Friday, September 25, 2009

Dogon Country - Part II

The pace of life in Dogon country was slow and relaxing, in part because it was so hot. I picked up a new french phrase along the way -- Il fait chaud! (translation: It's hot!). We started hiking early in the mornings, stopped for lunch and a long siesta to avoid the noon sun, and continued on in the late afternoon heat to our next destination and the campments where we stayed overnight. Meals consisted of rice or pasta with a vegetable sauce (plus chicken at dinner for the non-vegetarians), and the campments provided mattresses on the roof to sleep on. The next morning we'd wake up at sunrise to a orchestra of roosters, goats and donkeys...

Along the way, we visited several Dogon villages, learned some interesting tidbits from our guide and made a few observations of our own:
  • Women are the backbone of Dogon society, like many others. The Dogon women were up at dawn carrying water from the wells to their homes (many with babies strapped to their backs), pounding grain under the hot sun, working in the fields and generally taking care of business. When we asked our guide about the responsibilities shouldered by Dogon men, he told us that they are primarily responsible for farming, but since the harvest was still a month away we wouldn't see too many men working in the fields. As far as we could tell, they were mostly napping!

  • Dogons maintain their ancient culture and animist religion, but simultaneously practice Islam or Christianity without conflict. They're polygamists as well.
  • Some Dogons believe Obama is a Dogon -- our guide told us that a man from one of the Dogon villages claims that Obama is actually his cousin.
  • Coca-cola distributes everywhere! The campments provided simple meals and showers, and not much else, but every campment we saw had Coke!
  • Apparently, Dogon people used to be afraid of tourists, but now you're accosted by children trying to hold your hand and calling out "├ža va bien?" (everything good?) and asking for candy and water bottles. One little girl even offered me a massive cricket, to my great dismay.

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