My apologies, devoted readers, I know it has been some time since we last met. Rest assured, your trusty blogger is back at her (slightly untidy) desk with plenty to say about Nimba and our most recent adventures in Guinea/the motherland/home. This week, we introduce you to Jen E., Jen C., and Cavetta, three dancers who made an amazing and very unique contribution to Nimba.
First off, our friends from Tuscon, Arizona, held a dance class to raise money from their local community to donate to Nimba. We think this is a FABULOUS idea that bears repeating! Everybody involved in such an endeavor wins: Nimba receives the dollars needed to build a Center for African dance in Guinea that generations can enjoy, and participants receive all the good feelings (not to mention the workout) from a dance class.
When we dance, especially with others, especially with live music, we engage in a process of transformation together, both at the individual and community level. We alter our body's natural rhythms as we breathe harder, as our hearts pump extra blood, as we sweat and stretch and pulsate, thereby transforming ourselves at the cellular level, which in turn translates to energy released outward through time and space.
Especially when we do this with a shared intention, dance can become a powerful kind of physical prayer, and as we dance to help each other, so too can only good things come.
Anyway, via the dance class and by spreading the word to their community, these brilliant women raised hundreds of dollars for Nimba (including a generous donation from their good friend Kuumba of the fabulous natural oils & fragrance company). The money went directly to construction of our perimeter wall and enabled us to do even more than we thought during our time in Guinea.

But that's not all. Our friends are not only great dancers, but are nurses to boot, and used a portion of the money raised by the dance class to purchase first aid and other basic medical supplies that are so hard to come by for many who live in rural Guinea.
On our last morning in Boke, we set out to distribute the supplies to area villages and our nurses were able to offer their counsel to the health-related complaints of the inhabitants. We had a translator help with the instructions and cautions on bottles of ibuprofen, tubes of antibacterial cream, bandages, and simple remedies for troubles of the gastric variety.
In general, folks complained of back pain and occcasional tummy trouble, but there were instances when our nurses had to provide real first-aid assistance for burns and infected wounds or try to help soothe and diagnose a sick baby.
It was an eye-opener (at least it was for me, your trusty blogger) to see how even a mild sickness or infection can turn into a considerable discomfort or threat when basic medical attention is not available, but at the same time, we were all curious about local and traditional medical practices.
A central tenet of Nimba is that the best results come from mutual enlightenment and respect, and we learn a lot from our Guinean counterparts. For all we showed folks how to bandage a leg burn or take an aspirin for a bad headache, Guinean traditional knowledge and health practices would later play a large and just about lifesaving role in Nimba's adventures. (More on that story coming soon!)
Kismet saw to it that we met this gentleman along the way with his remarkably apropos t-shirt, and we here at Nimba heartily agree with the sentiment, and would like to thank Jennifer E., Jennifer C., and Cavetta again for their wonderful, selfless work.

We'd also like to take this opportunity to recognize the other workshop participants who have helped Nimba along the way and/or made valuable, exemplary contributions on a personal level to our Guinean community. With admiration and gratitude, we recognize Jacqui Miller, Kim Porter, Daniela Stefano, Iman Tamiko, Ann Bergeron, Marita Kennedy-Castro, and everyone else who gave Nimba their Guinea francs, dollars, and their wonderful support!   
The AZ dancers' project and their initiative fit perfectly with Nimba's long-term desire to provide a platform for people interested in working towards positive change in West Africa to bring their own skills to the table. We hope that someday Nimba will allow us all to use our powers for good, and we hope this story inspires you to find where you fit in our overall project. Donate a dance class, the proceeds from the sale of a work of art, a bake sale, or whatever you come up with, and join Youssouf's global community of Nimba supporters.

Till next week....
Considering the famously dire repercussions of "all work and no play," Nimba took a break from work at Bentouryah and hit the road with Youssouf's workshop to travel to the lush region of Boke, about four hours north of Conakry. Boke is as important as it is beautiful: it is Youssouf's ancestral home (his grandfather was one of the last chiefs of Boke), a hub of Baga resistance to colonial invasion, and, later, a key site of the slave trade in Guinea.

Pictured below: a lovely rural village scene in Katamene and a museum photo of a family of holdouts against French colonizers.
After one of the smoothest voyages in recent Guinean tourism history (meaning, we somehow did not encounter engine trouble, police or military checkpoints, car-eating potholes or heavy traffic) and a few stops for directions, our school bus turned down what appeared to be a tree-lined footpath to take us, quite literally, over the river and through the woods to our destination. The sun set as we gingerly made our way through the rustling forest, and after crossing the bridge on foot (on account of it being a touch too delicate for the busload of people), we finally arrived at Katamene.

It was full dark by the time we unloaded the mattresses brought all the way from Bagatai, dined on fish and plantains, and cracked open a few bottles of certain provisions that pair particularly well with an evening in the fresh country air. Annie's favorite recipe: rum & jus d'ananas (pineapple) sipped from a coconut shell purchased earlier that day on the side of the road.

Anyway, after a chilly night spent sleeping on the porch in mosquito nets, we woke to this beautiful view:
and had breakfast al fresco:
As always when traveling with Youssouf, the next order of business was, you guessed it, dance class! This time, we had an audience of onlookers from the tiny surrounding village areas. We walked a little ways to get to the perfect shady spot, and we can't say enough of how lovely a walk it was.
Everything we saw was beautiful - the trees, the traditional houses... and we even saw a delivery guy.
Later that day, we took a little field trip into town and visited the museum there. There, we got a taste of Guinea's rich history commemorated in traditional masks and beautiful wood works. We saw a very old statue of Nimba, the Baga fertility goddess (and national symbol of Guinea) that is our namesake and, apparently, used to be called Dimba before the spelling got screwed up under colonialism and stuck.
We learned also that traditionally, women played sacred drums, which (gleefully) undermines the uneven gender norms in ballet-style dance & drum seen today.
What comes next was perhaps the most powerful part of the entire trip, but fair warning, it is a deeply difficult one to see and discuss. Before you continue, please prepare yourself to think about and see images of the history of the Atlantic slave trade.

The Musee de Boke is housed in what was essentially an office building for slave traders and a dungeon for those captured and sold. The energy there was palpable, painful, and immense. It is difficult to describe visiting the point of no return for so many, numbered and unnamed; walking the walk others were forced to traverse in chains; and contemplating from the earthen dock the river that would lead to the ocean that would lead to the unknown for so many ancestors of the African diaspora. Difficult though it may be, we encourage everyone to go there, both literally and figuratively. Immerse, experience, educate - acknowledge, remember, heal - trace, connect, and recognize.
Well, that's all for now, friends. We hope you'll stay tuned for our next entry when we spotlight Nimba's amazing nurse-dancer-friends, meet some Katamene villagers, and make some music to complete our Boke adventure.