Monday, April 28, 2014

Could our kids survive this African Initiation?

I was texting with my oldest grandson—aged 19—while reviewing photographs from my first Senegal trip to study with the remote Bedik tribe. We were texting about using drugs and his plans for the next couple of months. He seemed so clueless about surviving, let alone thriving.

The photographs were of the Bedik in the tiny village of Iwol. I happened to be in the village while the 12 and 13-year old boys were in the first month of initiation. For one month, they run around the village in a very prescribed way from sunrise until sunset. I personally can tell you it was more than 110 degrees F hot.  The boys did get a short mid-day lunch break in the shade of a tree.
For one month of their initiation, these 12 and 13-year old boys run like this from sunrise until sunset through the village.
Then, after the month of running, the initiates would spend another five months in the bush by themselves, living on their own.  Occasionally, elders would visit each boy to give guidance and instructions on how to survive, understand their dreams and thrive.

When I asked Chief Keita why this initiation, he thought for a long time, then replied: "To learn the Secrets of Life."

No small task. This Bedik initiation was definitely not a classroom for the meek. This was not your fraternity drink-booze-until-you-pass-out initiation or the gang style shoot-another person test. Rather the Bedik want to test the boy's inner courage, to face their fears and to experience the mystical.

I could only imagine the thoughts that these Bedik boys experience during those six months of initiation. Then, while replying to my grandson's text, I tried to imagine him going through the Bedik initiation for six months.     What, no iPhone, no video games,.... no electricity?

Part of learning the "Secrets of Life" includes spiritual lessons.

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