seek and find

Monday, January 5, 2009


so seliba is the local word for Tabaski, which is kind of celebrated like a Muslim Christmas: everyone gives over zealous and unnecessary greetings that take up so much time you end up resenting everyone later on for it; there is so much food you don't know what to do with yourself; children are handed ridiculous amounts of candy and then scolded for going nuts; people dress up and spill palm wine all over themselves; goats are beheaded, cleaned and their skins are used just hours later to pray facing east... just like Christmas, right?

these were delicious.

everyone, I'd like to introduce you to Dabi Sidibe

this fantastic little man is my best bud in village, he doesn't wear pants or shoes and whenever he seems me coming from a ways off, he runs his bowlegs and swings his malnurished belly yelling "Umu na na! Umu na na!" which translates to "Sydney's coming! Sydney's coming!" he then pushes his face between my knees, wraps his hands around my thighs and holds on so tight. he takes deep breaths and smiles.

the picture below is of him and his mother, the Wonderful Wurdia. she has given birth to 12 children, 5 have survived.

wisdom comes from before, not after

my parents, for those of you who are lucky enough to know them or know me well enough to have heard about them, are
people who deserve better than they've been given, better than they know, better than anyone can provide, and yet,
even after knowing this, or at least hearing this, they are humble and perfect.

they have both always had something to say, over and over, throughout my life, and Skylar's too, that was at one time
terribly annoying, more due to our lack of age or mental capacity rather than their inablitity to connect. my mom and
i have been in love with the moon, its ability to trap and throw light around as easy as a wink, its presence in songs
and plays and moments of great joy and sorrow. she and i have always giggled uncontrolably, and those tears of hilarity,
whether spurred by sadness or humor, were always true and in a way our way of holding tightly or sharing deeply the
same light as the moon. our connection, although at times has been questioned, has never faultered.
my dad has always ended every conversation with "make good decisions" and although i haven't always, those words have
always been there, guiding me through rough spots, situations in which i could make a simple bad decision and change
the course of life forever.

something that i used to resent but only now understand was this saying from my dad,
"it doesn't matter how your friends feel about you but how you feel about them"; i actually used to take great grief
from this conversation and especially this remark because it made me feel as if he knew something about the girls i was
trying to befriend. like maybe they had pulled him aside, explained why they didn't like me, and he was trying to let
me down early. worse, maybe in his past he was the kid who didn't want to befriend the character i am and knew how
badly one could get hurt from those situations and relationships.

alas, what i didn't know then was this : it is now and has always been the absolute truth, i just needed to find some
one who i cared more truly about and deeply for rather than someone i wished felt the same.

this may be a bit confusing, but let me clear it up - what i see and hear from my parents, my wonderful, insightful,
thoughtful parents, Bob and Mohanta, now is no different than it was when i was 10 or 16 or 20, its just now i have
the time, energy and patience to hear them. to truly listen, digest their words and know, fully, their meanings.

my mom and i have the moon, to bounce our smiles off of and to wrap us in light whenvever the other is in dire need of
a hug only the other can fulfill. my dad and i have this one special bit of knowledge that is infinitely true: the love
you have for that one other person makes the love, or lack there of, for you completely unimportant because knowing,
living, owning that love for someone else makes you that much more complete, regardless of whether or not it is
reiterated or returned.

i got off the phone with them just now, exactly when i needed it most, a time when i couldn't bring myself to ask for
them and they were there, listening, learning, loving.
knowing that i'm suffering, that i'm enjoying, that i'm making it in africa, all by my self; a self that they made.
there is some romance hidden beneath this big african moon and the sand storms that swallow the blue hues of cloth
here, there is some
serious pride in country, in family, in history, in future when we are able to speak over a cell phone from the worlds
third poorest country. there is some doubt found in my tears and their comforts; all of us knowing that if i came home
tomorrow no questions would be asked and we'd all be that much stronger, we'd live that much fuller and we'd be that
much closer. but there is much unity, much humility and much love found in those same tears, those same airwaves, those
beams of light and words of infinite wisdome, because They are Bob and Mohanta Schalit and I am their daughter.

as previously stated, wisdom comes from the past, not the future... it just becomes more apparent later on in life, when
one has the time, patience and dear need for it.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

marc jacobs would kill for this shade

sometimes, while biking across the magnificent and simultaneously bleak landscape of the south western region of Mali,
i feel an abundance of dread sweep across me. like the headwinds one is always seeming to push through, it comes upon
you with great force and leaves you unsatisified.

i rode into Kita from my village, just at 40 miles on a road composed of lava rock seperated by beds of 6in red sand,
and felt not only the hot headwinds but also the heat of uncertaintiy, forcing an unimaginalbe amount of sweat and
exhaustion, which was otherwise unexpected. there were patches of blackend grassland that, for some reason, i did not see
i was surrounded by the crackling, poping and screaching of trees on fire and orange charcoals blistering the land.
terrified and startled by what i was seeing, i hustled up many a hill that i may have otherwise dismounted and walked.
i could feel the black suit in the air seeping into my mouth and lungs and could feel its immediate effect my system.
my legs were already
caked with sweat and red muck, but now i had a purpleish tinge due to the airborne suit. it was, as i said, startling and
a bit scary. many of the trees alongside the road had suffered greatly from these burn-clearnings, which rural
folks do in order to scare snakes off deeper into the forest and "help" the soil for the next years harvest. trees
which were once lively, home to lizards and butterflies and greens and pinks and beauty, were now darkened by ash
and singed by fire. it was december 22nd when i rode in, and with the holidays just ahead of me, i had some scrooge
attitude issues, one being the fact that these impoverished assholes ruined my scenic ride. jerks. what would normally have
been lush and beautiful now resembled a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Lot that went for miles... and miles.

then, when i had really hit a low, i was 3 hours in and getting exhausted with small-back pains and flakes of earth
coming from my reddened knees, i came upon a creek which marked the begining of a steep 200 yard incline, one which
i was sure i could not surmount. as i tried to reason with myself, encouraging a break for water and granola, i spotted
a flash of red, coral, oragne, fantastic, life.

it was a bulb opening on a single branch whose other residents had fled with the fires. this one, perfect bulb,
bright and ready for life, opened as i got closer and closer to its magnificent 60ft tall tree... or what would
resemble a tree for its bark was greyed and blackened by the fires and its leaves had all fallen to the depths of
the ashes.

life. a shade of coral Marc Jacobs would die for. a shade of coral found only in the shallows of sea
water, fluttered by beautiful fish and other forms of fancy. and here it sits. one long, lonely branch, producing
enough life and a show of love to get this homesick, winter-blues stricken lady across a creek and up many other
hills, all the way to Kita, all the way to Segu, all the way to the arms of Dan and Megan, all the way to the voices
of family and friends.

blues be damned. i'm currently into shades of coral.