be the worst kind of charlatans and do unspeakable things to children who range from the age where they just barely cut their teeth to the late teens and early 20s.  Things are not always as they seem, and we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to study it out from every different angle possible, and especially to not fall into traps that so often come with the proverbial bandwagon.  We do not have to be like everyone else.  We do not have to keep up with the Jonses (sorry, Dan and Darla!).

Families are the most important thing that you and I have, and they are society’s most important unit.  Nothing can replace loving parents who honor their marital commitments and strive to raise their children in kindness, with soft voices and warm hands, and with the purest of love.  Parents, don’t get sucked into the media and money-crazed world that we live in.  Put the phone, laptop, iPad down (or anything that is similar metaphorically) and pay attention to that little voice who is asking for your attention or to the little hand resting on your knee in the hopes that you will pick him/her up and hug him/her close.  The phone will be there when you get back.  So will the computer or the TV or that book or that project you’re working on.  Stop allowing yourself to be distracted by the things that matter the least and ignoring the people that mean the most.  I have always been very sensitive to the needs and actions of little children – and if anything, these last 10 months have made me even more so.  Play with them, speak gently to them, hug them, kiss them.  Remember that when they’re little they’re still learning – don’t develop unrealistic expectations for a young child that s/he cannot achieve.  If you do, you’re setting both you and him/her up for heartache and disappointment, and the little one will learn to fear you and not trust you.   Help your kids know and understand by your words – and most importantly – your actions that they are loved and that no matter what happens in the world or what stupid (or serious) mistake they make that you will always, always, always love them.  Don’t let your bad mood dictate how you treat them – it’s your problem, not theirs.  Because they will remember it, and their little spirits will break.

Remember that the relationship you have with your spouse affects them in ways that you can’t even fathom.  So if you and your spouse aren’t doing so great, love yourself, him/her and especially your child enough to evaluate where you went off track.  Stop getting mad over stupid stuff.  Stop yelling.  Stop arguing.  Be adults and learn to work out your differences like adults.  The other person isn’t entirely at fault.  You share part of the blame.  So stop deluding yourself into thinking otherwise.  Of course there are situations where splitting up and divorcing is inevitable and the best solution in the end.  But by and large, your problems can be fixed fairly easily.  So be a man (or woman as your situation dictates) and suck it up.  Stop being so selfish.  Because it’s not just you who is unhappy.  Your spouse is, too.  And remember that there is a little pair of eyes watching you from around the wall, eyes that are filled with pain, tears, and fear because you are his/her world.  And if your world falls apart due to ridiculous reasons, so will his/hers.  I don’t care how old the child is – even if s/he is an adult.  I promise you that they will have the harder end of the deal than you.

I realize that these are harsh words.  Most of you know that I have no tolerance for those kind of things.  But as one who has seen to the bottom of the cesspool, please realize that I only have your best interests (and those of children) in mind when I say what I say.  Can children and child-rearing be difficult?  Yes, of course.  Don’t think for one minute that I don’t recognize this or that I haven’t experienced it just because I’m not yet a mother.  But remember that your child can test your patience, love, and metal without you reacting or retaliating in a way that is unbecoming of their parent, the person that should love them unconditionally.  They don’t force you to react one way or the other.  They have no control over your reaction.  You chose how you will respond.  Not them.

Cherish your families and treat them accordingly. Live so you won’t have any regrets if you don’t wake up tomorrow.  Live so your children know, see, and understand that they are loved.

Lastly, God lives and He is good.  Despite of what I have seen and experienced lately (and even in my past), I know that He is aware of us as individuals and that He cares very much about what we are all going through.  I’ve heard the following expression over and over since my arrival in Senegal: “God?  What God?  How can He see this suffering and not do anything about it?  If God exists, He must be dead.”

God is not dead.  He is always reaching out to us, always willing to relieve our pain, always willing to enfold us in His arms of love.  But just like any other relationship, we must put forth the effort to know Him and embrace His goodness.  How can He help us if we give into despair and refuse to find the good in the world and people that surround us?  How can He help us if we have adopted a fatalistic attitude?

He can’t.

Let us be better friends and disciples, let us seek for and fight for the good.  And we will find that He is and always has been right by our side.

There is always hope.  There is always light at the end of His tunnel – we just have to choose not to dynamite the cavern and block our path to what lies ahead.

So in a nutshell, that’s what Senegal and studying/working with victims of child trafficking have taught me.  There’s certainly a lot more, but in essence, my time here has helped push aside the fluff and focus on what’s important.

I pray that I may keep this perspective uncluttered and move forward with faith, hope, the determination to work hard, and the courage to love when it is difficult to do so.

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Centennial of Aimé Césaire’s Birth – Cahier d’un retour au pays ancestral

March 20 has been declared jour de la Francophonie, a day where various Francophone cultures are celebrated throughout the world.  2013 marks what would have been Aimé Césaire’s 100th birthday, and the Francophone Ministry (based out of Paris) decided to throw a huge celebration/colloquium to honor his contributions to French and Francophone literatures – particularly Francophone African and Caribbean literatures.  In fact their work precipitated the advent of African literature.

Who is Aimé Césaire, you ask?  Well to put it very simply, he’s one of the three fathers of the Negritude movement which he and Léopold Sédar Senghor (who would later become the first president of Senegal) and Léon Damas started in Paris in the 1930s.  It’s a movement that highlighted black cultural identity of many of the then-colonized peoples, and fought against French political and ideological domination.  They forged their own literary style and theories, emphasized black African/African Diaspora culture by trumpeting traditional African values and rejected the longstanding relegation and dehumanization of the black race.  Here are a couple of links out of thousands that explain more about the importance of the movement and Césaire:

Negritude Movement – Encyclopedia Britannica

Aimé Césaire – Encyclopedia Britannica

His most famous work is a surrealist poem entitled Cahier d’un retour au pays natal – most often translated as Notebook of a Return to the Native Land.  Sometimes it’s a hard read, but it is beautiful.  The poem traces one man’s transformational journey from hating his race and its history to accepting it and seeking to be the voice of the voiceless.  The poem and the Negritude Movement encourage the abused and humiliated black man to embrace his difficult past and to proudly forge ahead into the future.  In this sense, the Negritude Movement has been associated with all battles against oppression – regardless of race, culture, or heritage – and the championing of universal humanity.  In the closing pages of the poem, Césaire wrote:

And the nigger scum is on its feet

the seated nigger scum

unexpectedly standing

standing in the hold

standing in the cabins

standing on deck

standing in the wind

standing under the sun

standing in the blood

standing

and

free

standing and no longer a poor madwoman in its maritime

freedom and destitution gyrating in perfect drift

and there it is:

most unexpectedly standing

standing in the rigging

standing at the tiller

standing at the compass

standing at the map

standing under the stars

standing

and

free

*I apologize to the literary people out there whose eyes are screaming from pain -Wordpress formatting didn’t allow me to follow the format/alignment of the stanzas*

Here’s a link to a pdf of the entire English translation of the poem – it’s not light reading and it’s not for the faint of heart.  Remember that this is surrealist writing with complicated, and at times graphic, metaphors.  And it can be hard to grasp what Césaire is trying to say, so it requires several re-readings.  But if you want to tackle it, here it is:

Cahier d’un retour au pays natal – English translation

All of this to say that Césaire’s contribution to literature and politics (he was mayor of Fort-de-France, Martinique for 56 years) is enormous and cannot be overstated.  He’s huge.  And so are Senghor and Damas.  Giants among giants.  I’m not exaggerating.

At any rate, the 3-day-Ministry-organized-and-funded colloquium was held in Dakar last week.  International dignitaries, famous African authors, and well-respected professors throughout Africa, Europe and the Americas all gave presentations.  It was phenomenal.  I almost didn’t attend due to the fact that I didn’t know it was even planned.  Fortunately the weekend before the conference I walked the dog that I’m babysitting for the next few weeks around the Point of Les Almadies, and I saw signs advertising just outside the 5-star hotel where it was going to be held.  That Monday I asked to get a few days off of work so I could attend – fortunately there’s not much going on at the office, so it wasn’t a big issue.  And even if it had been, Cheikh Hamidou Kane, the president of our NGO and one of Senegal’s most famous writers was presenting… and that meant that what he says goes, and since he’s one of the people who got me over here (and I’m a literary PhD candidate), there’s no way that he would have wanted me to miss it.

Well it turns out that Macky Sall, President of Senegal, was presiding over the opening ceremonies.  And that means that they weren’t open to the general public and attendance was by invitation only.  And attendees had to present said invitation at the door…

Confession: I didn’t have an invitation…

Never fear – I get past Secret Service barricades all the time back home.  It’s a piece of cake.  NOT!  But I wasn’t going to miss any of the conference.  So I walked past the Presidential Guard who were decked out in their blood red uniforms and long swords, past the armed military escorts of the diplomatic corps, past the international press corps, and flashed my smile at the police and military guards that were blocking the entrance to the hall.  After looking them directly in the eye, flashing my smile again, exchanging a few pleasantries and answering probing questions about who I am, what I – as an American – am doing in Senegal and where I work, they lowered their guns and let me in.

Being an Crest Kid really pays off… 🙂

Yeah, talk about being in the presence of a pantheon of literary, political, and academic greats.  I knew that there’d be some pretty high profile guests in attendance, but I was pretty floored to see some of the faces that I did.  And it was then that it hit me just how amazing it is to be studying contemporary literature.

Do you know why?  BECAUSE THE GRAND MAJORITY OF THE AUTHORS I STUDY AREN’T DEAD!!!  Do you know what it’s like to have your nose buried in a bunch of dusty books written hundreds of years ago?  And then go to reading works written by people who are still breathing?  I mean don’t get me wrong, Molière, Racine, Flaubert, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Montesquieu, Rousseau and Voltaire are pretty great (most of the time), but I’d be a little disturbed if I saw one of their skeletons walk into an auditorium.  Ummmm… that would not be cool.  Not in the slightest.  But do you know how big of a deal it is to see some of the greatest minds of your field?

Yeah.  I knew you’d understand.

But this post is long enough and it’s late.  So I’ll wrap it up with a list of presenters/significant attendees, some pictures, and my recordings of the conference proceedings.  The recordings are entirely in French, so sorry non-French-speaking friends, they won’t be of much use to you.  To my Francophone lit friends: you’re welcome.

  1. Macky Sall – President of Senegal
  2. Abdoul Mbaye – Prime Minister of Senegal
  3. Claude Bartolone – President of the French National Assembly
  4. Christiane Taubira – French Minister of Justice, Keeper of the Seals
  5. Moustapha Niasse – President of the Senegalese National Assembly
  6. Serge Letchimy – Deputy President of the Regional Counsel of Martinique
  7. Muriel Berset Kohen – Swiss Ambassador to Senegal
  8. Fabienne Mathurin Brouard – Vice President of the Regional Counsel of French Guiana
  9. Clément Duhaime – Administrator of the International Organization of the Francophonie
  10. Khalifa Sall – Mayor of Dakar
  11. Raymond Saint-Louis-Augustin – Mayor of Fort-de-France, Martinique
  12. Jacques Bangou – Mayor of Point-de-Pitre, Guadeloupe
  13. Marcel Bibas – Spokesman for the Césaire and Senghor families
  14. Amadou Mahtar Mbow – Former Director of UNESCO
  15. Alioune Tine – President of the Senegalese Committee of Human Rights
  16. Chiekh Hamidou Kane – One of Senegal’s most respected authors and former government Minister
  17. Aminata Sow Fall – One of Senegal’s most respected authors and the first black African woman publish a book and the first black African woman to win a prestigious international writing award
  18. Racine Senghor – Professor of Letters and former Counselor of the Minister of Tourism
  19. Abdoulaye Elimane Kane – philosopher and former Minister
  20. Daniel Maximin – Guadeloupean author and Professor of Letters
  21. Amadou Lamine Sall – Poet, President of the African House of International Poetry
  22. Ousmane Diakhaté – Professor of Letters and Director General of Senegal’s National Theatre Daniel Sorano
  23. Lise Gauvin – Quebecois author and Professor of Letters
  24. Michel Bouchaud – Headmaster of Lycée Louis-le-Grand (a prestigious high school in Paris)
  25. Souleymane Bachir Diagne – One of Senegal’s most respected philosophers and Professor of Philosophy, Islam and Francophone Literature at Columbia University
  26. Alain Houlou – Poet and Professor of Classics at l’Ecole National Supérieure-Ulm
  27. Moncef Follain – Chief of the Service of Cooperation and Cultural Action at the French Embassy in Dakar
  28. Hamidou Dia – Author and Special Counselor to the President of Senegal
  29. Monique Blérald – Professor of Letters at the University of the Antilles and French Guiana
  30. Eugénie Rézaire – President of the Friends of Léon Damas Association
  31. Lilyan Kesteloot – One of the world’s preeminent scholars of Francophone African Literaures, Professor of Letters at Université Cheikh Anta Diop
  32. Amadou Ly – One of Senegal’s leading scholars of Francophone African poetry and Professor of Letters at Université Cheikh Anta Diop
  33. Mamadou Bâ – One of Senegal’s leading scholars on the poetry of Aimé Césaire
Macky Sall - President of Senegal

Macky Sall – President of Senegal

Macky Sall

Macky Sall

Macky Sall

Macky Sall

Abdoul Mbaye - Prime Minister of Senegal

Abdoul Mbaye – Prime Minister of Senegal

Claude Bartolone – President of the French National Assembly

Christine Taubira - French Minister of Justice, Keeper of the Seals

Christine Taubira – French Minister of Justice, Keeper of the Seals

Jacques Bangou and Amadou Mahtar Mbow - Mayor of Point-de-Pitre and former Director General of UNESCO

Jacques Bangou and Amadou Mahtar Mbow – Mayor of Point-de-Pitre and former Director General of UNESCO respectively

Cheikh Hamidou Kane - One of Senegal's most respected authors

Cheikh Hamidou Kane – One of Senegal’s most respected authors

Cheikh Hamidou Kane

Cheikh Hamidou Kane

Aminata Sow Fall (R) and Monique Blérald - One of Senegal's most respected author and first black African woman to both publish a novel and win an international writing award

Aminata Sow Fall (R) and Monique Blérald – One of Senegal’s most respected author and first black African woman to both publish a novel and win an international writing award

Souleymane Bachir Diagne and me - One of Senegal's most respected philosophers, professor at Columbia

Souleymane Bachir Diagne and me – One of Senegal’s most respected philosophers, professor at Columbia

Amadou Ly (L), Mamadou Ba (R) and me - Two of Senegal's literary experts and professors at UCAD

Amadou Ly (L), Mamadou Ba (R) and me – Two of Senegal’s literary experts and professors at UCAD. Mamadou is my main contact at UCAD

Mamadou Ba, Lilyan Kesteloot, Mamoussé Diagne and Amadou Ly - Professors of Letters at UCAD.  Lilyan Kesteloot is one of the world's preeminent Francophone lit scholars.  She is also working with me on my doctoral research.

Mamadou Ba, Lilyan Kesteloot, Mamoussé Diagne and Amadou Ly – Professors of Letters at UCAD. Lilyan Kesteloot is one of the world’s preeminent Francophone lit scholars. She is also working with me on my doctoral research.

Patrick Chamoiseau and me - a very influential and popular Caribbean author

Patrick Chamoiseau and me – a very influential and popular Caribbean author

One of Aimé Césaire's sons (L), Patrick Chamoiseau and Serge Letchimy (R)

One of Aimé Césaire’s sons (L), Patrick Chamoiseau and Serge Letchimy (R)

Macky Sall, President of Senegal – 14:39

Abdoul Mbaye, Prime Minister 10:11

Muriel Berstet Kohen, Swiss Ambassador to Senegal -open discussion on human rights, 1:15:12

Bâ, Kesteloot, Ly – Aimé Césaire, la parole poétique d’un homme d’action 1:49:31

Lise Gauvin – Aimé Césaire et les Amériques 1:18:07

Alain Houlou, Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Moncef Follain – Aimé Césaire ou l’humanisme incarné dans la Cité; 3 normaliens parlent d’un normalien 1:27:43

Monique Blérald and Eugénie Rézaire – Léon-Gontran Damas ou la voix guyanaise de la Négritude 1:17:05

Amadou Mahtar Mbow – Témoignages sur Aimé Césaire 19:02

Cheikh Hamidou Kane – Témoignages sur Aimé Césaire 17:40

Christiane Taubira, French Minister of Justice 19:22

Claude Bartolone – President of the French National Assembly 12:13

Serge Letchimy, Deputy President of the Regional Counsel of Martinique 37:25

Moustapha Niasse – President of the Senegalese National Assembly, Part 1 12:44

Moustapha Niasse Part 2 8:51

Children, Hope, Failure, Gun Control: Mankind’s Inner Light and How it Can Direct our Lives. An Interview with Aminata Sow Fall

Quote

Aminata Sow Fall

Aminata Sow Fall

Born in 1941, Aminata Sow Fall is one of the most famous women authors to ever come out of Francophone Africa.  In fact, she was the first black African woman to publish a book and “make it big” on the international scene.  My mentor in the BYU French Department is close friends with her and back in June 2006, she invited Aminata to teach two books to our African lit class.  It was a phenomenal experience.

Aminata Sow Fall with BYU's FR 456R Class - June 2006

Aminata Sow Fall with BYU’s FR 456R Class – June 2006

During that same trip she also gave a very moving speech at the Kennedy Center on Hope in Africa which, unfortunately, has been taken off of the Kennedy Center website.  However since I’m the one who translated the speech into English, I still have a copy of the speech in both languages.  It’s entitled “Le bonheur est possible en Afrique,” or “Happiness is Possible in Africa.”  It’s beautifully crafted speech and quite inspiring.   Unfortunately I don’t have her permission to publish it on the internet (or put it on my blog), so I won’t upload it.  But I will quote from it:

If the idea of happiness is intrinsically tied to human existence, if it is evident that happiness can be cultivated anywhere, why go to the trouble to assert that happiness is possible in Africa?  It is necessary, ladies and gentlemen, because another evidence invaded the minds of men long ago when prejudices instigated the slave treaty and upheld the idea that certain races are incapable of governing themselves.  We remember this painful history—like other similar events (the Holocaust)—to better conjure the demons of rancor and hatred.  We also remember it to evoke mankind’s incredible capacity to generate life on a field of ruins.  A multitude of countries ravaged by war or by natural catastrophes have regained their dignity thanks to the commitment of men and women determined to never yield to the assaults of physical, political, or economic adversity.

The notion that seems to impose itself on Africa is that of a dilapidated, poverty-stricken continent, ravaged by sickness, corruption and poor governance.  If speaking only of the situations that currently dominate the news, we could discuss the fratricidal wars in Congo, Darfur, and Guinea.

Because of this, the African continent imposes, in the minds of those who aren’t familiar with it, an apocalyptic image of a continent in ruins, condemned to wallow in chaos.  What else would one think considering the statistics provided by notable financial, political, and development institutions informing us that the African contribution to the global market barely reaches 2%, that poverty increases in leaps and bounds, that AIDS has a stronger presence there than anywhere else, that corruption impedes development, and that the education system is critically ill.

What else would one think when delinquency and the violence that it generates gangrenes the overpopulated slums that grow like poisonous mushrooms on the flanks of poorly equipped cities, where children are savagely delivered to the dangers of the street and end up swelling the ranks of bloodthirsty criminals… The severance of a child from innocence and dreams is more than a misfortune.  It’s a tragedy.  A childhood without future is a calamity.

[…]  In the book Sweetness of Home, [a novel which Madame Sow Fall wrote] published in 1998 but conceived long before that, the author wrote: “The hardest thing of today is that hope is disappearing…Let us love the earth; we will water it with our sweat and we’ll plough it with all of our strength, with courage.  The light of our hope will guide us, we will harvest and build.  Only then will we be able to follow the road of the heavens, of the earth and of water without being chased like outcasts.  We won’t be travelers without experience anymore.  Our calloused hands will meet those of others in warm handshakes of respect and shared dignity…”

[…]  Happiness is possible in Africa on the condition that her sons are conscious of the role that they themselves must play to save her.  Every country in the world has had moments of glory and times of suffering.  Patriotic fiber, dignity, the sense of duty, and especially effort, serve, as Rousseau said, as “the leaven of heroism and virtue.”  Permanent assistance sows lethargy and blocks the power of dignity.

We can achieve happiness without ever abdicating our full-fledged rights: the liberty of opinion and circulation and the access to education…

But what type of happiness?  The happiness of being oneself, of being in harmony with oneself and with others in the accomplishment of one’s desires.  It is the happiness of allowing oneself, without restraint, to act upon the whims of recreating the world with one’s fantasies, feelings, and crazy dreams of infinity and of eternity, just as do artists, great thinkers and philosophers, the master-builders, and so many other scientists and creators.  God pardons these whims that do not shame humans, for they confer majesty on all of Humanity by their intelligence, creativity, and the intuitive vision of the unknown.

It’s a beautiful, beautiful speech.  Aminata Sow Fall is an optimist, a woman who believes in hope, happiness, and success and that they can be achieved anywhere, even in Africa.  If you’re interested in viewing the latest address she gave to American university students (September 2012), you can find it here: http://kennedy.byu.edu/archive/lecture.php?id=2695

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But that’s not the motivation behind this post.  Today Madame Sow Fall graciously welcomed me to her office and gave me the chance to interview her about topics pertinent to her work and my research focus.  She spoke freely and at length, pulling in examples from current events (child begging, gun control in the USA) and personal stories and she always, always drew from her faith in mankind and our capacity to do great things.  It was very inspiring and has given me a lot of food for thought.

In the space below, I have reproduced the interview in full.  It’s a philosophical read, but a lot of it rings true and I think we could all find lessons that we can apply to our own life.  The books that I reference, La grève des Bàttu and L’Appel des arènes, have been translated into English as The Beggar’s Strike and Call of the Arena respectively.  They’re worth finding in a good library and reading.  Enjoy.

Interview with Aminata Sow Fall – Dakar, Senegal – 19 December 2012

LP:  Why does so much African literature, and Senegalese literature in general, focus on children?  Or in other words, why do African writers place so much value and emphasis on children?

ASF:   I think that goes back to our core values.  True, right now much can be said about  children who live in the streets, who spend all of their time in the streets away from home.  You know all about that.  There are dishonest men who masquerade as marabout – religious teachers – who exploit small children by forcing them to beg on the streets and bring money to them.  For those men, it’s a business and they get rich off of innocent children who, in many cases, have no where else to go.  When I was growing up, that sort of thing didn’t exist.  The talibés begged for their food at mealtimes and that was it – there was no financial gain – and that’s one way that we teach our children humility.  No, I didn’t know that as a child, and no one that I knew growing up experienced it, either.  When I learned of what those children go through today, I was shocked and appalled.  How can anyone give up their child to someone like that and let him take the children far away from the love and protection of their families?  Unfortunately, that’s what happens today.  But it wasn’t always like that.  I have a friend who used to be a Minister in the Senegalese government.  When he was growing up, his grandfather was a high official in the government.  Like most young boys, my friend was conferred to a marabout so he could learn the Koran.  One day his Koranic teacher took him to see his grandfather.  The teacher asked my friend, “Who is this man?”  My friend answered, “He is my grandfather.”  The teacher took him back to the Koranic school and chastised him, roughed him up a bit.  Later they returned a second time.  Again the teacher asked my friend, “Who is this man?”  He responded, “He is my grandfather.”  Back at the school the teacher chastised him again.  When they returned the third time, the teacher repeated his question.  That time my friend answered, “He is our leader.”  So you see, the teacher wanted him to learn that even as the grandson of a high ranking official, he was no better than any other child who came from a poorer family, that deep down there are no differences between one person and another.  We want to teach our children humility, respect, and to work from the basis of humanity, that we are all the same and have the same potential.

In our fundamental culture, a child is cherished by all.  He is not one person’s child, but everyone’s child.  That also means that any one can correct him.  If an adult sees him acting up, whether it’s at school, as he is playing with friends, as he walks the streets, no matter where he is, or even if what he is doing isn’t blatantly wrong but calls for a minor correction, he can, should, and will be corrected.  The child will never tell his parents that another adult had to correct him because that would bring on another chastisement or slap from them – because it reflects poorly on their parenting.  So in that respect, everyone treats him as if he’s their own child.  But you must also remember that his parents and the adults dote on him, too. We’ll laugh and talk with them, play with them, give them small treats, and so forth.

LP:   As I have read Senegalese and other Francophone African novels dealing with children, I have noticed that the majority of the characters set out on a voyage or a quest.  Why is it that child characters, like Nalla in L’Appel des arènes, must embark on a journey between tradition or modernity, the village or the city, etc?

ASF:  The voyage crops up everywhere in literature, whether it’s African literature, French literature, or British literature.  All of us, each human being goes on a journey, do we not?  We have to find out who we are, where we stand in society, what we want to do in life, all of that.  I see the child’s voyage as one to the future.  Children are our future, and like anyone, they have to find their place in this world.  However, our future is undecided.  Society evolves, and therefore the child must leave his home or comfortable surroundings in order to become what society needs him to be.  But that does not mean that he has to abandon his heritage.  No, no.  Modernity does not mean razing the past.  One has to build on the past, take the good things that his culture teaches, and apply them to today’s world.  His culture is his inner being.  That’s what fed him and nourished him, just as his mother’s milk nourished and fed him.  A child can and should experience the world through his culture, his core beliefs, and find what is good and apply it to his life.  We’ll take Nalla as an example since you mentioned him.  He was fascinated by traditional wrestling – it was his passion.  He loved it so much that he daydreamed about it in school.  His teacher recognized his passion for wrestling, and rather than prohibiting him from talking about it, etc, he encouraged it.  He saw the poetry in wrestling, in the movement, in the music, and he used that to teach French grammar to Nalla.  Nalla loved it and learned quite well.  That’s what makes a good teacher – being able to take what interests the student and find a way to incorporate it into the lesson.  Nalla’s teacher tried to show that to his parents, but as you know, Diattou had rejected her culture and inner being because she thought it was savage.  She wanted her son to grow up like a little French boy so he could be civilized.  She wasn’t about to let tradition and culture feed or nourish his intellect.  She couldn’t see how that could make him more rich in mind, spirit, and body or how such hybridity would help him ease into a modern world more fully.  Abandoning one’s roots does not make you modern.  It makes you weak.  Modernity is not a table rase.  It is the culmination of all the good that the past offers us.  Yes, some things change and need to be changed.  But you should never abandon time-honored principles.  What the novel [L’Appel des arènes] shows in the end is that it is Diattou, not her son, who becomes a savage because she severed her roots and could no longer draw strength from the past to help her through the difficulties of the present.

So the journey is learning how to navigate, how to become.  I’m all about pedagogy.  I do not write to make a sensation as so many of today’s authors do.  I don’t tell people, I show them.  Give them a good example, show them that connecting to our universal core, the core of humanity, is what makes us better people.  When I gave my editor the manuscript to La grève des Bàttu and later the one for L’Appel des arènes, he told me that the Westerners wouldn’t buy the books because they wouldn’t understand it.  That they would think that we’re too different.  I looked at him and said, “Oh really?  I don’t think so.  We are all human and we all share the same core.”  So I had him print them.  And I was right.  Because all of us, whether we’re African, American, French, or from other Western countries, we all understand the concept of family, we all understand the struggle to become.

LP:  Why is there such a stark contrast between your novels wherein the child is always a successful hero and today’s literature where the child is destined to fail?  Do you feel that it goes back to your belief in these “core values of humanity” or something else?

ASF:  It’s true that the majority of my novels are more positive than many of today’s works.  I think it’s because I still believe in man and the good that he can do.  We all have the potential to do great things.  There are huge problems in today’s world and often times contemporary African writers want to make a statement, to draw attention to them.  They do that through sensationalism…

LP:  By shocking their reader…

ASF:   Yes, exactly.  They want a big bang, so to speak.  They want to make an impression, so they portray the horror of our world.  They want to tell the world something, so they make their novel as sensational as possible.  That has it’s place, certainly.  However, I do not feel that we need to focus on the bad to bring attention to how we have degenerated, how the world has degenerated.  Like I said, I do not want to “tell” anyone anything.  I want to show him, to let him see what the alternatives are, to allow him to make inferences, to think for himself.  When someone reads of the healing that one of my characters receives, let’s take Nalla for instance, by grounding himself in the nourishing sap of his ancestors – Nalla learns so much at the foot of the baobab, remember – the reader recognizes that lack in our own world.  He yearns for it.  I can’t tell you how many people have written me or come up to me after conferences to express such observations.  We all know that we have abandoned our traditional and religious heritage.  It doesn’t matter if your Christian or Muslim or Jewish, or what have you.  We have all strayed from it, and deep down our cry for justice, for inner peace, for world peace, is a cry to return to our roots.  We may not recognized it as such at first, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll see it.

Take, for instance, what happened this past weekend in your country, that awful, awful tragedy [the elementary school massacre in Connecticut].  I’ve listened to many, many reports and debates that have come from that event.  People are clamoring for gun control.  But really, Lark, that’s not the solution.  The problem goes much deeper than that.  The problem is culture – how our global culture has turned to violence, and how we have abandoned our religious, national, and ethnic cultures.  We all have an inner light inside of us that shines forth and teaches us what is right and what is wrong.  It is powerful and can make amazing changes in ourselves, and when we apply it to our relationships with others, it can change our society and our world.  We have to go back to our core beliefs, our universality, our sameness, our humanity.  We need to stop isolating ourselves.  Our children are isolated emotionally, they do not have the skills to express their feelings.  They’re isolated financially – you see that here in Senegal, especially with the beggars.  We’ve become so concentrated on ourselves that we’ve become selfish and chase after money in order to keep it for ourselves or for our immediate family.  Money is king, and we worship it.  We isolate ourselves in our pursuit of money.  Just the other day, I wanted to see how many people smiled as they walked down the street.  So I watched them.  No one smiled at those who passed him/her by.  They were in a hurry to get to work, to buy and sell.  It’s just like when I go to Paris and take the metro – when I go to the United States I don’t take the metro, but you have to in Paris – and everyone is in a rush, they jostle each other around, and push right by the people around them.  We have no time for each other any more.  We don’t love our fellow man anymore.  If we go back to teaching our children to honor, strengthen, and cherish that inner light that is inside each and every one of us, any one can own a gun, have it within reach, and not use it to harm another person in a time of difficulty or suffering because he will love the person standing in front of him.  He will know that he doesn’t have to use the gun to get his point across.  Regulate guns, yes.  But do not get rid of them, do not disarm those who have them, because they are not the problem.  I do not think your country needs much more regulation – and I can say that because I have family members that live there, I have lived there over short periods of time throughout the years, I know people in your government, I’ve followed this issue closely throughout my life.  That young man had it in his heart to kill, and nothing would have stopped him.  There will always be guns – look at Europe, those countries have extremely strict gun laws and most of the time their citizens do not have the right to defend themselves through force.  But the criminals get guns because they want them.  The criminals have guns and they harm others.  So those laws don’t do a thing other than make it easier for innocent people to get killed.  And they do.  Children are being massacred in French schools, in Toulouse, as you know, in Germany, Norway, Sweden, by gunmen.  The guns aren’t the problem.  The problem is us.  I am convinced that when someone is taught – with love – to show love unto other in turn, then he will never use the gun that he carries in his hand to harm another being, unless of course his life or his family’s life is in danger.  But he will not use it to make a statement or to get attention.

So it goes back to how I write.  I write about that light, the one that each of us has within us.  I do not tell, I show a pattern, example, or path.  Our world has changed so drastically that many people don’t even recognize that light anymore – they’ve gotten so wrapped up in this or that, money, success, fame, that they’ve isolated themselves from themselves.  Do you see?  They have taught themselves to ignore that inner core, that light, which is the very essence of their being.  Thus they wander emotionally, figuratively, and sometimes physically, do they not?  The solution is to rediscover that light, uncover it, feed it, and let it shine and influence our choices, actions, and behavior.  That’s why the children in my novels succeed – because they, more so than the adults, have the courage to do what is right, by letting the good of the past direct their future.

All children are good, innocent, loving and treat others with kindness.  When they do not, it is because they have been taught not to listen to that light.  Circumstance can have a part in that, certainly.  But more often than not it is another human being, most often an adult, who snuffs out that light by the way they treat the child.  Why are other authors creating child characters who fail?  Well, because they are looking at our African cultures from an exterior viewpoint, the viewpoint of the foreigner who tells us that Africa isn’t worth anything, that we don’t have anything to offer.  Preposterous, but they listen nonetheless.  And because the world says that Africa can’t succeed, that it never has succeeded and that it’s future is destined to fail, then the symbol of the future – the child – is also destined to fail.  It is that simple.

LP:  In short, then, you feel that failure is rooted in the inability to find hope and in abandoning core values?

ASF:  Yes.  In this situation, it’s based in the African’s tendency to ignore the interior view, the view from inside himself, and instead listening to what exterior forces are telling him.  We are too prone to sell ourselves for the approval of someone else.

LP:  So according to what we have discussed previously, failure stems from ignoring/not loving our fellowman and falling into the trap of individualism and selfishness?

ASF:  Yes.  The African is a social creature, someone who is used to being surrounded by other people.  We are always in close proximity with our family.  Look at how mothers carry their babies – on their backs.  The child isn’t pushed in front of her in a stroller, he is very much connected to, an extension of, her body.  He is almost always in constant contact with his mother.  Look at how we travel – we fit dozens of people in one small van.  Now, that’s not always safe, but what I’m trying to point out is that you don’t see anyone complaining about another person being in his “space.”  Because space is communal.  People care about one another.  I had a European friend visit me a few times over the years, and once she told me that it bothered her when the vendors on the street near her hotel – who she passed by every day – would ask her where she was going, when she expected to be back, etc.  They’d ask lots of questions about her family, her activities, etc.  It annoyed her because she felt that they were prying into her private life, her private space.  So I had to explain to her that they weren’t trying to be rude.  In fact, their actions were showing quite the opposite.  They were showing her that they cared.  Asking questions about the family or her activities for the day showed that they were paying attention to her, and if by chance she didn’t return when she said she would, they would be on the look out for her in case something had happened.  If someone in her family was not doing well, they wanted to be able to offer comfort and assistance.  To a virtual stranger!  They were connecting with the thing that we all share – compassion, family, love, our humanity.  They did not want her to be isolated.  In our fundamental culture, we Senegalese, we Africans, are not isolated beings.

However, today’s global society is teaching us differently.  It is teaching you differently.  I do not believe Americans at their core are isolated beings.  But your culture, today’s shared culture, teaches that it’s every man for himself.  That money is important.  That it doesn’t matter how we treat others.  It teaches us to sever human relationships.  Look at last weekend’s events for an example once again.  Our inner light teaches us to draw others to us, to love them.  It is a well of water that gives life.  Isolation is a desert that sucks our humanity from us.  Focusing on our humanity, uncovering the light that has become buried is of vital importance.  That is success.  We fail when we bury it, ignore it, and isolate ourselves from our fellowman.

LP:  A little while ago you mentioned your novel La grève des Bàttu.  Someone who reads that book can come away with the impression that Senegal and by extension, Africa, needs beggars and that society cannot survive without them.  Did you feel that way when you wrote the novel and if you did, do you still feel that way now?

ASF:  Many people ask me about that novel – I wrote it in 1979 and it’s the book that put me on the international scene.  Much as been said about it in the past, and even today, it is still used as a point of reference.  In your work here in Dakar, you deal with that every day.  Begging is a crutch for this society.  Yes, we do need it, but it is a need that we created.  It is not an inherent need.  If we take it away, we don’t know what to do with ourselves.  We’ve twisted certain teachings in the Koran and we think that our salvation is based, in part, on our charitable offerings.  So instead of refusing to let these individuals live on the street and not have access to the most basic of necessities, instead of creating a system where we can be charitable by not relegating someone to destitution, we say that we must have beggars so we can give alms.  I think the definition of alms that we use today is too narrow.  The same thing happens in Christianity.  Your Bible teaches you to give of your substance to the poor, to help the needy, etc much like the Koran does.  And somehow we have trained ourselves to think that we must keep people in poverty so we can follow the teachings of our religion.  We need it to feel good about ourselves, do we not?  We need to be able to say to ourselves, “I helped someone in need,” or “I gave money to the poor, therefore I’m following the teachings of my religion.”  Do we need to be charitable?  By all means, yes!  But we forget that we can do it in another way.  We forget that we don’t have to have toddlers, children, teenagers, and adults living in these adverse conditions.  We forget that in many cases we cause their poverty.  And in essence, we want them to stay there.  Because it makes us feel better about ourselves.  Because we want them to be dependent on us. Because we think we’re following a holier example.  In short, we isolate them in order to feel good about ourselves.  It is not right, but we use religion to justify it.  The Western world does it, too.  If someone thinks otherwise, they are in denial.

It also flows into exploitation.  As humans, we want poor people because it drives down the cost of labor, etc.  A poor person will take almost any job offered to him because he wants to eat, because he doesn’t want to sleep under a piece of cardboard.  But in general, because we have ignored that inner light, we don’t want them to succeed.  Because if he succeeds, he will want more money and then we don’t make as much money.  If we don’t have the poor, how can we be charitable?  It’s a cycle of hypocrisy, is it not?  Alms do not have to take the form of money.

An American graduate student did her dissertation on the novel not too long ago.  And she found a connection between the beggars of that novel’s society and the relationship between the Western world and Africa.  The rich people in the novel didn’t know what to do or who to give alms to once the beggars went on strike and refused to “encumber” the streets as they had previously.  When they needed to exercise charity so they could fulfill the requirements placed upon them by their religion, no beggars could be found.  Their prayers and desires were not answered because they were not taking care of their fellowman – the beggars.  Similarly, as this student pointed out, the Western world needs Africa.  Why?  Because this is the last area of the world where it is still accepted, if not expected, for powers/governments to exploit the land for minerals, oil, precious stones, rubber, and manpower.  For the most part, this continent is the only continent left where the land isn’t rigorously protected against over-mining, deforestation, poaching, etc.  Why?  Because the colonial powers – Europe, Asia – want it that way and keep it that way.  How?  Money, bribes.  In many cases – not all, but many – the Western world isolates us in order to create dependency.  And years of colonialism, war, occupation, etc has trained us to fall into line and not think for ourselves.  It’s psychological warfare in many respects.  And we’re losing.  If the African countries “went on strike” and told the Western powers to leave them alone, what would happen?  The Western world could not export their goods, including their money and NGO funding/expertise/savoir-faire – their “alms” – and they could not import much of the goods that support their way of life, especially oil and minerals.  What would happen to the African countries?  They’d get by and they’d be free to live as they please.  However, neither side will leave the other one alone because the Western world depends on our raw products and we have become dependent on their “alms.”  It is not an inherent need, but it is a need that was created, much like the begging need here in this society.

LP:  What would you like me, and other individuals like me who study Senegalese literature and culture, to learn/understand and take back to our country?

ASF:  That at our core, we’re a people who are rich in humanity.  Often when I meet American students, workers, or intellectuals here in Dakar, they tell me that when they first arrive they look at my country and my people through a superficial lens.  When viewed that way, all one can see is poverty, dirtiness, underdevelopment, the beggars who flood the streets.  But they also say that when they choose to look through a more profound lens, a lens of reality, they tell me that they are deeply touched by our humanity, our love for our fellow man.  We have a warmth that we share with others, a concern for everyone that we meet.  And I think that is missing in our global society.  I have letters upon letters of testimonials that all point to that affect, especially from Chantal’s students.  When compared to the Western world, we don’t have much.  However, you will find that overall we are a happy people, and we want other people to be happy, too.

The Place of Remembering

Where deep profound blue

kisses the airy sky,

Emerald green swells splash and spill

into the memories of years gone by.

Eternal purrs from the the ocean’s depths

waltz on the western winds,

Whispering soothing, unspoken words

to the heart racked with melancholic chagrin.

 

This is the place of remembering

cut into the crags of the end of the world,

This is the place of contemplation

where the worries of the mind unfurl.

 

Heavy, calming silence reigns here

where millions met their death,

Drowning out their forlorn cries

that strangled every breath.

Sun-drenched waves sparkle and gleam

like a thousand happy stars,

But they betray what lies beneath,

hiding how many lives were marred.

 

This is the place of remembering

cut into the crags of the end of the world,

This is the place of contemplation

where the worries of the mind unfurl.

 

Lonely breezes dance and sway taking

with them the stories of yesteryear.

New possibilities tumble in on the waves

but only the wise can hear:

Remember the past, honor those that fell

but harness the bitterness of their sacrifice

Heed not, stumble not into anger and vice.

For this is the place of remembering

cut into the crags of the end of the world.

 

Here the old mets the new and

nourishes the soul like the morning dew.

This is the place of contemplation

Where the dreams of tomorrow are fulfilled.

Tell Me a Story

During the 18 months that I served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I lived with several different sister missionaries who had a variety of personalities.  I got along well with the majority of them and we had many enjoyable and memorable moments serving together.

Perhaps my all-time favorite companionship was when I served in a threesome with Soeur Pamela Green (now Lemmon) and Soeur Melissa Poirier.  Our personalities blended well and we spent a lot of time giggling.  Those two sisters made a lot of sacrifices in my behalf and went completely out of their way to show me how much they loved and appreciated me.  We spent the majority of our time in Nîmes working in the neighborhoods above the city and as we made our way back home through the winding streets, Pam would turn to me and say, “Soeur Porter, tell us a story.”  So I’d tell the pioneer stories that my great Aunt Rhea told me as a child and the awesome Church history stories that Susan Easton Black recounted in my religion classes at BYU.  Those cobblestone streets of Nîmes gave way to the wagon trails in the plains or to the temple block in Salt Lake City.  We’d journey back in time to Palmyra, New York and Nauvoo, Illinois and in our mind’s eye we’d see Joseph Smith interacting with the Saints.

Other times she wanted me to talk about my childhood, so I’d tell about my grandparents’ farm, the horses, working in the garden with my grandma, having pillow fights with my cousins, playing in our treehouse and swinging on the rope swing on the edge of the woods.  Other times I’d re-open the door to my grandpa’s wood shop and walk through the sawdust, listen to the high-pitched scream of the saws cutting through wood, and breathe in the smooth, warm, sappy aroma that permeated the shop.   I especially enjoyed describing my amazement as I saw Grandpa transform rough blocks of wood into intricate, well-crafted creations that felt as soft as velvet when I ran my hand over them.

I’m not sure why Pam always asked me to tell stories, but she did.  And now as I look back on the time that we spent together, I have to say that those are some of my favorite memories.  Now whenever we have contact she’ll ask me to tell her a story or she’ll make reference to some aspect of storytelling.  If we had the opportunity to see each other today I know that after catching up on schooling, jobs, family, and things that have made us laugh, she’d turn to me and say, “Lark, tell me a story.”

So this post is for you, Pammy.  I started writing this when I was quarantined to my house during the month I was ill with mono.  I couldn’t concentrate on anything academic, but my mind was weaving the framework for a new story.  The following pdf is just the first few pages of a long plot and I hope that after I finish my language training down here in Florida, I’ll be able to pick up where I left off.

I’m not going to tell you who or what the main character is… leave a comment with your guesses and we’ll see who is right!

Lark’s 1st short story/novel