Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Flashback #2 - Mali: Boungel

Erin's peace corps assignment was in Boungel.    She did a number of projects there, including getting a grant for a millet grinder so the women would have an industry.    In order to qualify for the grant, the women had to become somewhat literate first, so they could read the manual that came with the grinder, and keep up on the maintenance in addition to learning to operate a business for profit.  

During her stay in Boungel, Erin became very close with her villagers.   They became family and when it was time for her to leave she was grief stricken for awhile.   While there we got see what life was like in this very pleasant village.    It was hot, though, and the heat (well over 100 degrees) was too much for us and we spent the better part of our time there seeking shade and a cold drink.  At nighttime, we slept outside under mosquito nets and we could hear the young people playing clapping games and off in the distance, friends getting together to play their instruments.

When she told them that her parents were coming to visit, they were beside themselves with excitement and planned a huge party for us.   Of course, such parties for these simple villagers is a big expense so we had to donate for the rice and the goat.   The entertainment was home supplied, though,  and an awesome event.

The day started with the women showing up in Erin's backyard and transforming it into a giant kitchen.   They dug holes, put in the firewood and then placed the huge pots with water for cooking rice on top.   There was a lot of activity at Erin's house that day.   First, we were fed, while the villagers looked on.  Then they fed themselves, and only after that did the children get fed which was more like a scramble of wild puppies to get at the big bowls of rice placed on the ground.

Then came the entertainment.    Each village can have a dance troupe which will compete for prizes and fame with other village dance troupes (a more interesting version of Dance with the Stars).    Boungel's troupe had won first place and they were very proud of their group.   So the whole village moved from the feast to the town square for the festivities.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Boungel Village Dancers!!!

The dancers were accompanied by griots.  These are talented musicians trained on instruments since they were children.   These two griots were brought in from another village.   We couldn't understand much of what they sang, except every once in a while  you could hear them say, Amerakee, referring to us.  After a while everyone else joined in.   This young guy is just starting out.

The men are making fun of Erin's dance moves.

Sooner or later the young ones get into the act.    A fun time was had by everyone.....

 Well, almost everyone!!

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