1971-1988 My Life in Africa

Friday, September 12, 2008

Laugh and the world laughs with you!

Ham it up...... in Lome, Togo....

And Leslie will snap your picture!

Spectacular African Sunsets!

Carrying the last container of water of the day.....

Sunset over the Indian Ocean from the town of Lamu, Kenya.

Pot-of-gold in Lake Victoria as seen from Kisumu, Kenya.

Sun beginning to set after a rain in the highlands near Mt. Kenya.

Blinding sand storms create a sunset type lighting in Mauritania.

The Niger River, from Bamako ....at sunset during the heavy sand storm, harmatan season in Mali.

Ya gotta have .... friends!

Dateline: Freetown, Sierra Leone .... 1981 or so....

You pick my fleas ..... and I'll pick yours....

Friends ..... make life so much fuller and funner!

Pre-Historic Gigantic Elephant Tusks?

Dateline: Mombasa, Kenya .... 1985 ... or so...

Leslie stands near the enormous, gigantic, incredibly mammoth sized white elephant tusk that form a vehicle archway along a main road leading into Kenya's port of Mombasa.

And to think..... these huge elephants once roamed the savanna of Kenya! What fear the Swahili people must have felt when these prehistoric type mammals rumbled through their villages!

Fierce "Blue Men" of Mali - Les Tuaregs!

The handsome, but fierce, Tuareg in their flowing robes make the bleak, desolate Sahara Desert their home.

Dromedaries, or one humped camels, provide transportation, milk, leather and food for the Tuareg.

Frequently I was told while I lived in Mali .... if two Tuareg met in the Sahara ... neither one of them slept the night ... for the knew the both carried beneath their robes, razor sharp knives and swords .... if one were to "disappear" during the night ... the sands of the Sahara would quickly cover all evidence.

Minnesota to Burkina Faso

A Tuareg family in northern Burkina Faso that became one of my many African extended families that over the nearly 20 years I lived and worked on the continent, that helped, supported and guided me. Did you notice my blue eyes in the photo?

Family photo in 1975 on the farm in northern Minnesota ..... my folks sitting in front, then left to right ... Jerry, Carol, Darvin, Nancy and then.... Leslie

I grew up on a small farm in northern Minnesota, near the tiny town of Borup .... (okay... it's close to Fargo, North Dakota .. if that helps....)

In Burkina Faso, I lived about 10 kilometers outside of Ouagadougou, the capital city, in a round mud hut. Bamboo bed with a hard mattress filled with a white, cotton like substance from the Baobab trees. A mousquito net over my bed kept most of the bugs out ... and on those extremely hot nights.... the heat in! Grass thatched roof, provided a home for the termites and wasps.

I worked for VITA (Volunteers in Technical Assistance) at that time, helping to establish a Regional Appropriate Technology Center ... for which I was able to get a million dollar grant to build and furnish the center. This was in the late 1970s.

No electricity in my mud hut .... only kerosene lamps to give me light when writing my journal .... which I did religiously for nearly ten years. No running water either at my rural compound ..... it was a simple life ... I experienced spectacular sunrises every morning and equally beautiful sunsets every evening. I knew when the moon was full and when it was not!

The young feminine eyes of Africa

Fulani girl near Mopti in Mali. Note the tattoo beauty markings ....

Swahili young woman near Lamu in Kenya.

A Berber young woman in Mauritania.

Fulani girl in Mali.

Ewe young woman in Togo.

Ancient Baobab Tree in Mali

As one of the first volunteers to go to Mali in 1971, I was given a Peugeot ... a French made truck and a gas allowance! In addition to helping to build the regional poultry center in Sikasso, my job as a livestock extension agent, was to travel throughout the region teaching Malian farmers, how to raise broiler birds.

Here, I'm next to a giant Baobab tree in Mali.

Local folklore has it that after creation, each of the animals was given a tree to plant and the hyena planted the baobab tree upside-down!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Love of Dromedaries (Camels)

One does not see many dromedaries in Northern Minnesota where I grew up. But in Mali? These magnificent creatures were the major means of transportation in the Sahara! It was love at first sight!

There was just something so mystical and dare I say.... romantic.... about a camel.... I mean.... I saw "Lawrence of Arabia" every time I saw a camel.....

And how could one not fall in love with these two young dromedaries! Such beautiful eyes .... and a hint of a smile?

My first real camel ride in Mali.

Peace Corps Volunteer "Babemba" in Sikasso

Mali .... the "Land of Timbuktu!"

Pictured above is the only remaining structure of the Sankore University of Timbuktu (one of three major universities that thrived in this city where the "canoe met the camel." Sankore Univeristy was built in the early 1300 when the legendary city was in its glory. The University was capable of housing 25,000 students and had one of the largest libraries in the world with between 400,000 and 700.000 manuscripts.

La Grande Mosque of Timbuktu .... built in the 1500.

Some 600 years later, as a Peace Corps Volunteer to Mali, I visited the fabled city and saw this ancient piece of world history during the time of the Sahelien drought of the 1970s. Gone the days when Europeans had believed the streets of Timbuktu to be paved in gold, gone was the famous University of Timbuktu and its rich one-of-a-kind library, no longer were the medical experiment, i.e. brain surgery being done in this fabled city (the doctors in Timbuktu conducted this type of surgery during the time of the Middle Ages in Europe and it would be another 500 years before Europe would even consider such an idea ..... gone too was the paper currency Timbuktu printed that had been used throughout Western and Northern Africa as well as Europe ..... the ancient glory.... all gone .... except for the small settlement along the Niger River with its dunes and 120 plus degree temperatures!

Mines, 500 kilometers north of Timbuktu in the middle of the Sahara, still provide blocks of salt which are cut from the ground, transported by camels to Timbuktu and then by boat to Mopti for distribution throughout Mali.

Arriving in Mali in April 1971, I soon found myself in the southern regional capital of Sikasso, where I was assigned to the Regional Ministry of Livestock Office to help build a poultry center. Dr. Kansaye, the Director of the Regional Ministry of Livestock was my supervisor. The first time I met Dr. Kansaye, he gave me the name "Babemba" ... the name of the last King of the Kenadougou Empire who had died fighting off the French in the late 1800s.

When the French surrounded the city of Sikasso in 1893 and broke through the wall, rather than being captured by the French, Babemba cried out "I'll die before I become a slave to the French," gave his rifle to a soldier, asked to be killed, and became an instant myarter for Mali's independence..

A young Leslie, aka "Babemba" at the Sunday Sikasso market. The whole time I was in Mali, everyone called me "Babemba." As I was to learn, I had been given the name of a legendary Malian King ..... and as someone once joked .... little Malian children who knew me, grew up thinking "Babemba" was white!

About Me

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Left the land of milk and honey for a spiritual nomadic life.