My trip to La Push this last April was the first immersion experience I was embarking on with GCN. I believed so much in the veracity of their assertion that they were providing unique immersion experiences to local communities worldwide and that's partly why I came to work for the organization. But belief and experience are two different things! This was not my first immersion experience given that I was born in a small village in the hinterlands of Cameroon, where vehicles hardly went, and we had neither running water nor electricity! So yes, coming to this country 2006 was the biggest immersion of my life.
We arrived La Push and life slowed down to an unquestionable rhythm that seemed to mimic the Pacific waves that rolled unto the beautiful beaches and the sounds of the winds in the lush forest that surrounded this village. On our very first day we could not but marvel at the beautiful setting sun that hung suspended over the Pacific Ocean as we watched the eagles flying and disappearing into the gleaming light.
The entire week, everywhere we went, we were welcome with open arms and presents. From the tribal craftsman, whom I visited together with the elder of elders, Roger to the visits with James Jamie my friend and warm hospitality of Marie (the smell of indian tacos as we arrived their home......yum!). Mr Wilson, Roger and I talked about the origins of the Quileute, and Roger then sang his family song that could not be recorded or performed by even the other tribes members without the permission of his family. He prayed for the craftsman, his friend and tribal brother and I was invited to sing a song from my own tribe the Nso of the North West Province of Cameroon. In that little circle of friendship and kindred spirit, Mr Wilson, the craftsman, stated that it felt as if we had always known each other; as if there was no beginning to that moment and no end. I felt a peace of self I hadn't felt in a long time. A knowledge that I was back home in my little village Ndzeru, but yet miles away in La Push.
How can I begin to describe the music we made with Roger, who welcomed the entire GCN team to his home and in the true hospitality of the Quileute, gave us tribal musical instruments to practice a song on and then performed both Nso and Quileute Songs with us. What about the opportunity to sing and drum at the sacred circle that holds on Wednesday evenings and Roger performing for the GCN team on his Harmonica - a feat that even some old tribal members had never seen! What about the presents of necklaces, and a symbolic walking stick and medicine bag from the tribe's leading spiritual healer and craftswoman!
The GCN's team learned to listen to the voice within us that bid us to express our experience through art, guided by the tribal craftsman - a process and education in the myths and legends of the Quileute that I'll never forget. The cleaning projects, the trip to the rain forest and the overwhelming feeling of acceptance by the tribes' members are memories that are unforgettable.
I went on a trip that turned into a journey home.