Water and Culture
by Jesse Thyne, Mamou, Guinea Conakry, Guinea
In a far-off part of my village, there is a beautiful waterfall called Tai Thie that flows into a basin the size of a large swimming pool. I first found out about the existence of this spectacular place during Ramadan, four months after my arrival in the village. After discovering it, I tried to go as often as possible to swim and sunbathe. I soon found out that I would have to go alone. In my village, Taï Thie is for special events only. My site mate and I often joke that the waterfall is for our village what amusement parks are for Americans. Even if you live next door to Disneyland, you still only go on special days.
In my village there are three fêtes each year, and Taï Thie is always the most exciting part for the children. The boys all come ready to play. They come in shorts and they swim and cliff-dive all day. The girls come dressed in their finest outfits and they sit by the water all day, talking, laughing, and looking their best for the boys and each other. Throughout the day, more than a thousand people, mostly kids, come to the water hole, which is not much bigger than a backyard swimming pool. The villagers bring firewood and cookware on the long hike so that everyone can stay all day and eat at the water's edge. Women come to sell snacks to happy, hungry kids. Many people bring small radios to have music to match the sound of cheer and water.
At the end of the day, everyone goes home thoroughly content. Although the water is always there, and would be perfect on a hot African day, most people leave Taï Thie alone until the next time when the fun starts all over.
by Shad Engkilterra, Banko, Guinea
I am told that some verses from the Koran are soaked in water, and that water is then squeezed into a newborn's mouth as a blessing.
Every night groups of men get together and make tea. But it's more than just tea, it's attaye. The ritual of attaye centers on drinking tea prepared in three rounds. People begin brewing the first round, adding about a quarter of a cup of sugar to one cup of water and tea. This is heated in a tiny, palm-sized teapot until boiling. The boiled tea is poured into a cup. Next it is poured into the pot, and then into a second cup, and back and forth into the two cups. The process is repeated many, many times until a head of foam has been gathered in the two cups, and the tea has cooled so that it doesn't burn the mouth. The process takes between 30 and 45 minutes, and it is repeated in its entirety two times. The men tell stories, share time together—and attaye is just an excuse to be with one another.