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April 27, 2009

Full of Beans

Charlie's April newsletter is now up, and it contains some good news.

Posted by sahelsteve at 04:33 PM

April 18, 2009

For the fun to start the adults must be disposed of

My Situation
by Grimble


When parents go to Peru
And leave cups of tea in the fridge,
It's jolly hard to know what to do
And I wish I could think of a useful
word ending in idge. The End

With the passing of Clement Freud (1924 - 2009) I have been remembering Grimble. I used to really enjoy this story of a boy whose parents suddenly disappear to Peru, leaving him to his own hilarious devices.

The departure of Grimble's parents is a stark solution to the classic children's author dilemma: How to Get Rid of the Adults?

Solution 1. Your hero is an orphan (Oliver Twist, Harry Potter, Violet Baudelaire, Anne of Green Gables, James Trotter and many others).

Solution 2. Parents gone to Peru (Grimble) or so absorbed in their own lives that they might as well have gone to Peru

Solution 3. Parents alive but stay-at-homes (Just William, Famous Five).

In my last book, HACKING TIMBUKTU, I made use of the old 'Gone to Peru' trick, or in Danny's case 'Gone to Australia':

'Where are your parents?'
'My dad and my step-mum live in Australia.'
'Australia?' The policeman frowned. 'Why don't you live with them?'
Danny swallowed hard. 'I just don't.'
'You mean they upped and went?' said the policeman. 'Left you here all on your own to fend for yourself?'
'They pay the rent on this place,' muttered Danny. Don't feel sorry for me, he thought. You don't know anything about me. I live here and they live there, that's all there is to it. I'm sixteen. I can look after myself.

No more reason is given for Danny's parents leaving than for Grimble's. We don't need it, we just need them out of the way.

I was interested to read Mal Peet's review of GONE by Michael Grant today. It begins:

"It's axiomatic that for the fun to start the adults must be disposed of. Michael Grant does this in the most perfunctory and audacious way. From a chunk of southern California, everyone over the age of 15 vanishes in an instant, just like that - poof! Teachers in mid-sentence, drivers from cars, parents at home, all gone."

So there you go - all adults disposed of in the very first paragraph - the most simple and delightful solution yet. Why hasn't anyone else thought of that before?

Posted by sahelsteve at 12:21 PM

Fechiba Fechiba Fechiba

The horse festival in Barani (Burkina Faso) is called Fechiba, which stands for Festival Culturel et Hippique de Barani.

Not Feshiba with an s, as I mistakenly wrote in the Times Fechiba article and elsewhere. I wouldn't mention it at all, except that Google tends to care deeply about little things like spelling.

With us at Fechiba this year was travel photographer Rupert Sagar-Musgrave, who has posted these amazing photos of the Fechiba horse festival.

Rupert also took a couple of these.

Roll on, Fechiba 2010. Oh, and for the sake of those Googlebots, here are properly spelled links to my earlier Fechiba posts:

Fechiba Kingdom and the Horse
Photos of Fechiba 2008
Fechiba Sunday Times Travel
Roughing It at Fechiba

Posted by sahelsteve at 09:05 AM

April 10, 2009

For you, for me

On our way from Djibo to Ouaga recently I passed a woman riding a bicycle, taking oranges to market. She had a huge crate of oranges tied onto the back of her bicycle, and a huge bowl of oranges balanced on her head as she rode. She also had a small child tied to her back. It was an impressive feat of balance and determination.

I have blogged before about the many words the Fulani have for carrying something. I think I included bammbude (carrying a child on your back) and roondaade (carrying something on your head) but I forgot about horginde (carrying something on the back of your horse or bike).

I also forgot the word roondande, which means to carry something on your head for someone else. A single word in Fulfulde – several in English!

Fulani Christians use the word roondande about Good Friday. Jesus took our sin and shame and carried it on his own head. The same an particle appears in gollande (to serve someone) maayande (to die for someone) and moyyinande (to make things good for someone).

Another word commonly used for carrying things is wakkaade – to carry something across your shoulders. It's quite a masculine word – used of a Fulani shepherd carrying a staff across his shoulders or of a Muslim warrior carrying a weapon across his shoulders.

Fulani Christians use the word wakkaade of Jesus carrying his cross. But this shoulder-carrying has none of the jauntiness of the shepherd or the menace of the mujjahadin. Jesus cross-carrying is an image of weakness, stumbling and vulnerability.

Yet it is also a compelling image of courage, self-sacrifice and love. Jesus didn't need to carry that cross, yet he chose to do it for us.

Iisaa wakkani kam: Jesus carried something across his shoulders for me.

Iisaa maayani kam: Jesus died for me.

Iisaa moyyinani kam: Jesus made things good for me.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13, KJV)

Posted by sahelsteve at 10:07 PM

April 07, 2009

More White African Quadrupeds

First there was...

Then there was...

And then...

2006 was clearly a good year for children's books about big white four-legged animals.

Posted by sahelsteve at 05:15 PM

A Big Clue

The Knights of Akonio Dolo are all a-twitter because they've just unearthed a massive clue to the whereabouts of the lost gold.

Posted by sahelsteve at 04:31 PM

Djibo Djottings

Dear friends,

Thank you for your ongoing prayers for our life and work here in Burkina Faso. Here is a brief update on how things are going:

1. The Studio

Our recording studio is more than half built. The walls are all in place and the roof is going on this coming week. All that remain are the doors, windows and wiring. Plus two large panes of glass to separate the 'cabine' technique from the sound booth. It's a very solid building and is so far withstanding regular blasts from the Saharan harmattan wind.

2. The Programming

As you may know, we have already started broadcasting weekly bible studies on Djibo's new radio station (we don't run the station but we pay for airtime). The studies are very relevant to Muslims and feedback so far suggests that people are enjoying them. If you find yourself praying at 6.30 on a Tuesday evening, or at any other time, pray for switched-on radios and switched-on hearts.

3. The Charlie

Charlie's doing really well. You can read her news at
http://www.voiceinthedesert.org.uk/charlie. She's very conscientious about posting a monthly blog.

4. The Fulfulde course

My second crash fulfulde course ended this week. It consisted of three Brazilian missionaries, two catholic priests, a nun, a security guard, a postman, a college student and the redoubtable Madame Nignan. They aren't yet entirely comfortable conversing in fulfulde but they can all greet, bless, make comments about the weather and tell the story of Choffal Bodeyal (Little Red Hen). Pray that they continue to make progress and begin to share God's love with Fulani people all over this town and region.

5. The Kids' Club

Children's Club has been going well these last few weeks. Their favourite game used to be Musuuji Mbaati (Dead Cats – somewhat similar to Sleeping Lions) until our friend Saff visited from London and brought with her TWO SPACE HOPPERS. The children have been watching the film 'Magdalena' (based on the 'Jesus' film) in several installments. We watched the resurrection this week and talked about Easter.

6. The Books

HACKING TIMBUKTU is aimed at 10+ boys and comes out in September.

SOPHIE AND THE PALOMINO PONY will be out in 2010, all being well. Available on Amazon or at local bookshops.

7. The Easter Holiday

As I write this, it's 45ºC in the shade. We're going to the UK today, to catch up with our families. Both looking forward very much to some cool April showers.

A very happy Easter to you all. Alla beydu jam.


Posted by sahelsteve at 12:31 PM