Friday, December 11, 2009

"Anka cencen a kodogon."

Three months after this project officially began on paper, we have finally broken ground on the Tonto Secondaire Cycle nyegens. The blacksmiths have dug the majority of the latrine pit - though not all of it, and the brickmasons have made 516 bricks.

I apologize for our slow pace, but mind you the past few months have been the most important months of farmwork for the entire year - as this is when everyone harvests their millet, corn, rice and peanuts, and this is when the men sell their cotton to the CMDT textile mill in nearby Koutiala. I'm told that the pace will pick up over the next few weeks as the harvesting work finishes pyu pyu. This has been inexpressably frustrating to bourgeois capitalists like myself who will never truly understand that all of the well-diggers and brickmasons and blacksmiths with whom I am working are first and foremost subsistence agriculturalists who live and die by the rhythms of the seasons - and that there are, in fact, things more important than building toilets.

Among the greatest inexplicable difficulties in this project has been the procurement of sand. There's sand in every direction as far as the eye can see, but somehow it isn't making its way to the construction site like my local counterparts promised it would. And since they have yet to procure 100 cart-loads of sand, 30 carts of gravel, 12 carts of rocks, the brick-masons can't finish their job, the house-building master masons and their apprentices can't build the latrine structures, and I feel pretty useless. The upside of all this is that I'm on page 1108 of Les Misérables...

To give you a taste of just how frustrating it is to organize a project like this, in Minianka-Bambara society hardly a single decision can be made without unanimous consent of all the village elders. So last Friday I told the head mason that we needed about 70 more cartloads of sand, and he told me to come back on Thursday. So on Thursday (yesterday) they assembled all the old men to inspect the work site. After 40 minutes of debate and deliberation, they came to the conclusion: "There is not enough sand."

If all goes well, we should have all construction completed in late January or February.


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