Tuesday, August 31, 2010

K'an sooni!

On Friday at dusk Modibo, a Peace Corps driver, turned the familiar corner of the mud-wall lined path outside my hut to arrive at Esayi’s compound. Modibo, along with Esayi, Bakari and a handful of other capable, strong, young men, loaded his white SUV with all the treasures I accumulated in village the past two years. Tables, chairs, trunks, suitcases, pots, pans, a bike, a gas tank and stove all piled creatively into the back and top of the truck. Waati sera! The time has come!
Esayi and I in front of my house
I spent the last two weeks at site throwing out papers, packing my belongings and saying my goodbyes to folks. After knitting with Annie through the heat or rain of the day I would strap Christine to my back and head from compound to garden, garden to compound and greet people and explain one more time that soon I would be leaving and soon a new volunteer, Jim (AKA Adama), will arrive. Women would look up from sifting millet flour or corralling a child to say, ‘eh, kelen??’ – Already??. I would laugh and say two years isn’t already! Old men would grin or frown, offer one their hand (or their oldest sons’) in marriage one last time and say ‘eh, an be deli ka soro i be ta’ – Just as we get used to one another, you go. It’s hard to imagine it taking so long to truly feel a part of somewhere and in truth, I’ve felt a part of the village for much longer. But the comfortable interactions, the greeting and knowing people’s names and their families, the knowing where to go in village for milk powder, dried fish, batteries and flour – that really did take a long time and even up until the last week I continued to learn about the village and its varied dynamics.
Christine getting ready for the party

Esayi and Annie agreed it would be best to have a farewell party the night before I left. On the Monday before I sent money with Esayi to the San market to buy sugar, tea, cigarettes and gasoline for the fête. Annie met with the women’s association a few weeks earlier to discuss renting strip lights, speakers and a generator. Wednesday night I sat down with Annie to knit and Baissata, the president of the women’s group, joined us so I offered her my chair and sat behind Annie on a low-lying mud wall. They began to speak quickly and I followed words, expressions and body language to figure out my party had some problems. Annie said the woman in charge of coordinating the lights and speakers forgot to rent them. ‘An be na mun ke?’ she asked me. What will we do? I shrugged, and said well, no party? I didn’t know what to say or what to do. Disappointed, I left to make a phone call and when I returned Annie said we had another problem. I smiled and said let’s hear it. She said Baissata had come back to tell her an old woman in village died. That her funeral would be tomorrow, Thursday, the day before I leave. In my village, where animism is a predominant religion (akin to spiritualism), the whole village is expected to go out to the fields and bury the body together. And so, after greeting the family of the woman in the morning, we all headed out to the fields to bury her body and dance next to the grave. That night heavy rains came and the celebration of her life didn’t start until 3 am. I woke up at 5:30 and headed over for the last song, just before dawn. While not having a party was too bad, I’m not really leaving yet and so we’ll save the party for another visit (in ch’Allah!) and hopefully we’ll have a good time then.
A rainy season sunset as I bike into site for the last time
Modibo got in the truck, anxious to get back to San to break the fast of the day (it is Ramadan) and Annie and Esayi quickly said their farewells: ‘Allah ka sira numan ye; Allah ka nogon ye nogoya.’ for a blessed my trip to Bamako and a quick return to Zana. A small crowd had gathered around the truck to witness the hubbub and as I looked back, Modibo’s white SUV leaving the way it came but with me in it, I saw the small crowd dissolve as night began to fall. The men to Shaka’s for tea and talking. The women back into their compounds to take care of dinner and wash the kids. The children chasing after old bike tires with sticks in the well-worn ruts in the road. After two years it’s nice to know that while some things have changed because of me, (hopefully for the better) life here is the same. Waati sera.
Two of the treasures I had to leave behind

See more pictures from my last week here!


Laura said...

great final post. made me a little sad!! i hope that your move went well and can't wait to hear about the beginning of a new adventure!

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written. Brought tears to my eyes. You're on you way to a new adventure! Proud of you and love you! mom

Manzo said...

I'm thankful to have met you. I've truly been inspired by your dedication and hard work in living here to improve rural women's life. May God bless you richly, and may He continue to grant you strength and the desire to do all what you want to do. Thank you so much for all of your kind contribution.

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