Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ben Blog

Soooo its time for another Ben Blog.  I’m sure you all have missed me since my last blog and been patiently waiting.  There have been some ups and downs over the last few months so I will just fill everyone in on a few of the things.
First of all, beekeeping season is over. I know, I know, very sad.  The season ends when the bees hunker down for the rainy season and stop making honey.   Luis (who is the boss of the beekeeping) wanted to wait until the people who paid for the project came here to harvest so they could participate.  They came at the end of June and we spent a few days harvesting.  Unfortunately things did not go great.  The bees behaved themselves and everything.  The main issue was that there wasn’t as much honey as we were hoping for.  So when we were going to get the honey I had to gather the village folk who were supposed to help us.  After gathering them up we sat around waiting for some kids to bring the donkey in from the bush.  We needed the donkey to transport the honey.  That only took an hour or so.  We finally got out to the boxes.  Did the harvesting thing and returned to a donkey cart WITH NO DONKEY! After all the waiting around to get the donkey, the donkey apparently had to go home before we were done harvesting the honey.  I was unaware the donkey had a curfew but apparently it did.  Luckily we had a team of donkey cart pulling small boys and solved that problem.  Anyway, when we finished with everything we noticed that we did not have nearly as much honey as last year.  The Spanish beekeeper guy who was here helping suspect (based on experience in Spain) that thanks to a poor rainy season last year we had a poor flowering season this year and had poor honey production.  I confirmed that honey production was poor in other places around the country with a beekeeping friend who spends a lot of time going around the country with his NGO helping beekeepers.  So I guess in the end that was a little disappointing.  The good news is that so far this has been a really good (really rainy) rainy season so hopefully that will mean they will get a lot of honey next year.
In other news of Luis he successfully had a marabou (traditional healer/witch doctor) fix his little problem of having a bad juju (curse) put on his farm from a guy he fired…close call right!  Luis has a “farm” he is constructing.  It involves a lot of concrete walls.  He suspected the guy in charge was stealing bags of concrete and selling them on the side to people in the village so he fired that guy.  I assume some other people in the village informed him that this man then put a curse on him and his farm and that he needed to see the local marabou to reverse the curse.  Like a good Spanish-African he did what he was told.  Based on the fact that nothing terrible has happened to him I guess it worked.  After the marabou did whatever it is he does he told Luis that he had to give charity (this is normal) and he had to cook some specific amount of rice and kill a duck or two and feed people.  We were around at the time of the charity so we go to attend.  The funny part that I noticed was that the people who attended the small charity meal were the very same people that Luis suspected of buying, at a discounted price, the stolen concrete and had been using it to construct a wall at their own compound. EVERYONE’S A WINNER!
Finally, sadly, my tie-and-dye project is finished and it was a pretty disappointing finale.  Here is the basic story of how things unfolded.  When we first came to village there was a compound run by a Women’s Health NGO called Bafrow.  In the year and a half we have lived in the village we have never seen them do anything.  The facility was a really nice phone charging station.  I think the real story is that they had some funding issues and had to put a stop on their program.  I will give Bafrow credit for being the organization who gave the initial tie-and-dye training that helped kick off my project but they also get credit for killing it.  If you will recall from my blog about this group that there were a few women making and selling dyed fabrics in the village.  Those women had been trained through Bafrow’s project a few years back.  We (me and 32 women) then started the group I had been working with for the last 10 month.  The entire project was funded by start up cash that these women put up last year and we were doing quite well.  The group was working on registering with the government, we were about to invest in some of the materials necessary to make more kinds of tie-and-dye and it was going really well…then Bafrow returned.  They came back to restart their project.  The women told them they had been doing tie-and-dye and Bafrow said great, they could help.  When I went to the compound I saw that they, the Bafrow people, had purchased and brought a bunch of the materials used for dying.  I was a little worried because it looked like they were giving the women a bunch of the stuff that I had worked to get the women to buy themselves.  So I went to the women running the project and asked what their plan was with their project.  They explained that this was not a new project; they were continuing a project they have been doing for 10 years (even though they haven’t been there for the last year and a half).  It took some explaining to get them to understand that the current tie-and-dye group was not a continuation of their project but something we set up ourselves.  My pitch to them was that it was great they were there.  We would welcome training and even some help with materials but they had to understand that these 32 women had made a financial commitment to our group and the work of that group needed to be treated separately from the Bafrow project which is for all the women of the village.  After some confusing discussion they decided that this was not possible for them.  Again, they were not starting a new project that had any obligation to work with my project.  They were continuing a project for all the women of the village that has been there for 10 years.  After that unsuccessful meeting I knew things were not going to go my way.  I had to call a meeting for my women and explain the situation.  We could continue our project, do all the same things and keep working but it was completely separate from what Bafrow was doing.   We would still have to invest the money in materials needed to continue on our own.  In the end the group decided that they should work with the Bafrow project because it was for all the women of the village and (I agree) there isn’t really a lot of room in a village of 250 (mostly kids) for two projects to make and sell tie-and-dye so we shut it down.  I don’t really blame the women who made that decision.  They just did what they thought seemed right and I didn’t expect to be able to compete with an NGO giving away free materials when I was always asking them to invest their own money.  In the end each woman who put in 150 dalasi last summer is going to get about 700 dalasis once all the money is collected so that’s good I guess.
Those are pretty much the highlights of my recent past here in The Gambia.  That and as soon as I get my hands on it I will be finished with all the currently published books in the Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones for you Americans who don’t/can’t read) series.  If you want to talk about Jon Snow and the war in Westeros call me.
Ben's Game of Thrones reading being interrupted by Adama, Howa and Fatou. 

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