Mali and Oregon
Also in Arizona; plus (Scottish) holidays
Date: Fri, 26 Nov 1999 09:23:39 +0000
We had a good Thanksgiving. Of course Thanksgiving isn't a holiday here. There is absolutely nothing happening that would remind you of the season so celebrating it seems a bit forced. Jamie and Corinna (our two year team members) came the 2.5 hour drive from their villages to be with us and spend the weekend in Bamako. Trish and Larry, our other team members, are on vacation in the States.
Our dinner was more or less traditional with roast chicken and two kinds of pie--pumpkin and cherry. The cherries came out of a can but I bought a huge pumpkin at the side of the road and made that from scratch. At the last minute we decided on ice cream with our pie so Jamie, Corinna and I jumped in the truck and drove to the nearest branch of the Malian ice cream company--FAN. The ice cream comes in little plastic tubes that street vendors sell. This works out to be a perfect single serving. You serve it with scissors--cut and squeeze onto your pie! Turns out they've been out of vanilla for a week so we came home with strawberry and chocolate--the only other flavors.
We were to eat at noon but last Sunday Moriba asked John and others to visit a nearby village with him. He didn't give details but was very insistent. He had promised the village a visit on Thursday so John and I quickly decided we'd eat at 6 PM.
John and Karim drove with Moriba to a little Fulani village 15 Ks beyond Falani. John wasn't surprised to see a Fulani settlement there--numerous Fulanis had come to our dental clinics--but he was surprised that Moriba was taking him there. When you ask the Bambara what group of people are to them as the Samaritans were to the Jews they all answer at once: "the Fulani."
How did this happen? Several months ago John and the guys worked together on improving the road to one of the remote villages they visit. Moriba's older brother Yaya helped them. That day he told Moriba that he knows what Christians believe is true. He admires them because they are loving and "straight." He knows that one day he will be a believer too. Yaya didn't just tell this to Moriba. He also told this to his acquaintances in the Fulani village! They asked Yaya to ask his brother to ask the Christians to visit!
The men were in the fields but the women excitedly called them in when our group arrived shortly after noon. After initial greetings there was the excitement of rounding up the two chickens that were to be killed and cooked in honor of the visitors. They ate together at 4 PM. Only then did the real discussion start! Karim introduced them to the message we have to share. He explained that God created men and women to be in fellowship with Him. Created in the image of God, they have the ability to choose. They may choose to be in a loving father-child relationship with God. Or they can make other choices which result in slavery--to selfishness, to evil, to laws that they hope will gain them acceptance with God. He told them we can make wise choices only if we know what God is really like and how he relates to man. We can discover these things from observing God at work in the stories we find in the Bible.
The villagers received well all that was said. Our group will now be planning how to respond to their request to come and share these stories.
We didn't eat our Thanksgiving dinner until 8 PM when John finally got home but it was a double celebration--for the openness of the village and the eagerness of our Bambara Christians to share with them.
Joanne G Gray
"All will be well...and every kind of thing will be well." --Julian of Norwich
Date: Fri, 26 Nov 1999 11:21:27 -0800
What a small world this is when I can get up and read with my morning coffee Joie's fascinating account of Thanksgiving in Mali the day after it happens.
I went to a Thanksgiving Eve Interfaith service held in the United Methodist Church that reminded me in a different way of how interconnected we are all becoming. The call to worship was done by a Moslem Imam first in Arabic and then in English. Then there was an opening prayer by my Unitarian Universalist minister and a sermon by the minister of the local Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. This was followed by a Jewish chant first in Hebrew and than in English.
After this we sang the six verses of a song from the Methodist Hymnal ("God of the Sparrow, God of the Whale", no. 122) stopping after each verse for readings from Baha'i scripture, the New Testament, the Bhagavad Gita (in Sanskrit and in English), the Koran and finally a Jewish prayer. The offering was conducted by a Catholic priest to benefit the Interfaith Shelter and was followed by a prayer by an Episcopal priest. The service ended with the singing of America the Beautiful by a combined choir and the unision reading of a blessing composed by Rabbi Rami M Shapiro and led by the minister of the First Christian Church.
It was far and away the most ecumenical service I have ever been to. I very much like the idea that people of very diverse faiths can worship together even if they don't share the same theology. It feels like at least a small step towards living together in peace.
I was shown unity in diversity in a different way yesterday at my sister's house where I saw my oldest nephew and his family. He is married to a black woman, has two black step children as well as an adopted Korean daughter and two biological children from his first marriage, truly a multiracial family.
I hope the rest of you have all had a great Thanksgiving too and that you, Robert, are having a terrific 59th birthday today!
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Subject: Re: Thanksgiving (in Arizona and Scottish holidays)
I've just returned from 2-1/2 weeks with our daughter and son-in-law in Scottsdale, AZ -- our first Thanksgiving in the US for 25 years! It was quite a change from Edinburgh, to put it mildly First of all, there was the weather -- beautiful at this time of year, and a contrast to Edinburgh which is cold (not in a league with the midwest and Canada, however) and often rainy -- the Scots term is "dreich" (the "ch" pronounced as in German) -- and the days are very short. So constant sunshine, daytime temperatures between 65 and 90 degrees, virtually no humidity were all very welcome. But the need to use a car to go almost anywhere and the lack of any city center or urban focus -- other than the very touristy "Old Scottsdale" -- made me glad to come back to Edinburgh, with its castle (lit at night) perched up on its volcanic plug, its interesting Old and beautiful New Town, its excellent public transport, and my bicycle (though I could have ridden one in Scottsdale had one been available and had I known where to go). On the other hand, the desert is beautiful, and I look forward to future trips on which we'll travel farther afield and also to learn a bit more about the various Native American cultures in the region.
I've been cleaning up my Inbox, and found I'd been holding onto this note from Gil about holidays. I assume the Canadian Thanksgiving came from the British church celebration of Harvest Thanksgiving, usually about the second Sunday in October, when the fruits of the harvest were traditional brought to church and distributed to the poor. Such services are still held throughout the UK, though in our church some of the fresh produce is sold to members of the congregation and the money used for charitable purposes, while canned or packaged foods are distributed to appropriate community groups. The WW I armistice is still marked here, at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, with a ceremony attended by the Queen and numerous veterans groups at the Cenotaph in London. Similar ceremonies are held at war memorials throughout the country, though these are often held instead on the nearest Sunday to the 11th (Remembrance Day); there is always a 2-minutes silence at 11 a.m. I attended the one in Edinburgh a year or two ago and found it very moving, especially that long silence.
The UK does celebrate a Labour Day, but on May 1 (along with Communist countries) or the nearest Monday. I think it was brought in by the Labour Party after the war, and the Tories have tried repeatedly to replace it -- by marking the battle of Waterloo or D-Day or somesuch -- but have always been unsuccessful. Whatever else our "new" Labour prime minister does, I don't think Labour Day is under threat!
Other holidays include Christmas Day and Boxing Day (the 26th) -- in the past Christmas celebrations were regarded by Scots Presbyterians as pagan and Christmas, when my father-in-law was growing and almost up until WW II, was a working day in Scotland. New Year and 2 January: New Year's, known as Hogmanay, is a big holiday in Scotland, though not as big as it used to be -- when I first came here in 1973 there wasn't much done for a week or more around New Year's; Good Friday (like other religious, Christian or otherwise, celebrations) is not generally a holiday, but Easter Monday usually is, being one of the so-called Bank Holidays that occur about 4 times a year (not always the same in Scotland as in England/Wales). Even these are largely holidays for white collar workers in the banking and insurance industries, lawyers, civil servants, etc. There are various local holidays -- for example, in some Scottish towns and cities (including Edinburgh but not Glasgow) we celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday on the Monday around 22 May. And workers have so-called "trades fortnights", the working man's traditional 2-week holiday, which in Edinburgh is the first two weeks in July and in Glasgow the second two weeks; workers in the building trades and such-like industries still take their trades holiday. We also mark "Mothering Sunday" in early May, though it's increasingly being Americanized to Mother's Day, and Father's Day (3rd Sunday in June, as in the US) cards are available (as well as cards for Grandparents Day, which I saw being sold not long ago). And of course we acknowledge Valentine's Day. Specifically Scottish dates of note, though not holidays, are St Andrew's Day (30 November) and Burns Night (25 January), the latter being marked by Burns Suppers everywhere, though increasingly at the weekend rather than on the day -- haggis must be on the menu and accompaniied by a recitation of "To a Haggis" and whisky is imbibed, often in great quantities. The Loyal Toast involves a salute to the poet and is followed by a Reply on Behalf of the Lassies, whom Burns loved, and there are usually songs and a recitation of "Tam o' Shanter", the wonderful poem about witches and warlocks on the Eve of All Hallows when the hapless mare Nan lost her tail.
In short, we have very few national holidays -- evidently we have fewer than any other country in Europe, which I always assume is because the UK is such a secular society despite England's having an established church. On the other hand, vacation entitlement is far more generous than the US -- most people get at least 4 weeks a year and Niall gets 6 weeks as an employee of the NHS, which I think is fairly common, although he seldom if ever takes it all.
That's probably far more than you ever wanted to know! But now I can clear my Inbox!
Happy birthday to everyone I haven't wished it to. Does anyone feel older than 29?
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Class of 59