Nutshell summary: Fianga was awesome, but there were definitely miserable, rough, and terrifying moments to add some variety to the trip. I quickly came to think that Fiangans drink more alcohol than they do water. All the little venders along roads sell alcohol in used fanta bottles. Interesting thing is that the alcohol is clear while Fiangan water has a muddy-red hue to it. I thought it was a horrible joke when someone offered me my first cup of it, only to realize that it’s the only possible water there to drink, cook with, and do laundry in. I packed 18 liters of bottled water, but still had that curious urge to try some of the Fiangan water. Bad idea. It actually tasted really good, but definitely claimed my GI tract for the rest of the trip. I don’t particularly remember eating a lot this past week, but I didn’t notice in comparison to everything else that took place.
Interesting fact is Fianga has a beautiful stretch of mountains. It only takes about 20 minutes to climb to the top and perhaps 40 to walk its full stretch; but it was a wonderful time hiking after living on Béré’s flat landscape. The boulders and clusters of rocks were magnificent and it was surreal sitting there, overlooking Fianga and wondering how much of Africa you’re actually witnessing. It was breathtaking and a precious moment. It’s been too long since I was able to really appreciate nature and be among it. The Fianga river is also super cool. It winds like a snake, and like India, is the laundry spot for the village. Our family went twice, and all the women line up on either side, spread out a large tarp (half in the water, half out), and begin washing their clothes right there. With the mountains as a backdrop, it was a very good time swimming around with my siblings, eating mangoes right in the middle of the river, brushing my teeth with sand, doing some laundry, and getting absolutely owned by the sun. It’s as if sun block doesn’t stand a chance against the Fiangan sun. I became to coolest thing to see at Fianga: The nasarah with red arms and red legs. It was very bizarre and intriguing for them, especially when I think most of them have never seen a foreigner, and that’s how I came to know what zoo animals must feel like (: Thankfully the redness has now morphed into a tan.
The commemoration of the chief’s death ended up being a 3-day celebration filled with food, drinking, music, and dancing. There were SO many people! Women were continually cooking throughout the entire time—day and night—making either food or brewing tea. The children of course were together in another section where they found every excuse to slap or hit each other. It was chaotic: kids fighting, moms yelling at them to stop, and then the awesome spicy-grandmas beginning to swat all the kids with snappy-sticks. Side note: I absolutely adore the grandmas here! They have the traditional large black stub pierced right above their upper lip and right under the lower lip. It’s cool and makes them look very tough. The men are always eating, drinking, and talking or playing card games. But the true festivities begin when the sun goes down. The music is loud, the beat is catchy, and the people are ready. Men, women, and children come together at this time and begin to dance in all sorts of ways and rhythms. It was a sight to behold. Meanwhile, clusters of women would take turns going to the chief’s old hut. There, they’d begin to cry and wail for the chief, dancing in front of his bed and kissing the ornaments hung around the circular hut. Consistently throughout the nights, the same thing took place. In the middle of the first night, they brought in a cow and slaughtered it for the midnight-meal. I’ve never seen a cow butchered from beginning to end—it was very sad… which is why it shames me to say that it also tasted very good. These people party hard: they don’t sleep, they keep eating, keep drinking, and always look like they could keep going on. I learned some of the circular dance patterns and they’re really fun to do. Throughout the whole time, they also tried to offer me alcohol and cigarettes, but I liked my water and apple granola bars… and some sleep too (:
So all-in-all, this past week was a lot of fun, a great experience, and the making of some new great memories. It was definitely rough having to take bucket showers that made you feel dirtier after your shower and running out of toilet paper for the last few days. But I MADE IT! 😀 Ok. Crazy moment time. So the bus ride to Fianga and back to Béré is a rough voyage. It’s not hard to imagine the medley of heat, bumpiness, and crowdedness of the trip, but it was definitely worse on the way back home than it was to Fianga. My host father always liked for me to sit up in the front seat with the driver, which was more comfortable in that I wasn’t as crowded, but uncomfortable in that I sat on a metal chair right above the car’s engine. The bit of leather did little to ease the heat; but along the way, we pass by a truck with men in turbans and large guns. One of the men signals us to stop and I begin to grow uncomfortable. Soon, about 5-6 men with these guns surround our bus and tell our driver to get out. And then what must’ve been the leader comes up to the window and begins shouting at me, none of which I can comprehend. You know those moments when the airplane is in turbulence or you’re caught in a strong ocean undercurrent, and you see death become more of a reality than a concept? This was one of those moments. I was mentally bracing myself to feel a bullet any moment go through my head, while also doing my best outwardly to be respectful, cooperative, and competent towards the man. My oldest brother and mom then began to answer the man. I only could understand a few words they said: Family, Béré, Ensemble of Nasarahs, Papers, Legal, AMERICAN. I don’t know what it was, but all of a sudden, the demeanor of the man changed and he immediately said, “décor (ok),” rallied his men up, and left.
I realize I’m not the bravest or strongest girl, but I know peace. I wasn’t brave or strong in that situation. I was stuck and it was like my life hung in front of me. But rather than thinking of all the things I hadn’t done or wanted to do, I remember thinking to myself, “God… Whatever happens, I’m ready… But if my time is up, just, please don’t let it hurt too much.”
So God, thank you for letting me live just a while longer. I realize I said I’d be ready for whatever happens… well, I’m ready to really live. You’ll have to show me how. I love you.