Friday, June 27, 2008


Today, I feel like an idiot.

On my last post I mentioned the “funeral/wake” we visited. We’ve since debriefed further with our language teacher about the funeral process. Traditional funerals are a 40 day process. Within the first three days, neighbours, close friends and family all visit the home to give their condolences—fortunately we made it within the three day time slot. On the third day and then later on the seventh day there are prayers that are offered and then finally on the fortieth day there is a final prayer. During this time the widow is to pull out her braids and remain secluded from all men for the first seven days—she is not allowed to even leave the house, which in this case was one room. After the seventh day she may go out into the walled courtyard occasionally but may not go out into the street until the forty days are finished. After three months she may remarry.

Two days ago I heard a knock at the gate but by the time I got there I didn’t see anyone. I waited a few minutes, looking around, and a shy little boy came around with a bucket and said, “Mama veut de l’eau.” (Mother wants some water.) It was an awkward moment that caught me off guard—our language teacher hard warned us against it giving out water generally because of the headaches it can create. Not only that there is a free, public access well two minutes around the corner—some people even make a business of drawing the free water and then selling it door to door. At the same time, I didn’t want just turn him down outright and so I suggested that if his mother wanted it she could come to ask. (Probably not the right response at the best of times but…)

This evening we were sitting out in front of our gate and our neighbour the marabout (Islamic teacher) came over to greet and chat. A crowd of kids had gathered and were playing in front as well, and in the course of conversation he pointed out two little boys and said, “It was their father that died last week.” Yep, you guessed it, it was the one who wanted water for his mother (who of course was still secluded in her house) and to whom I’d suggested that he send his mother over…

It’s one of those days when you feel like you should have gotten it right by now.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:27

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