BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, AND WOULD LOVE TO DO IT AGAIN~!
My position as supervisor of our work in third world countries often allowed me to go places and see things that the average person may never have been allowed to do or see. While it is not a pleasant feeling when you are possibly considered the life blood of some people, at the same time, there is an advantage to be able to know them without prejudice and I was never really uncomfortable or looked down on the people that I worked and lived with, even if others might have been bigoted toward them.
This fact has made me understand that no matter what some people may be classed as, or how they live, they are human and have lives that it often pays to know and understand. They love, live, and have lives which may be different from ours, but this is their lives, and to a point it should be respected if sometime feared. To me the bigotry is often worse than the sins of the people they appose.
I have sat at a table with bandits and was able to laugh and talk with them, though I knew that they could be dangerous. I have drank thick very sweet tea with Bedouin chiefs in their gathered tents, while never seeing their women, who were concealed elsewhere. These meetings were made to negotiate field workers or purchasing fresh food supply from them or even obtaining permission to enter and work on what they considered “their land”. I have sat at parties of our workers where they danced with each other (man with man) to the cadence of others hitting on pop bottles, sticks, pots, or any other noise makers.
The Tuareg people of the Hoggar, and Mali are interesting. They are rather tall, and other than the blue that many wear, their skin also looked blue to me. Also the men cover part of their face while the women do not~! You will often see the men riding, not camels, but horses with a long rifle looking like they came out of a previous time. I have one of these guns and also swords hanging in my guest house. Those men are not dumb, the sand blows all day~! This is the area of Tombouctou, (Timbuktu in English) one of the most isolated towns on earth and also near the location of the Tassili cave paintings of things which happened eons ago. Like reading an old newspaper in paintings. I have several paintings of these hanging in my home. But that is another story of how I came by these things~!
One advantage I once had was to be invited to the wedding of one of my office workers. This I am sure was a departure from normal, but had many of traditional parts. This was one where I was actually allowed to see the bride, who I knew. Though she was under the protection, tutelage and guidance of what we might call “ladies in waiting”. This, as I said, was partly more modern than what I am sure would have been the more typical, but it employed some to the traditions.
The ladies prepared her with henna body art, putting designs on her hands, face, and other parts of her body, like placing a large coin in the palm of her hand leaving an impression of it in henna, and painting designs with henna on her face and body. Small Gold jewelry from the grooms family were given to her and her family, from the ancient tradition of when a bride was purchased. While this was going on, in another part of the house, we men sat on the floor around a large bowl of Couscous, scooping it up with our right hands to eat, with our left more or less behind us.
The procession was made with the women making loud shrill sounds with their tongues rattling on the roof of their mouths, and everyone was in a very gay mood, loudly shouting greetings both in Arabic and French.
But the most impressive tradition was the one after the ceremony when the bride and groom went up to an upper room, and shortly after that, a bed sheet was draped out of a window, with a red spot on it, much to the shouting of the people outside on the ground.