The Big Hug(s) of Niognani

We arrived in Niognani, Kekouta’s village, today and were immediately welcomed like family members. It feels so good to be back after two years. It feels like such an important relationship for our school back. Here are some thoughts from our ‘pillow talk’ this evening:

‘I would say when we got here I thought there would be a lot of kids but we only saw a few. 30 minutes later, they had multiplied and I was surrounded by dozens of kids who I was somehow communicating with and learning from and picking up. There is so much life and fun here – can we stay?!’ -Bryan

‘It felt like we were at home in a very different way than at any other time so far. I was really comfortable at Bandia’s but I always felt like a guest but here I immediately feel part of this place. They also made me sweat because patty cakes in the dark isn’t easy!’ – Ms. Wessinger

‘I’d make a metaphor out of this place but it’s too real. But here I go – coming here, the whole experience was like hugging someone for the first time, the tension of not knowing how it will go. But then we were sitting around a bowl of mafe with the sounds of happy kids and the hug, it turns out, was perfect.’ – Andrew

‘It never matters what time we leave to come here, we always arrive at dark. This time I felt like a shadow at first, entering this place that I know but have been away from for so long. But within a few minutes, I felt right here and so warm and bright. After years of not being able to come back and after our global struggle with COVID, I felt the hugs. It felt so real and so bright and so beautiful. This place reminded me of myself and what life was before the pandemic and might be after it.’ – Ms. Brumfield

‘I feel like this place is a sanctuary of what life should be like, what normal really is. I am trying to absorb and be aware of every moment that I, of all people in our community, without the stress I carry with me everyday. This place exudes safety. It’s so foreign but it just feels other worldly in it’s safety and warmth.’ – Nurse Valadez

‘Hugging people with your whole heart is part of maintaining one’s wellbeing, and we feel that here so much.’ – Ms. Brumfield

‘I feel like the moon is hugging us out here as we all sleep under mosquito nets outside.’ – Nurse Valadez

‘I have no idea what the kids are saying and they sometimes seemed to be kidnapping me, but the kids here are so fun. They make me think so much while also feeling so free.’ – Cameron

3 thoughts on “The Big Hug(s) of Niognani

  1. Yallah Barna! This post has me in tears!! Andrew, you hit the nail on the head. It brings me so much joy and hope to know that you all are experiencing such a beloved and delightful place – feeling the “sanctuary” of it like Gidget said. And, even more, it’s so impressive that you’re all able to describe your first impressions in such a thoughtful, articulate way. Thank you for spreading the light and warmth here. Hug everyone for me and keep living into all of it!

    Like

  2. Yallah Barna! This post has me in tears!! Andrew, you hit the nail on the head. It brings me so much joy and hope to know that you all are experiencing such a beloved and delightful place – feeling the “sanctuary” of it like Gidget said. And, even more, it’s so impressive that you’re all able to describe your first impressions in such a thoughtful, articulate way. Thank you for spreading the light and warmth here. Hug everyone for me and keep living into all of it!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s