26 December 2008

Subliminal Mind Rays

Happy Holidays ! December has been a month of very amazing and rewarding work. A couple volunteers and I have began to work with a local NGO in order to give trainings to Nigeriens about HIV/AIDS, early marriage and pregnancy, contraceptive use, and girls’ education via radio show broadcasts and skits. We attended a two-day training, in which we discussed the differences between Nigerien and American perceptions of heritage, gender roles, education, wealth, and contraceptive use. Each volunteer and their Nigerien counterpart received a solar radio, which can be used in surrounding villages without electricity, to receive the radio shows and conduct small trainings (called, sensibilisations in French). It was amazing! We counterpart and I drove to a local village, and did a sensibilisation on girls' education. In the radio broadcast, a father takes his young daughter out of school, even though she is doing very well. In the sketch, the father is in love with money, and wants his daughter to get married so he can pocket the dowry. The father's sister comes to the house to visit, and finds the young girl crying, and begins to yell at the her brother about how her own lack of education has made her life much more difficult. In the village that we drove to, all of the women were passionately engaged in dialogue about the importance of educating their daughters, and how the education of their daughters was essential to the future of this country. This was a great experience, and I hope to be able to attend more! The pictures above are from the sensibilisation!

16 December 2008

15 December 2008

Jealous Eyes: A Blues of Hope & Immensity

Jealous Eyes: A Blues of Hope & Immensity
(For Max)
By Ryan Forbes Morris

Damn the eyes of the jealous earth serpent
Who swallowed the sun
And melted
Like oak rain to cool blue nebulous lagoon.
Forthcoming in his triumph
Born bare evergreen chartreuse-
The jealous earth serpent,
Struggling to cast form to his readily dissolving shape,
Stubborn in his inability to release the sun from the grip of his being,
Called to the moon in his desperation.
Father Moon, he said, I have stolen the sun and seek your assistance.
Foolish Earth Serpent, the moon replied, you steal the greatest star of the fourth dimension and fear not swift retribution? Be gone green serpent, for you have stolen splendid amethyst from the fabric of our world!

Damn the eyes of the jealous earth serpent
Who picked the most precious jewel from the branches of our galaxy
And in his fluid dreadfulness,
Roamed through blank forests and rivers (Devoid of evening moon or sun)
Seeking some avenue of captivity for his lone descended sky gem.

Enslaved to his self pity
And envious of the Most High [craftsman of winter, eclipse, womb, and ocean]
The foolish serpent
Decided he would cast God to the earth,
And wrap the length of his tail around the universe and claim it as his own.

The warped viscous serpent,
(Who no longer drank of reality for fear that he would drown in his melted pool of self)
Looked to the north,
And searched for a winged creature to carry him to the sky.
Father Time, sensing the imbalance of this earth creature’s intention
Whispered to his crimson finch
[Who flew aimlessly in circles, drunk with the beauty of existence]
To perch upon the forest’s most fragrant eucalyptus,
And await the imprudent green serpent.

As the clouds parted (to make way for what would have been high noon)
No sun spilled forth from between the clouds
And only shadows were cast upon the crimson feathers of the earth finch.

Tears fell from the finch’s eyes, as she grieved the failed rising of the sun.
Where is my precious sun, she called. Where is the burning star, griot of this world and the next, whose Shiva-arms painted me wrapped in pristine clarity across the heavens, the earth finch cried.
And as her tears fell to the floor of the forest, their echoes attracted the glutinous slither of the earth serpent.
Alas, a winged creature to carry me to the heavens, the serpent recited beneath his impious breath, selfishly addicted to his desire to imprison our world and call it his own.
The earth serpent continued through the forest
Quietly circling the trees
(Never venturing too close for fear of rupturing his unstable form)
And slowly moved up the giant eucalyptus, toward the weeping finch.

Once again, sensing the iniquity of the earth serpent, God dipped from the heavens and whispered to the crimson earth finch,
my child, think of my most beautiful creation. It is you who must love this world enough to save it!
And so the innocent earth finch, crimson and pure of heart, closed her eyes
And in animated suspension
Spoke that her precious sun still existed as it did in her daydreams, burning ocean blue, silver, and indigo across the horizon.
As the jealous earth serpent leaped forward, and encased his fangs around the tiny crimson earth finch,
She gently lifted her wings…
And with the strength of the trees, allowed her spirit to remember
The profound weight of sunlight, air, peace, and color against her feathers.
And as the earth finch thought of such things,
As she kissed her being to the enormity of her Creator,
It was the immense soul of a minute being
(perfect in this very moment)
Whose light burned the serpent into echoing dust
Whose hope and clemency emancipated our galaxy’s bright amethyst
Whose daydreams of being suspended in the warm exquisiteness of sky
Forever vanquished the envious, insatiable, and jealous earth serpent
And restored the sun to our universe.

Ryan Forbes Morris

12 December 2008

speak FELA!

Speak Fela!
Across the lips
of mama AFRIKA.
(self-descended of one)
radical impetus
To place profound beauty
In the helping hands
Of youth
that rise.

-Ryan Forbes Morris

R.I.P. Miriam Makeba

Desert Sun: Iron Clad Redemption

Monday, my entire region celebrated the holiday of Tabaski. Ramadan is known as the small holiday, and Tabaski is referred to as the big holiday. During this time, many families will purchase goats or sheep, have them butchered, and then give half of the meat to their families and the other half to those in need and less fortunate. This was an amazing show of the hospitality that I experience daily, living here in Niger. All of my neighbors invited me over to their homes, and we overindulged in grilled sheep meat, goat meat, couscous, sauce, and counou! This is also gave me an opportunity to bring out my camera, and photograph some of these families in their finest Tabaski boubous and complets. This was an amazing holiday, and everyone was telling me that it was the equivalent to our Christmas. It was an amazing day, and I am so grateful for all of my neighbors and friends that made sure I was well fed that day! We've been given a few days off from work, because different regions in Niger celebrate Tabaski at different times. The day that a village will celebrate is determined by when they first see the moon appear. In Maradi, the holiday was celebrated on Monday, but other other regions celebrated on Tuesday. The last month, my counterpart and I have been busy working with the COGES groups. For those of you that aren't familiar, in an attempt by the Nigerien government to decentralize, each school has a committee made of parents, students, school administrators, and local/traditional authorities which are responsible for finding funding for each school, and managing each school.

This is a great idea in principle, but still very new, and we're trying to help each COGES work out their respective glitches. My counterpart and I visited each of the seven public schools in our city, to introduce the groups to the program that we have planned for them this academic year. We will teach them about running a meeting, about taking a fair and democratic vote, record keeping, school equipment preservation, and how to promote girls education via radio broadcasts and skits. At the end of the month, my counterart and I are going to attend a training with a local NGO to learn how to talk about HIV/AIDS (VIH/SIDA in French) over radio broadcast in local languages. This will be amazing, because it will give us the opportunity to reach a larger portion of the population. Many of the "glitches" that I observed in each COGES were almost identical to the problems you would find in the States. Some of the leaders were disorganized; many of the members (student's parents) were absent from the meetings; and many of the positions that were supposed to be occupied by women, were occupied by men. For the most part, the COGES members that were in attendance seemed to be very motivated about getting their schools in order, and finding more funding to provide their students with school supplies and books! Next month, I leave my post to go to the training site for three weeks! It will be very nice to see all of my stage-mates, but also to learn more about fundraising and being a better volunteer. Life is good here in Maradi, and the evenings and mornings are still very cool! Hausa is still coming along slowly, but sai hankuri (have patience) right!? By the way, helping two other volunteers every saturday with a radio show. It's been great for my hausa, and really fun to reach so many people!

03 December 2008

Boom: Desert Vibe Suffocation y La Estrella (Poetic Offerings II)

Desert Vibe Suffocation
by Ryan Forbes Morris

I was drowned by the Harmattan
And emptied by the hands of the Bahaushé seer
Whose arms untwisted my voice from the breath of Saharan sands
And guided my conscience to the neon complexity of day
Restoring sound to lifeless form
Where I float to the stratosphere…shining blue-green and killa peach!
Infused and then cool
Pouring blue flame as libation to afrocentric ocean
Where my body was smoked...remembered…kissed brilliant silver…and released unbound across the sky


La Estrella
by Ryan Forbes Morris

la estrella-
the seamstress of progressive thought
baptized the ocean
with sunbeams and revolutionary vision
our Sister of TRUTH… manifestation of transformative action
Who collected the sounds of Earth
Breathing jazz, afro-beat, and sweet hibiscus to my mind’s angle of song
And with commanding presence
Painted evening clouds bright sapphire
Shaped ripe moons the song of mockingbirds
self liberation
Vertically across my conscience