A Long Journey to a Wedding Celebration


Jessica Johnson, a Lay Midwife from California, has travel almost half the way around the world to get here.  Her flight from San Francisco to Dulles did not leave because of engine trouble. She was re-routed from SF to Frankfort, Germany, then Lisbon, Portugal then Dakar.  Her luggage is still in Lisbon and will not catch up with her for 5 days. United Airlines did not upgrade her seat or provide her meals.

At 7:00 a.m. M’Backe takes us back to the airport. The same ritual of persistent vendors waiting to serve. But this time I am tired and my diplomacy in negotiating a money exchange is less than suave; I get the rate I want but there is one man who will run from a Sista from the U.S. the next time.

Makeda arrives (no, she was not at her favorite Dakar club, Just For You).  She ask M’Backe what size plane this is and he says,”It is not a small plane. It is a big plane but not a big, big plane.”

Now we have to get the excess luggage on this plane. As a side note this airlines, Senegal Air, was recently bought by Akon, the hip hop music star. We are 3 people with 4 bags; the clerk quietly lists our fourth bag next to a passenger who does not have any.

In fact the plane has 18 seats, one that is often called an “Island Hopper”; the passengers feel the need to hop up in unison when the plane goes over a mountain. A 50-minute ride and we land in Ziguinchor, the capital of the state of Casamance, the bread basket for Senegal.

We could have taken the ferry but recently it has been over crowded; or drive the long pot holed ridden roads with the annoyance of gun bearing soldiers looking for the “rebels” who are fighting for the cessation of Casamance from Senegal.

When we leave the runway we break into “I Love Being a Midwife” as we get out luggage. We buy fresh roasted cashews from the lady vendors across from the airport and await our driver, Papalyo and his Peugeot station wagon.

The drive from Ziguinchor to Kafountine takes about 2 hours. These pothole-filled,  pavement and sand  roads are like those found in almost any country outside of industrialized settings—be it Romania, Cuba,  Brazil or Montezuma Georgia.  Add to this the re-occurring stops for the military, toll road keepers and animals, and the drive can stretch out to 3 hours. We listen to reggae and souk music and take photos of the houses, mosques, children sitting in groups doing their Koranic work, women selling their produce, donkeys puling carts.

A sign announces our arrival in Kafountine. Down along road, then another and we enter the pound where we will be staying and a celebration is just beginning.

Last weekend one of t he daughter in the family got married. This weekend, the groom’s family comes to present presents to the bride’s  family.  There is brief ceremony with a speech on the need to hold onto your marriage with both hands. Gifts are presented and exchanged.  A woman puts on a costume that looks like a beggar and carries the bride’s lingerie in a sack on a pole; meanwhile the young girls get in a circle and the beggar throws the sack into the group—much like we do with the bride’s bouquet.

Then the drumming stars. This is the land of the djembe; these are Jolla People and this is a women’s celebration.  The compound fills with over 100 people, dancing, singing, drinking palm wine and being happy with each other. It was not long before Makeda could no longer resist the call of the drum…

By 10:00 p.m. the party had thinned.

Off to bed for our first day in Kafountine.