April Showers…

Here’s KJ enjoying one of our first early rain storms as rainy season approaches.

Video: Welcome to Africa

Africa has long been associated with stereotypical imagery of exotic animals, remote landscapes, and thatch huts. But the people of Sub-Saharan Africa are rapidly redefining the reality of what life is like on the world’s second largest continent.

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Situs Inversus Totalis

There are certain conditions that you read about in medical school, think how interesting that it must be, and never expect to see it in real life.

** WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES **

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The Incredible Design of the Silk Cotton Tree

Commonly known as the Gold Coast Bombax (Bombax buonopozense) or ‘false-kapok’ tree has pods full of a silky cotton like substance that surrounds its seeds. Its ingenious design allows the pods to burst open and release the seeds to float away in the wind.

Here’s an video of tree opening one of the pods from the silk-cotton tree. You can see how compressed the cotton is inside as it just keeps on expanding and expanding!

In Mampruli, the tree is known as a vobga and it’s flowers are harvest to make a delicious soup. They fetch quite a price in the market when they are available.

Nalerigu’s Leatherworkers

In a little nook on the north side of Nalerigu’s market sit two men – brothers – who are the town’s gbanzaba, or leatherworkers. Just twenty years ago there were a lot more leatherworkers and they had a lot more diverse work to do. Then the plastic bags, second-hand Western clothes and cheap Chinese products started pouring into West Africa.

Now I only ever see them working on four things: repairing sandals, making chieftaincy cushions, decorative knife sheaths and magical amulets. The latter is one that isn’t going away. In fact, they have a proverb referencing it:

Gbanzaba pɔ’a seaa ni ka kanni.

A literal translation would be “the leatherworker’s wife’s waist has no leather belt.” However, it’s basically the same idea as the old English adage “the shoemaker’s daughter goes barefoot.” The leather belt in question (kanni) is not just any belt, but a magical charm worn by a woman (especially pregnant women) for protection from evil spirits and/or bad luck. Other magical charms the leatherworkers make are amulets with Quranic verses inside and leather charms that bind up secret ingredients and give the wearer protection or supernatural powers.

I enjoy visiting with these guys every time I go to market. I like to jokingly ask what’s inside the magical amulets they are sowing all the while knowing the answer is asiiri (secret!). Once they offered to repair my dying sandals and even gave me a loaner pair to wear around the market until they were done. Now that’s great customer service!

 

 

Recent Family Portraits

Some photographer friends recently paid us a visit and took some photos of us (it’s rare to get William in the image!). When Easter arrived, William took some photos of the kids (mostly KJ). Here they are: