The Narrow Road (6) – Haibun – December 11, 2015


By Likiwi (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Our canary-yellow Toyota pick-up was fully equipped for our week-long journey from Moundou, Chad to Yaoundè, Cameroun in the late 1970s, with food, water, medical supplies and the possibility, if the need arose, to sleep in the back of the pick-up. Feeling intrepid, our adventure began with two other families one Iranian and the other Canadian.

The dirt roads were deeply rutted due to the recent rainy season and sometimes it was easier to just drive along the side the road rather than risk destroying the axle of one of the vehicles.  The air was full of fine, choking dust until we got closer to the border, where lush growth began to substitute the dry semi-savanna.

Our first stop was at a small “motel” at the border,  which consisted of several large mud huts with aluminium roofs,  they had running water even if no electric.  We arrived just before sunset and rented one of the large round huts for our group.  We thankfully showered off dust and sweat, ate our first hot meal of the day and then prepared for the night.

There were several cots in the round house, without bedding or mattresses, made of woven cow-hide.  We sprayed the beds down for fleas and other “night life” before  arranging our inflatable mattresses and sleeping bags on them.  Then, waiting for the insecticide to do its duty, we sat outside the hut, enjoying the moon-lit evening sitting in front of the fire, talking about the trip so far and planning the next leg of our journey.

modern caravan
avoiding fleas, ticks and lice
enjoying the full moon

 © G.s.k. ‘15

Carpe Diem #876 the journey continues: early summer rains; fleas and lice (a short episode)

Today’s episode brought back memories of  my youth in Africa.  Now we have many conveniences when travelling, however in some parts of the world travelling is still quite an adventure.  I decided to share with you the beginning of a journey I took many years ago from Southern Chad to the capital of Cameron with friends and family.  We (my first husband and I) had two small boys at the time, our Iranian friends had a baby daughter and the Canadians three rambunctious boys. The trip was basically uneventful although not what one comes to expect when travelling in Europe or North America.

Here’s the haiku (I’d advise you to click the link above for the full haibun) Basho wrote centuries ago:

fleas and lice
now a horse pisses
by my pillow

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

At least we had no horses about.

“Wakakusa Yamayaki” in Africa – haiku – October 4, 2015

in the spring – fields burn
preparing the land for crops
Chad in flames

© G.s.k. ‘15

Reading today’s feature in Carpe Diem Haiku Kai I read these lines: “Yamayaki is practiced all over Japan. In other regions the story is often that the mountain was traditionally burned to ward off insects, bears or wild boars. Mountains that are the target of yamayaki grow a green grass in summer.”  which brought to mind the yearly burning of “brush” in southern Chad when I lived in that country … not a ritual burning I think and certainly nothing particularly beautiful about it – it seems that this practice was/is considered to be a way to sort of fertilize the soil.  However, if one didn’t know that that day a village would burn the fields a  passing traveller risked getting caught up in the conflagration and sometimes, if the wind wasn’t quite right the fires burnt out of control.


Carpe Diem #832 Wakakusa Yamayaki (Burning down Mount Wakakusa)

Peace Corps (Chad) – July 26, 2015


lalay lalay
children greet the teacher
the school in Lai

gas cooled fridge
Coleman lamp and candles
her house in Lai

sitting in the yard
girls singing and sewing
making friends

cooking on charcoal
making peanut butter soup
visitor from Sarh

Peace Corps kids
living rough in Africa
surrounded by love
learning another life
under the Chadian sun

There were very few white people outside the major cities of Chad when I lived there between 1975 and 1979, among them were the Peace Corps kids.  In the villages the government had put at their disposition a house and the elders of the village put up a straw matted fence, for privacy.  They had not generators for electricity like the Protestant and Catholic missionaries or the members of international development organizations, but they did have a gas run refrigerator, which I always found fascinating.  They often didn’t know the local language, though most of them spoke French, but by the time they left the village they spoke it fairly well.

When the Peace Corps workers, or indeed any outsider, rolled into town on a “taxi bruousse*” the kids would jump around shouting “lalay lalay”.  The Peace Corps workers were usually well loved, more than some missionaries I guess because the kids weren’t trying to convert or subvert anyone to their way of thinking, they were there to help out in their small way.  They taught kids how to read, sewing and sometimes they helped dig wells and irrigation ditches.

learning about life
outside their golden palace
Peace Corp workers

© G.s.k. ‘15

* a pickup that travels around the country-side picking up paying customers

Carpe Diem Special #158 Adjei Agyei Baah’s 5th special “Afrikuland”

Visions of Tchad – haiku – July 26, 2015

Visions of Tchad (Chad)

pitter patter
rain falls on the tin roof
dry season past

puddles in the sun
children splash and laugh
after the rain falls

old woman
walking with her daughter
carrying water

baby on her back
young girl beats the millet
for the evening meal

happy singing
someone plays the balafon
under the full moon

new scars on his face
now he is a  grown man

young girl
time to become a woman
bloody razor blade

© G.s.k. ‘15


Written for:

Carpe Diem Special #158 Adjei Agyei Baah’s 5th special “Afrikuland”

Afriku by Adjei Agyei Baah:

in his world alone
a water strider resting
on his shadow bed

filling her dimples
with strawberries
summer camp

midsummer blues–
the wild memories of
a skirt-chaser

© Adjei Agyei-Baah, Ghana

For more Afriku, here is the Link to Adjei Agyei-Baah’s  “Afrikuland

Afriku – July 2, 2015

along the Logone
when Lai was just a village
moon light lit the night

Way back in the 70s I lived in a small village in the Tandjilé region of Southern Chad.  We were there as part of a project to create canals for rice paddies.  The village, for it was really just around a 100 huts, two Christian missions (one Catholic and one Evangelical), a Soviet Health Care Centre run by a Russian couple and a small bazar owned by a Nigerian, seems to have grown around the rice project.

Looking up Lai today, because I’d forgotten the name of the river that flows past the town, I discovered that it’s now the capital of Tandjilé and has an airport and a population as of 2008 of 20,428!

When I think of Lai, I always remember the ferry service, which connected Lai to Mondou (the largest city nearest Lai at the time) and was it ever a precarious thing – little more than a robust raft with heavy ropes holding it between the two banks of the river. Now I wonder if it too has also evolved .. at the time at least three vehicles a day passed over the Logone on that ferry. Or perhaps they’ve since built a bridge.

passing time
a ferry-boat to the future
Lai on the Logone

© G.s.k. ‘15

The desert is constantly growing in Northern Africa eating up land and evaporating the water resources … what was once one of the largest lakes not only in Africa but in the world has been slowly drying up – the encroachment of the desert has many reasons behind it and it’s a very complex problem to face and solve …


Carpe Diem Special #154 Afriku, haiku from Africa, an idea of Adjei Agyei Baah. “Stones”

shoreline pebbles…
a reminder of how far
we have come

daddy’s delicacy
taking stones out of gizzard

stone temple
leftover boulders
add to reverence

© Adjei Agyei-Baah, Kumasi, Ghana
Poetry Foundation Ghana

Friday Fictioneers – June 27, 2014


PHOTO PROMPT Copyright-Madison Woods

The War

One day in Chad, returning from a dental appointment in the bush, we came upon a tree which separated two villages.

A man with a spear stood by the tree not far the road we were using.

“You can’t go through here, turn back!” he said.

“What’s happening brother?” my driver asked.

“There’s a war here … our cattle have been stolen by thieves from that village!” he said pointing to a burning village not far away. “They killed one of them to eat! We’ve placed the skull as a warning to all!”

We turned around and took another road.

Written for Friday Fictioneers – this is a true story, except for the tree with the skull.


Salim…in Chad

After watching the film, I felt inspired…remembering the years I lived in Africa and of the children I’d met in the villages.

In the third world, things aren’t taken for granted.  What seems like a small thing to us, can be very important to a child who has nothing but the clothes on his back.  Salim, was 10 years old. He wanted to go to the village school but needed some money to buy a notebook and pencil in order to attend classes.  His family didn’t have the money.

When you drive through a village in Chad, children run out into the streets shouting: “lalay lalay.” and if you happen to stop in one of those villages you very often find yourself surrounded by young people, hands out, asking for baksheesh … most of the visitors never ask why those children are begging for a few coins.  The westerners just feel impatient and put upon, you might even hear someone comment on the lack of dignity that is part and parcel of the African people.

There is no electricity in the villages, no running water, no supermarkets or libraries.  The schools are a place under a tree where an itinerant teachers holds impromptu classes when he or she arrives in the village.  Often a government worker, the teacher is hosted by the most prominent person of the village.  If a child wants to attend class that child must have a notebook and a pencil or pen.  Only those children who are able to come up with the money for their school supplies will be educated.  The government can’t be expected to furnish those supplies, there are too many other priorities…and you don’t want to know what those priorities are.  Yet, at least, there has been some planning made for the future generations.

“Lalay lalay!” shouted Salim with his friends as the car came into his village.  The car stopped and a white woman with her African driver got out of the car.  The children ignored the driver, but surrounded the woman.  She dipped into her purse and pulled out a handful of coins which she flung into the air.  The children scrambled for the money as she walked, laughing, to the house of the village’s government representative.

The next day, under the tree, stood the white woman.  She was a Peace Corps volunteer and was going to set up school.  She had a box beside her, and inside the box were books, notebooks and pencils.  Nearby, some men were building a small mud-bricked hut for her, where she would live and work.

Salim looked at the notebook and pencil he’d bought with his baksheesh, and thought he could have bought something else with the money.  But he was happy.

Through the clarity of retrospect, the obvious conclusion surfaced: things don’t always turn out as planned.


This story is a combination of reality and fiction.  There are many Salims in the third world, far less volunteers who come to teach in the villages now days, in fact I’m not even sure if the Peace Corps still exists.  Back in the 70s they were one of the few whites who were roaming Africa without a church or big company behind them.

True, they had the United States behind them, but they never taught propaganda and there were no strings attached to the work they did in the villages…no one required them to become Americans in order to take part in classes or profit from the hand dug wells they dug or any of the other little projects they put together.  Most of these people were under 30.  They lived a little better than the local people, but not like they would have at home.

Are there any ex-Peace Corps workers reading?  If so, let me say, thanks guys and gals for your time out in the bush!


Written for Speakeasy 154

Ligo Haibun Challenge

Ese’s Voice presents this weeke’s Ligo Haibun Challenge


John sent me some of his photos from his trip to Africa, and I couldn’t help thinking back to the days when I’d walked the Sahel in Chad.  Of course, he’d been to Tanzania, the young woman depicted had little to do with the young Chadian women I’d seen, except maybe for the eyes.  Eyes illuminated with the pleasure of life.  Eyes that had a dreamy quality of fulfillment.

The life of an African woman, isn’t easy.  She gets up at dawn, goes fetch the water, which can even be quite a long ways away and after carrying the heavy jug on her head comes back and lights the fire to boil that water to make millet gruel, then maybe she starts pounding the millet with friends.  They sing as they work, oh and if she has a child, the child is slung on her back with a shawl made for that purpose…well maybe not, but it works well keeping the baby close and protected.  Every so often she sits back in the shade to feed the child. The days go on, cooking, singing, cleaning and taking care of her youngest children perhaps with the help of the older daughters, if she has them.

Sahel winds whisper
women go about their days
children suckle

Huitain: Chad 1978


From Poetry Forms:  huitain, French verse form consisting of an eight-line stanza with 8 or 10 syllables in each line. The form was written on three rhymes, one of which appeared four times. Typical rhyme schemes wereababbcbc and abbaacac. The huitain was popular in France in the 15th and early 16th centuries with such poets as François Villon and Clément Marot.
Chad 1978
A long day, seemed that it would never end,
Laying with the children under our bed.
Thinking of those people already dead.
Telling stories: “Kids all’s well.” I pretend.
Listening intently my breath suspended,
When the rain of firey missles began.
Wishing  there existed a God to befriend.
The news:  A Revolution in Iran.
To Be Continued…