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Monday, January 3, 2011


The river by evening light.
Mamasamba on his bantaba.

Full moons bring my village to life. The orb shines brightly; painting the night-time world with silver light, so bright you can see your shadow. The children run everywhere, dancing and singing in the luminous darkness. The men walk to the mosque without their flashlights and greet each other by name. Later in the night, Maimuna sits outside on a mat on the ground, diligently watching over her five sleeping children sprawled out on the mat beside her. She whips a fan around every few seconds to keep the mosquitoes away and sings to herself softly. I lie nearby with Mamasamba on a bantaba in front of my hut. I’m looking at the giant, looming mango trees, each leaf painted by the moon light. The trees tower over us, huge and still. I go inside and get my binoculars to look at the moon. It is so bright and clear that I can count the craters and make out the face of “the man in the moon.” Mamasamba asks me “hodum waddataa?” meaning “what are you doing?” I hand him the binoculars and tell him, in Fula, to look at the moon. He awkwardly places the binoculars against his face and looks through with one eye, though there are two eye holes. He smiles and tries to hold the binoculars steady in his huge, calloused hands. “It’s sun light reflecting off the moon,” I say to him in English, knowing he won’t understand me. He puts down the binoculars after a while and turns to look at me. “Allah ko mawdo” he says; “God is great.” I like his explanation better.

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