Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Aint No Party Like a Tongo Party

The school in Tongo is finally finished, and we had a big party to celebrate. It was also the last time we would go to Tongo, and I must say we went out with a bang.
We rented a van to transport all the volunteers in the region, and rode down the bumpy dirt road in good spirits.
the ride there

We could see the crowd from the road but had no idea what was waiting for us when we arrived. Suddenly we were thrown into a mass procession with everyone chanting "Baseba, Baseba" (my Malian name).
the procession

mary and kyle make a grand entrance

We spent a good half hour shaking everyone's hands and making our way to our seats.
shaking hands

The area around the school was decked out with flags and crowded with more people than I've ever seen in Tongo.

crowds and flags


The crowd included a group of hunters, who welcomed us by shooting off their rifles.

Finally, after the grand entrance, everyone settled down to start the ceremony.

our loyal fans

I gave a speech thanking everyone who worked on the project, and acknowledged our homologues, Mazuru and Adama, who have done so much for us throughout our three years in Mali.

The speech was well received.

hand in the air

The mayor (who actually showed up!) said a few words about education and responsibility.

And a speech was even given by the town "griot" or storyteller.

After the speeches, it was time to party.

dancing with the old women



ladies dancing

and more dancing

After all that dancing, it was time for lunch. The week before, Kyle and I had bought 130 kilos(286 pounds) of rice, 200 litres(52 gallons) of peanut oil, 65 kilos(143 pounds) of onions, 500 maggi cubes, 3 kilos(6.6 Pounds) of salt, and a cow (actually the cow was donated by the Chief of Tongo). The menu: Malian fried rice, beans, cow, watermelon.



After lunch, we had a glorious photo shoot. We'd made signs to spell out Thank You (I ni che, in Bambara) and planned to get the kids to stand in front of the school and hold the signs. Easier said than done.

"I ni che" spelled wrong - these kids really do need a new school
Finally got it right

The photo shoot went on:
kyle in the crowd

with the chief of Tongo

chief on deck

our amazing homologues

me and maz

the whole Famanta Family

me and the rents

kyle and the fam

alou, the brick press owner

kyle and Ba

who's got guns?

i'm so bored

through the wall
The paint on the school was not quite finished, but they had managed to put on the first coat in time for the ceremony.
the back side

the front side

the porch

the inside

the courtyard
Then it was time to say goodbye.

goodbye jeneba

The women of Tongo had made matching outfits for the ceremony, and I couldn't leave without getting a photo with all of them together.

matching outfits

Then it was really time to say goodbye.

bye bye

Malians don't hug, but we said goodbye to Mariam with one last cross-cultural exchange.


Then we all piled back in the van and drove away into the sunset, our hearts a little heavier.


When we got back to Segou, we had another party: the kind that wouldn't have been possible in my muslim village:

pig roast!