emit erambeni: (Diola) thank you
We spend one of the days of spring break exploring the Casamance countryside on mountain bikes. Here, in the Casamance region, while many people speak Wolof, the native tongue is Diola and most people are ethnically Diola. Our guide, Charles, is from the village of Oussouye, he teaches us a few words.
Our day mountain biking is more magical than I could have imagined. We plow through the jungle around Oussoye, weaving our way around palm trees and roots. We stop at a cashew farm and taste freshly roasted cashews.
We happen upon an initiation ceremony—a ceremony to initiate boys into men—that only happens once a year. We cannot believe it, that we have fallen across an event that we have only learned about in school, and Charles leads us to watch all the excited young men, dancing and singing around the bombolong, a large drum made from a hollowed-out tree trunk.
We watch as the sky fills with hundreds of bats, so many that at first I think they are birds, shaking the sky with the beating of their paper-thin wings. We turn and see vultures perched in gnarled old trees. We see the kapuke, a tree with roots that reach up as tall as a two-story building, whole groves of their sacred old trunks.
When we finally head back, after passing huge expanses of tranquil fields spotted by cows, we feel so grateful for such a wonderful day. Emit erambeni, Charles! we say. Thank you so very much!