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No Woman/No Cry: Thoughts on African Life

Zambian Sunrise:  Village woman carries first of many buckets of water.
Zambian Sunrise: Village woman carries first of many buckets of water.

It’s probably odd to read a
blog from ” Someone on Mission” that quotes Bob Marley.

But thanks to my African friend Eric, Marley’s “No Woman/No Cry” is stuck in my head.

More importantly, the song is buried in my heart. I wonder if I’ll ever get it out.
I’m not sure I want to lose it.

What song(s) always take you back to a
spot in your life journey? Why?

I’ll be adding more to this post during the day.

Blessings,

Curt

20130518-092736.jpg

Curt and DeDe leave for village homestay with our hosts,

Eric and Margaret.

**  Our Mission: To connect the love and power of the Lord Jesus Christ to those who’ve never heard and not yet responded.

 

No Woman . . . No Cry

Village life in Zambia.

It’s all about community.  In the village, everyone’s a cousin, or an aunt, or brother.

I’m sitting in our hosts, Eric and Margaret’s doorway watching people stroll by.

A frail woman passing with a five-gallon bucket of water balanced on their head.

I go back to the science classroom.  I believe water weighs 8.3 pounds per gallon. She’s carrying nearly fifty pounds on water on her head.

An elderly grandmother hunched over by a load of sticks for firewood.

Eric’s radio (run by a solar panel on the roof) blasts out Bob Marley’s “No Woman/No Cry.”

The words grip my heart.

I balance the songs lyrics with the difficulty of life for village women.

No woman, no cry
No woman, no cry
Oh my Little sister, don’t shed no tears
No woman, no cry

I recall the echo of the women wailing yesterday at the graveyard.

It chilled my soul.  I can’t get it out of my head.  Once again, I don’t want to.

Tasting, seeing, being part of grief is part of Africa.  Africans know this well and if you’re going to share friendship with Africans, you must be willing to share their grief.

No Woman, no cry.

I’ve learned so much in my month of living outside in the beauty of Zambia.

So much is different here

But so much is also similar.  At times even familiar.  It reminds me of the stories told by great grandparents of Louisiana life at the turn of the century.

Babies are born and we smile.

Loved ones die and we smile.

People fall in love.  They have dreams.

Many times those dreams are shattered against the hard rocks of life.

There’s an acronym for it: AWA   “Africa wins Again.”

A young girl smiles shyly as she passes.  She’s toting a baby brother half her size tied on her back.

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.

No woman, no cry.

That young girl will see lots of heartbreak in her life.  She’ll help bury—or be buried by—the people of this village.   It may be malaria, HIV, or a road accident.  Death is no respecter of age or youth in the African Bush.  An average life span of about fifty years says it all.

Good friends we have had, oh good friends we’ve lost along the way
In this bright future you can’t forget your past
So dry your tears I say

No woman, no cry
No woman, no cry
No Woman, No Cry.

Africans are resilient.  They walk on, carrying their loads.

Some loads are visible.  Others hidden.

No Woman  No Cry

My feet is my only carriage
So I’ve got to push on through
But while I’m gone…
Everything’s gonna be alright

As I prepare to leave this part of Africa,  I’ve added things in my pack.

The warm smiles that light up any room.

The slower-Louisiana-bayou-flow of life.  “Americans have the watches, but Africans have the time.”

“It’s O.K. to be late as long as you show up.”

Taking a nighttime bucket bath underneath the unbelievable nighttime sky.  As I soap my dirty feet, I can see the Big Dipper and Southern Cross on separate ends of the broad horizon.

I’ve been a recipient of the Kindness of Africa.  I plan to remember that when I get mugged, robbed, or carjacked.  The vast majority of Africans are honest, kind, and full of hospitality.  They’ll go without to share what they have with a stranger.

This very morning our host, Eric, sent a village boy 7 kilometers by bicycle to Covenant College Farm to buy a hen.

Naomi, Eric’s preteen daughter, killed and dressed the hen.  Margaret cut it into creative pieces and we enjoyed chicken for the next three meals.

At least DeDe and I did.  Eric and Margaret only ate chicken at the first meal.   DeDe and I ate it for two more meals, while our hosts ate mshema (plain grits) outside.

What do you say to kindness and sacrifice like this?

No woman, no cry

Said, said, said I remember when we used to sit
In the government yard in Trenchtown
And then Georgie would make the fire light
Log wood burnin’ through the night
Then we would cook corn meal porridge
Of which I’ll share with you

In the midst of their poverty, sharing what they have.

Give us this day our daily bread.

Village children, sent by their mothers, coming to buy 6 ounces of sunflower oil for the price of a single Kwacha. That’s about 12 cents.  It’s all they afford at the moment.

No woman, no cry.

Give us this day our daily bread.

I’ll always remember the joy of being in the bush during harvest time.  Ox-pulled carts loaded with maize corn.  Acrces of groundnuts (peanuts) being dug by hand.  Sunflower seeds being sifted, beans being snapped.

This joy mixed with the unspoken fear that this year’s harvest won’t be enough.

“The rains started late and ended early.”  The look of uncertainty I saw over and over as I inquired about the crops.

My fear is my only courage
So I’ve got to push on thru
Oh, while I’m gone
Everything ‘s gonna be alright, everything ‘s gonna be alright

No woman, no cry

The “waste not/want not” way of life that is so foreign to me as an American.

As this Southern sojourner/gypsy/pilgrim heads north on the next leg of my journey, I don’t want to forget these people.

Fresh friends, fresh food, fresh thoughts.

Lord, help me remember.  Teach me more.

It’s a privilege to be here in Africa.  Thank you Lord.

 

Post script:  Our host Eric had “No Woman/No Cry” on his cell phone.  As we walked several miles to church, he played the song repeatedly for me, holding my hand the entire time.*

I told him this would be our song and I’d think about him when I heard it. I’m keeping that promise.

*Before you think I’ve gotten “light in my loafers” over here, let me explain:  In Africa, it’s taboo to publically hold hands with a member of the opposite sex, even if it is your wife of thirty-plus years.

  • However, it’s common (and a great compliment) for a male friend to grip your hand.  Eric led me all over the village holding my hand.

Full lyrics to “No Woman/No Cry”

Said I remember when we used to sit
In the government yard in Trenchtown
Oba, ob-serving the hypocrites
As they would mingle with the good people we meet
Good friends we have had, oh good friends we’ve lost along the way
In this bright future you can’t forget your past
So dry your tears I say

No woman, no cry
No woman, no cry
Oh my Little sister, don’t she’d no tears
No woman, no cry

Said, said, said I remember when we used to sit
In the government yard in Trenchtown
And then Georgie would make the fire light
Log wood burnin’ through the night
Then we would cook corn meal porridge
Of which I’ll share with you

My feet is my only carriage
So I’ve got to push on through
But while I’m gone…

Everything’s gonna be alright
Ev’rything’s gonna be alright
Ev’rything’s gonna be alright
Ev’rything’s gonna be alright
Ev’rything’s gonna be alright
Ev’rything’s gonna be alright
Ev’rything’s gonna be alright
Ev’rything’s gonna be alright

No woman, no cry
No, no woman, no woman, no cry
Oh, little sister, don’t she’d no tears
No woman, no cry

My fear is my only courage
So I’ve got to push on thru
Oh, while I’m gone

Everything ‘s gonna be alright, everything ‘s gonna be alright
Everything ‘s gonna be alright, everything ‘s gonna be alright
Everything ‘s gonna be alright, everything ‘s gonna be alright
Everything ‘s gonna be alright, everything ‘s gonna be alright
So woman no cry, no, no woman no cry
Oh, my little sister
Don’t she’d no tears
No woman no cry

Oh my Little darlin’, don’t shed no tears
No woman no cry
Little sister, don’t she’d no tears
No woman no cry
______________________________________________________________

 

 

 

About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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2 comments

  1. Kay (Booty) Fontenot

    Brother Curt, So descriptive that I felt like I was there. Poignant, too. Thank you for making it relatable. I enjoyed reading it so much. Warm wishes to you and Mrs. Deedee!

  2. Curt:
    This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing it with us who have everything, and want more!

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