Thursday, October 28, 2010

All those yesterdays...

Like an old Malian bicycle, our long journey is slowly coming to a hault. Last week we purchased almost 300 pounds of rice and slaughtered a cow to feed the village of Tongo and other dignitaries as we celebrated the opening of the Tongo Schoolhouse. The paint wasn't quite dry but that didn't matter to the people of Tongo they wanted to celebrate. We rented a Bush Taxi and picked up all the volunteers in the area, my host family, and some random old man (who promptly grabbed the mike and started spitting rhymes).

As we approached Tongo we could see hundreds of people lining the road and clapping to welcome us.
As we descended the Bush Taxi we were pounced upon by the entire village calling our name and smothering us with blessings. After shaking hundreds of hands we were lead to our seats where we were asked to give a speech. We weren't expecting to speak but Mary got up and gave a very stirring speech about the merits of sustainable design and existentialism (In Bambara).

We then presented our counterparts with Chiwaras, which is the Malian equivalent of a really nice bowling trophy.

I don't know if you know this but Malians are very long winded, and if there is a microphone and an audience it is almost impossible to stay awake. Luckily I found a young man to act as my personal thought bubble....

After the speeches they began the music and dancing while Mary and I tried to get the children to hold up "Thank You" signs. We figured it would take about 2 minutes. How hard could it be to line them up and tell them to hold up the signs. True to form the task took about 30 minutes and oddly enough it wasn't the children that were having trouble figuring it out, the teachers wouldn't get out of the way.

We then made our way to the "Cafeteria" for lunch. I think they thought it was Monday because they were serving red beans and rice.

I was then presented with a gun. I didn't have the heart to tell them that I couldn't take it on the plane.

Then things got serious as we had to say goodbye to Tongo and the people who have been our family for more than three years. Always the volunteer, I continued to teach Malians about America by introducing them to something they had never seen before...

The Hug

As we headed back to the Bush Taxi we were mobbed by the village, each person wanted to thank us and shake our hands.

As we pulled away the entire village was waving to us as they faded into the horizon. I smiled to my self as I realized that finally after all that time...

...I could take that hot ass shirt off!

Oh yeah, I guess you want to see the school.

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