Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Chief and his Council

Toune mosque, San Region

Afternoon errands
Kadia the potter

Adama Diarra, Toune weaver
baby donkey!
The Chief and his Council
After our days spent evaluating multi-age classrooms I spent the afternoons wandering the alleys and paths intersecting and dissecting the villages with my camera around my neck.  I like setting out and not knowing what I'm going to find.  Here are some treasures that fit just that bill.  
The Toune mosque is smack in the middle of super-bush, Mali, West Africa but is one of the fanciest mosques I've seen here in Mali aside from World Heritage sites like the mosque in Djenne.  Women washed clothes behind it in a cement wash area next to a deep well.  Children walked by without looking as they carried pots of water and firewood on their heads.  
Walking to the pump in Toune to fetch potable water for me and the boys (the boys being fellow PHARE-er Moussa, a Ministry official and a guy from the Centre d'Animation Pedagogique - CAP) Kadia saw me with my camera around my neck and hollered at me to come over and take a few shots of her and her pots - big ones - that she sells in market.  When she shouted at me I cringed and thought, eef, is someone just trying to hassle me??  I tried to shake the thought from my head as soon as it entered and headed over to her compound.  As I entered the cleared area in front of her home she opened her hands - a coil of clay rolled in one and a smoothing rag in the other - to show off her work.  What beauties!  And what a reminder to keep my mind and heart open to opportunities like these to meet folks and see something new.
On another trip to the pump (did I mention it's averaging 105 degrees Fahrenheit here - yeah, I drink a lot of water) I heard the fwoomp, fwoomp, fwoomp of Adama's spindle and saw his slowly moving bundle of threads and invited myself over to take a peek.  A wicker basket filled with tiny spindles of carded, cotton thread on Adama's right, a foot loom at center and then yards upon yards of coarse, cotton fabric piled in another wicker basket on his left side.  Kind of incredible to think about what goes into making your own fabric from growing the cotton to picking the cotton to turning little tuft balls into thread to turning it into fabric to dying it to sewing it all together.  Whew.  I'm perspiring just thinking about it.  Well, continuing to perspire that is...
The baby donkey was rolling around being his cute self when I stopped by to say hello.  Didn't you know baby donkeys love having their picture taken too?  
The chief of this Bozo fisherman village is wearing a fabulous, yellow turban scarf overexposed in this photograph.  At the end of each evaluation we spent some time with the village chief and his council talking about what a multi-age classroom is, what they think of the new school in their village and discuss any recommendations they have for the program. Don't you love the look on the chief's face? Most folks said they want an actual classroom built instead of the tarp and thatched roof situation they've got going on, a garden to help the women make some extra money which would then translate to school money for the kids and a well with potable water.  PHARE only works in the domain of teacher training - I just hope sessions like these didn't get their hopes up they would provide more. 
Leaving Toune (one of 4 stops on our San adventure for multi-age classrooms) we pulled our car alongside a nondescript mud hut like the hundreds we passed on our way in and the handful of others we passed on our way out.  As we waited for some fish to be fried and carried back to San I slipped my sandals off and sat on a mat in front of a man pulling and twisting rope - jerky motions and his coil of rope hooked through his toes to keep it from tangling.  I picked up a chubby baby and as I shook her cheeks while I greeted the man to my left.  He didn't respond and so I stopped my cheek shaking to repeat my greetings and saw he didn't hear me because he didn't know I was talking to him - he was blind.  And so I turned my full attention to him, repeated my greetings, and he replied - here doron - peace only.  
I started my nosy list of questions about his rope work - how long has he been doing it? where does he sell the rope? how much is it a yard?  I finally asked his name, Saline Balo, which prompted another question (I'm kind of like the human form of when you give a mouse a cookie) 'i ye mun ye?' - what ethnicity are you (last names indicate ethnicity in Mali but I couldn't place his) and he chuckled.  'Noumou,' he replied.  'Noumou?' I said, crinkling my nose and not recognizing the classification.  'Nga i be kan jumeh fo?' - but what language do you speak?  He chuckled again and replied 'mogo-kan!' - people-talk! - and I had to laugh at myself.  In my effort to put everything I see, hear, taste, smell into categories I can get tripped up in my tidy boxes.  Nice to know that all it takes to get me back in line are experiencing mosques, hands, looms, donkeys and cute old men with turban scarves to remind me I don't need any of those boxes.  After all, we all speak people talk, don't we?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

AWESOME!! love you, mom

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