An African childhood. The Mzungu* chronicles

cbc34

I grew up in Africa. West and East. I was born in what my family called India, Pakistan after the Partition, but I left at too young an age to really remember. See here for my earlier days in Karachi:

https://equinoxio21.wordpress.com/2017/08/17/snowball/

Africa is where I was raised. First in Conakry, Guinea, in West Africa then in Kenya, East Africa. Above: little sister and yours truly, dressed in our traditional Breton costumes, on our way to a costume party, Conakry. c.1961.caa01

Conakry, West Africa, 1960, near the Air France office. My father is left with a visitor from Paris headquarters. That immense tall tree is called a Fromager in French. The same trees can be found in the Lacandon forest or the Amazon, they’re called ceibas. I believe the English name is kapok. A leper used to beg for money, sitting under the tree. His fingers were gone. He had no nose. Just an empty, triangular hole.

cbe04

Patrice Lumumba, left, was the first Prime Minister of the newly independent, former Belgian Congo. He was visiting Sékou Touré, right, the first President of former French Guinea. c. 1960? We arrived in Autumn 1959. I was 5. I still remember my first African birthday in December. Magic and adventure. This particular photo is quite a symbol of what happened to Africa after Independence. Lumumba was assassinated shortly after, in ’61, by political rivals. Sékou Touré stayed in power until his death in 1984. He imprisoned and killed close to 50,000 of the people of Guinea, including many friends of ours. See “The Colonel’s gardens”:

https://equinoxio21.wordpress.com/2017/02/07/the-colonels-gardens-an-african-childhood/

A symbol, I said, of Africa’s fate in the 60 years since Independence. Except for a handful of countries, Africa, “my” Africa, has known nothing but assassinations, military coups, massacres,  even genocide in Rwanda, famine and poverty.

ccb03

At the orphanage, Conakry, West Africa. c. 1961. I’ve posted that picture before. With my white socks and fascination for the baby elephants, while little sister is hiding behind my mother. Sis loathed elephants. Scared to death. Fortunately, at that time, Sékou Touré had not yet gone raving mad, and life in Africa was safe and easy.

cbb05a

My mother had a “4 chevaux” car like the one above. “4 horsepowers”. By today’s standards a miniature car in which she would pack us children to go to the club or to visit friends. We often found snakes under the car. Always proceed with caution in Africa. One of our cats, Têtu, liked to sleep on top of the tyre near the engine, because it was warm. Was he cold in Africa? That always ended up in a severe detergent bath for the engine oil-covered cat. Cats don’t like baths.

cdb08

Karen Blixen wrote: “I had a farm in Africa”. One of the best opening sentences ever. We had a house in Africa, right by the African sea. No fancy beach, except for 10 square feet of grey sand at low tide, mostly black rocks and the open sea. Conakry, c. 1962.

cdb10

Fishing boats passed by. Dolphins by the dozen. We were home-schooled, so I learned at a very early age to do my homework as fast as possible, report completion of duties to my mother and go swimming, or fishing or take our small inflatable boat out. We played pirates all day. The sea was our set.

cce16ab

The house was small by today’s standards. Two bedrooms, one bathroom and a living room. The dining table was outside by the sea. Yet a true palace in my mind’s eye. Those chairs now fetch a handsome price on the vintage market.

cce16ad

No respectable house then was complete without a bar. Very 50’s-60’s. I still have the portraits my mother had made of us. They have traveled a wee bit since they were hanging on those African walls.

ccc06a

Little Sister. c. 1960. Every Sunday we would go the islands of Loos. A few miles off the coast of Conakry. In the first months we would sail in a wooden contraption of a boat the French call “pinasse”. The boat belonged to Péchiney, a French mining company whose Director was a friend of ours. A loud engine with this unique sound – and smell – of sea engines. Slow too. Plenty of time to read the adventures of Tintin, drop anchor in the high sea and waddle by 15 meters of water, or take a nap, before reaching the islands. (Robert L. Stevenson was my hero). Later on, most expats would buy a small motorboat.

Péchiney was the company in charge of mining Bauxite, the main source of aluminium. Guinea has the world’s largest reserves of bauxite, above Australia. And yet, Guinea is one of the poorest countries in the world.

ccc10a

Yours truly, en route for the islands. I was about 6-7 maybe? There were no life vests. We knew how to swim. 🙂 (Already posted that one I think)

cch09x

Breakfast at the “dining” table during the high tides of the Equinox. Those tides are the reason for the name of this blog. During Equinox, as the sea rose, the high tides covered the black rocks outside and reached up to the terrace, only a foot under the dining table. Sometimes a storm would start and send waves crashing on the table. We ate inside.

cdb19

Homework done, Mom. 🙂 The water was not always “ideal”. Some jellyfish on occasions.

cdb23

Portuguese man-of-war. Extremely venomous, can kill fish, even humans. This “jellyfish” floats on the surface with the bluish “thang” that looks like a plastic bag working as a “sail”. The tentacles can be 30 ft long. So you can get stung (stang?) even at quite a distance. I got stung once, don’t know whether by this or another jellyfish species. Had a question-mark scar on my tummy for years. We found this one at low tide in the rocks. Put it in a bucket with gloves. My dad’s job. That’s what Dads are for. Do the dangerous stuff.

ch02

Catch of the day on the island. My father’s left, Sis right. The barracudas would be served at lunch, grilled on charcoal in a hole on the beach. Roume island, West Africa, c.1962.

*Mzungu. Plural: wazungu. It is a Bantu (Swahili) word used in East Africa from Uganda to Kenya to Tanzania to Zambia and in the great lakes region, from Rwanda, Burundi, to Congo Kinshasa. It means “white man”, or woman. The origin of the name dates back to the 18th century, when European explorers came to East Africa searching for the source of the Nile, the gold mines of Solomon, or the Mountains of the moon, what have you. It literally means traveller or wanderer. Africans then could not understand why Europeans could not stay in place, why they had to move all the time. Mimi na Mzungu. I am a Mzungu, a wanderer.

To be continued…

Cover photo: Little sister at the house by the sea. c.1962-63. (Haven’t said that in a while, but obviously all photos on this blog are mine, (C) and all that, except for the Lumumba picture.)

 

 

 

130 thoughts on “An African childhood. The Mzungu* chronicles

  1. Brieuc, so many thoughts in my mind after reading this! Where to start? First of all, your photos are always a joy to see, reposted or not, and they remind me of Tarzan – and a bit of my own tropical childhood too, though less exotic and with zero elephants. You two tanned little African kids look happily wild in a way that means you have adapted perfectly to your environment. Your sister’s blond hair just adds to the contrast. Childhoods are all about being wild and happy 💕 And as for the words, what a fabulous read. I think I need to go back to check what it was in particular that I wanted to comment on.

    • Hi Lumi. I thought this post might ring a bell with you. 🙂 And yes, we were… “wild”. Didn’t really wear shoes until I was ten. Except for special occasions. Most times we’de run around barefoot. (Cautious of snakes though)
      And yes, that’s what childhood is about. ❤

  2. Ah yes! 1) I had a farm in Africa is such a powerful start, I agree. It just has just a longing feel to it, with so few words. It also tells of how so many of us have lived ”many lives”, ie done things that later on seem like someone else’s life. 2) How long did the poor lepers live after loosing precious pieces of themselves? Years? Days? Shoking. We always imagine those things happening to ”someone else”, but imagine if that was your reality. Begging and people avoiding you, noseless. 3) Those jellyfish!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😯😯😯😯😯 4) What an amazing origin to your blog’s name and I’m very happy to know the story now!! 😊

    • 1) Absolutely. On all levels. Blixen, as many of us, never really got over Africa. And often, our “many lives” seem like out of this world. For the “normal” people. ‘ts why I often say I lived inside the book. 🙂
      2) Sadly they can live long lives. Miserable lives. As they are often cast away. Lepra (Leprosy) Is curable. Antibiotics. Yet there still are 200,000 new cases everyyear.
      3) That jellyfish was very dangerous. My mother almost died of shock one day, skiing, she fell in the middle of several of those.
      4) And yes, that is the origin of the name. Les grandes marées de l’équinoxe. Standing on the terrace while the waves hit and hit and the sea was almost at ground level. 🙂
      Bonne soirée Lumi

      • You caught me. 🙂 I have – almost – total recall, not like on TV, but close. I remember just about everything (90%?) since I’m 4 or 5. Particularly images. I think it’s called eidetic memory. I also remember most of what I write. Taking notes at the U. or at work served as a memory prop. Almost never looked back at the notes. Of course the photos and films my mother made help, but I can close my eyes and I’m back on that terrace. 🙂

      • Extremely useful of course, particularly in a business environment. Now, it can be a curse when you want to forget certain things. And there’s no way it will happen. 😉

      • I always remember people. Everyone I’ve met or seen. Neighbors, ex colleagues, a woman in the bus yesterday and now walking by me in the park, women from this dance class and that, or from yoga ten years ago, a girl I once spoke to in the 90’s, the drunk guy who was there yesterday and here today… It can be awkward since they most probably won’t recognise me, so I’ve learned to act ”normal” as if I didn’t remember them 🤣 I remember their faces, clothes, things they said. Never names!

      • You have a sort of image memory. I’m not sure I would recognize the girl I spoke to in the 80’s but i know what you mean. And they of course don’t remember you. 🙂

      • One more thought. “Acting normal” is what you learn to do, very quickly, when when you return to your home country and feel like you (or they) are a Martian. So you act normal so “they” don’t realize you’re a Martian. 😉

      • Absolutely. Same happened to me in France. I stopped telling my “stories” because I could clearly see that either they couldn’t care less or I was showing off, inventing, that cannot be true… Strange isn’t it? How so many cultures don’t have the slightest curiosity about other ways. So few think “Hey, that’s interesting, maybe we could do something like that here, or adapt it.” 😦

  3. Love getting to know more of your story (and how the blog name connects)
    Also / nice as you do keep it succinct and interesting –

    lucky you to have so many photos to go with your memories – not always the case-
    Oh and the photo of your sis (breakfast one) well she looks so much like my younger sister looked in the 1970s. In the photo they could be twins –
    Anyhow – hope you have a great day ….

    • Thank you. I like to keep it short. Readers don’t have much time, so let’s cut to the chase? 😉
      Yes, I have a fantastic collection of family pictures. (Took years to digitalize, but it was worth it!) 🙂
      My sister was very blonde. All day with the African sun and sea. (Your daughter looks very blonde on the pictures) I like the idea of twin sisters. 🙂
      Thanks for the comment and visit Yvette. (Your name is Yvette, right? Very French) 😉
      Take care

      • Hi – yes – my name is Yvette – and I tried going with Prior – but once people learn my name I see it is a natural progress to go first name –
        and not sure if anyone has the photo of my little sister – she is holding a Mrs. Beasley doll – and looks just like your sis – and if I ever find a copy (via family) I will try and come back to share it.

        and my step-daughter has always been blonde- but her mother was a brunette and my hubs – her dad – was dark brown – so those genes gave her the blonde hair and not outdoors either – she has always been more of a home person – and I can only imagine her tan a few times — in contrast – your and th sis childhood was all beach – ahhhh – so nice – and for us – growing up in westerner new York – we made the Great Lakes our seaside and it worked okay

      • Yvette sounds nice. (And French too) 😉
        Yes that was a seaside childhood. But then I can imagine the Great Lakes as a fantastic playground. Kids always find magic anywhere they are right?
        Take care Yvette.

  4. Adorable et touchant ! Le frère et la sœur, et maman et papa, et la 4CV, la notre était rouge foncé, le fromager, j’en ai vu d’immenses mais il n’y en a pas par ici, et le petit poisson que petite sœur rapporte dans sa main droite. La fumée rose au fond est moins engageante … la bauxite !
    Merci tout plein, Brieuc.

    • Haha! une 4cv rouge? quelle classe. La nôtre était vert Régie. Sortie d’usine. Je vois que tu as noté plein de détails, le petit poisson étant l’un des meilleurs.
      Bonne soirée Gilles.

    • Thank you Gigi. It is the life many expat brats led. For us it was normal. Adjustment (back) to the “normal” Western way of life was the most difficult. But it can be done.
      Take care.

      • I’ve heard that from others. How difficult it was coming back to normal. In fact a couple of the kids went back to the jungles they had been raised in. That’s where their friends were. Their parents never considered that part.

      • Haha!. Not their parents’ fault. Just the way that system worked. 🙂 And one day, out of the “Jungle book” and “back” to “reality”. Hit me when I was 16 and went to France to study. For a while I wondered who was crazy. Them? Or me? Then later on, I found that half my expat brat friends went “back to the jungle”. Half the siblings stayed in France. My sister did. I Lived and worked in France for 10 years after I graduated, and left, with wife and kids for Mexico. Still here. 🙂

  5. I remember the uproar over Lumumba, the Americans played a dirty game of self interest (of course). I liked his vision of PanAfrica a union deeply influenced by the Soviet model in part and the early conceptualising of the EEC. I enjoyed reading and viewing this very much, a slice of history.

    • Thank you Vincent (or is it Paul?) 😉
      We will never know what Lumumba would have done. PanAfrica is a great symbol, though hard to put into action. Too many tribes and languages to begin with. Inside a single country. I mean, “Pan-Latin-America” has not even started.
      Thanks for for visiting and commenting this slice of Memory turning into History. (See Paul Ricoeur on Memory, History and Oblivion.)
      Take care

      • Lol, I was captivated by the doings in Africa, one of my uncles was in the British army in Kenya in the 50s and he came home and gave me a world map and we talked about the world, and in particular Africa, which I was seeing on the news. In high school I read about him and the dirty politics behind his murder.

      • So you are one of the dozen people alive you know about Lumumba! 🙂
        Now about your uncle, he was there during the Mau-Mau “emergency” then? My cousins were there too. Civilians living in Nairobi. One night the Mau-Mau raided the house while the parents were out. The Kikuyu Ayah (Nanny) ran with my cousin John, a few months old and hid in the bushes. Saved his life. Talking to your uncle must have been fascinating.
        (We went to Kenya only after Independence. In ’67) More to come on the Mzungu chronicles.

      • It was indeed fascinating, he told several stories of how the Mau-Mau instilled fear, he woke up to find his tent mate decapitated in the night!! He was involved in an accident where his truck was hit by a mud slide and he was repatriated. The Ayah was brave and saved the day, there were no prisoners.

      • Yes. Fear is the right word. I don’t think they had the resources to actually kick the English out, but fear was a powerful tool.
        Yet, after Independence, all was pushed aside. One of our boys, a Kikuyu, was most probably a former Mau-Mau. But you couldn’t tell. A most gentle man. 🙂
        And the Ayah was very brave. If she’d been caught, the baby might have been spared, but she would have been cut to shreds.

      • i was born in kenya in 2008 and i’ve always wondered why the brits saw us only as good as slaves.i mean we just have darker skin than them by the way i belong to the kamba tribe

      • A very good book, but, sooo difficult, It stays on my to read shelf. I struggle with a few pages from time to time. Put it back. Need to push it forward a tad. (And how do you know about Ricoeur?)

      • Ricoeur was on my list when I studied philosophy and theology at university, he is what we used to call, a very dense writer, each phrase needs unpacking. Hard work.

      • Which may explain why Macron – who was an assistant to Ricoeur – seems to have difficulties grappling simple realities. 😉
        Your library must be interesting to browse. If we agree on Harendt and Popper, that’s a good start!
        I so used to love looking at people’s libraries when visiting… Alas, so few people still have them.

      • It’s all excerpts now, few young ones bother to actually read whole books for study purposes, they form opinions by reading the opinions of others on any subject.

      • Very true. (We must be getting old) 😉
        Don’t read the book go to Goodreads and read the review. That will be enough for the exam. 😉
        I wonder what Shakespeare might have said about that. He seems to have an answer for every current issue.

      • Yes, he does, I think little has changed in regards to human behaviour, Solomon also, and Rumi seem to hit the nail. Yes, go to goodreads seems the default.

      • The wheel will come back around. Have a great day, Paul. Enjoyed our conversation across the space and time. You are already Friday and getting ready for breakfast. I am preparing for supper.
        A bientôt.

      • Indeed. And he is not without courage or intelligence. He had the opportunity to change. Radically. But sadly I think he has failed. And is paving the way for LePen. Who only has to shut up and pick up the debris. Sigh.

      • You’re right. I’ve always been a “Republican” at heart in the French sense. As opposed to Royaliste. (In the US I’d be a Democrat) and I have always considered the President or Prime Minister to be the first of our “servants”. They are our designated administrators. No more. But it gets to their head. “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…” (Have we gone down that road already?)

  6. Such rich experiences Brian my cousin married a man from Karachi…I’ve not travel to that part of the world…or Africa so I appreciate your images and narratives…thank you for sharing ☺️ have a joyful day enjoy your new grand baby too 👼💛 smiles Hedy

    • Dankje wel Hedy. On all counts. Has your cousin gone to live to Pakistan or has her husband come to live to Canada.
      Glad to “take” you to other parts of the world. Sometimes I feel the world can be so infinite…
      Grandaby 2 came for a visit yesterday. Had a nice siesta on my tummy. Quite warm. Need to take car of Grandbaby 1 too. Quite a change for him. Smiles back.

  7. That amazing tree in the first photo is stunning. I am sure you thought it was no big deal at the time but imagine having one in your garden now?

    Port. Man of War, no thank you. They scare me and are a good reminder that we weren’t meant to be in the sea.

    Love the 60’s décor. What a fashionable place at the time I am sure.

    • They’re magnificent trees. You’re right. I’ve seen many more in Latin America and they all bring me back to that very first tree by my father’s office.
      Jellyfish can be scary. We kids once saw a giant one at the boat club, in the waters we’d just been swimming. 4 ft in diameter maybe?
      Fashionable? Probably. My mother was always fashionable even in a swimming suit. 😉

  8. I enjoyed this very much. You were such a cute little boy!
    Africa has something that you cannot describe to anyone who did’nt grow up here. Such a pity that corruption and politics are sinking every African country. I say no more…

    • Haha! It is way easier to be a cute little boy that a cute little old man. 😉
      You and I, “Sis” know exactly what you mean. We also know (maybe I’ve said it before) that the Mzungu’s Africa is not the same as the Africans’ Africa. Neither better nor worse, just different.
      And indeed, say no more, lest we are accused of evil thoughts, but I agree with you 100%.
      Tot ziens, Sis.

      • We may or we may not. On the one hand, I get somewhat annoyed when Europeans who are not “wazungu”, have never been there, haven’t got a clue, don’t believe us when we simply say… the truth. On the other hand, I will state simple facts: the first President of Guinea killed 50,000 of his people. Fact. Undisputable. And his successors have kept the country in a stat of misery. Fact: Zimbabwe has been destroyed by Mugabe. And so forth.
        You too keep well, “Sis”.

  9. Say, your comment on the library post just disappeared when I was responding to it. It was very strange! I thought it was an interesting comment, may I ask you to repeat it? Muchas Gracias! Rebecca

  10. What an absolutely fascinating story ! You know, when I read this autobiographic story, the first phrase I could think of was the Swahili phrase “Hakuna Matata”, a kind of freedom and love of life. I think you had an amazing childhood. I like stories, yours however, are among the best I have ever read. You master the autobiographical writing style very well, you should write these kinds of stories more often, perhaps even a book. I look forward to the next part of this amazing adventure of your life. Have a nice day ! -D

    • Thank you D. 🙂 (Multumesc?) 😉
      Actually I also speak Swahili. At least some. Lived in Kenya afterwards. Will post it some day as part of the Mzungu chronicles. Thank you for your compliments. Sometimes I’m not sure I really “warrant” an autobiography. I was just lucky. I am however writing it in bits and pieces. Maybe from a book one day. Meanwhile, if you haven’t read it I recommend “the monkey incident”:
      https://equinoxio21.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/the-monkey-incident-by-brian-martin-onraet/

      • Cu placere is easy to understand. Most times I have lots of trouble with Romanian. But I will “crack” it one day. 😉
        Don’t know whether I am, but I’m glad you like the stories. I started writing short stories years ago. I was in market research, where beyond the report you have to tell a story to the client. Make it more interesting. (And more fun to do the presentation than just percentages or verbatims.
        A bientôt Doina.

  11. Heard about Lumumba in Primary. It was in all the papers.

    This kind of childhood shapes the rest of your life.

    Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish often is washed ashore here in autumn.

    • Lumumba was the first victim of post-Independence.
      Yes, after such a childhood I had to “act normal” for a while. 😉
      Man-of-war? In Ireland? You don’t say? I thought they were only in warm waters. (At least not many people go swimming over there. Or do they?) 🙂

  12. You had such a vibrant childhood, Brian. Truly fascinating. “Always proceed with caution in Africa.” Those words capture it all. You had quite an education about life in that untamed part of the world, life in general. The photos and your story are so evocative. I can’t help but think of the stories Monsieur Riso (Le Ex) used to tell me about growing up in New Caledonia in the 1970s and 80s. All of the turmoil and complexity. An expat childhood creates a unique individual. Thank you for sharing your memories. Bises.

    • Glad to share. As you know I have had a few “Caldoches” friends, though M.Ex was a “Zozo”, we all understood what we’d been through. Though the specific experiences were different. And no point telling the French, they either plain did not understand or thought we were making it up to show off. Only expats really understand each other. 🙂
      Speaking of which, are you happy in your new/old life? Did you need readjusting?
      Biz

      • There was a period at the beginning when I was in shock about being back here. Mostly it had to do with too much pride. I was no longer living an exciting globetrotting life! But the magic of my wilderness and my family soon overrode that. I am pretty content these days. My life is very simple, deliberately so. Things are slowly falling into place. Beautiful new adventures, of various kinds, are taking form. I live in an area where people are very down to Earth and friendly and close to nature. I would have had a much more difficult time if I had moved to a more urban area in the US. Thank you for asking. Wishing you a vibrant Day of the Dead and Toussaint, mon ami. 🙂 ☠️

      • Merci ma grande. De même. I thought you might need adjustment. 😉 But then I think you went back for a reason. And I’m glad to hear that things are falling in place. Do you know Du Bellay’s poem?
        Heureux qui comme Ulysse a fait un beau voyage
        Ou comme cestui-là qui conquit la Toison
        Et puis est retourné, plein d’usage et de raison
        Vivre entre ses parents le reste de son âge…
        If you don’t, here it is:
        https://poesie.webnet.fr/lesgrandsclassiques/poemes/joachim_du_bellay/heureux_qui_comme_ulysse_a_fait_un_beau_voyage

    • Thank you Thom. Not sure it is a “privilege” (I didn’t do zip, just was lucky) but I am honoured by the comment.
      “Worlds away”? Yes. And no. Just think that later on, in East Africa, we saved almost all our pocket money to buy English records at the only music store in Nairobi, ran by a Sikh gentleman who charged fortunes. Still have the ’67 Cream LP (and others) on my shelves. The high school Friday dances at Loreto Convent (scheduled and scrutinized by the nuns for the girls to meet boys from other schools) featured local bands playing o-bla-di-bla-da or other Brit songs. I think the nuns probably revised the list of songs before.
      Cheers, Mate.

  13. Oh wow! Your life story is enough to write a book, peng yu. I wish my life is as exciting and colorful like yours. Your childhood seem fabulous. Great photos! I thoroughly enjoy this post so much that I’m showing the photos to my little diva.

  14. Lovely to know some more about your beginnings… I read your Snowball post yesterday.
    Dads are for dealing with the badness of the sea, hey? Mine would probably have delegated…

    • Thank you. 🙂 Those are unusual beginnings but I know plenty of people with similar histories. (From Snowball to Africa…?)
      Delegation is fine as long you supervise. I’ve always considered as a father/parent that our job was to protect. As much as we could. I remember finding a five inch long scorpion on the staircase in Africa. Called my Dad. “Your job”. (I was 6 or 7!)
      Thank you Val for visiting and commenting.

  15. A lovely story, Brian – an African idyll? I’m trying to work out the nationalities of the outfits you and your sister are wearing in that first photo. Spanish and Belgian/Dutch, maybe? Love the fact that every home had a bar in it in the 50s and 60s!

    • Costumes are Breton, as both my parents were. Typical of late 19th, very early 20th century in Brittany. There is some similarity to Flemish dress, in the use of black cloth, lots of lace in the women’s dress. (Every village had a distinctive lace coiffe) Though the gold thread on the men’s jacket is unique to Brittany. As is the hat’s shape.
      I too love that bar thing at the time.
      Cheers.

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