Embarrassed In West Africa

I arrived at this remote village and had to meet every single family within the whole campement.  I was led down every back path to meet people in each village hut,  even people living on the outer fringes of the village, families in the bush really.

As I exchange greetings, news, and small talk a curiously humbling thing takes place three times today.

This curious activity is a common enough experience over my last twenty years around Africa. But my familiarity with it has not made it any less difficult to submit to.

While walking the village paths, my pant legs, and especially my socks around the ankle, pick up a good dose of tiny, brown, barbed plant seeds. The barb on the small seeds hook in my fiberous cotton clothing making it quite a chore to pull them off.

Yet, as i walk from courtyard to courtyard, chatting and visiting, the pesky barbed seed are all picked off my pant legs below the knee, but even more embarrassingly from the sweaty socks around my ankles. No small task. It is not so alarming or so embarrassing when two or three young children set about doing the task when they notice.

However, when an elderly woman, and her grown, married daughter do so, it is quite humbling. 

I once refused saying, “Ça va, merci”. “It’s fine, thank you”. But it was clear that my refusal embarrassed my heloful hosts.  So I never refused again. 

After all, it is their way of honoring me, of looking after their respected guest. So, I said nothing against their kind deed.

The feeling of being utterly unworthy of such humble acts of kindness or respect sits deeply on my soul. 

Africa is a good place, with some wonderfuly thoughtful people who put me to shame. 

To this day, every time I hike, or walk, on either side of the Atlantic Ocean, if i see plant debris on my cloths or socks, I think of these humbling African gestures. Many a night  as I sit on the edge of my bed and peal my socks off, I remember. 

The barbs are now attached in my memories too. 

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