Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Amadara; You're a Dara

Back in my village for a few days and it was nothing short of incredible. My compound has taken in a new person. He’s a Koranic teacher and now, every morning and evening, all of the children in Amadara come to my compound and gather around a huge fire pit to work on reading, writing, and reciting Arabic. They all have these wooden tablets and they write on them with pieces of charcoal. It's cool to see the boys and girls learning the Koran side by side- I didn't expect that. I spent an afternoon with Kante, the teacher, having him help me write out the alphabet.

On Saturday, I got a chance to go to Nemataba for the local soccer finals. The two teams playing were Nemataba, the home team, and Velingara, the team from the big city. I couldn’t believe how many people showed up to watch the match. Hundreds of people from all over the region came dressed in their best clothes and there were probably over 200 bikes strewn about on the way to the field. The organizers set up a giant grass fence to make sure everyone pays the 200cfa (40 cents) entrance fee keeping out most of the children. They were all milling around outside the fence just waiting to join in on the victory celebration. Amadou Sylla, my Tokara, payed for the two of us to get in and slowly, we made our way around the field greeting everyone he knew. Finally, we found a spot to stand and watch near one of the goals. The players were already pouring sweat (it was at least 90 degrees outside) but they seemed happy to be playing such an important match. Velingara, outfitted in green uniforms, were favored to win but since we were in Nemataba, nobody was cheering for them. The Nemataba team, all in white jerseys and blue shorts, seemed to be struggling for the first few minutes. Every time they got the ball it amounted to a wild goal kick nowhere near the goal, as opposed to Velingara who looked patient and well practiced whenever they had possession. Within the first few minutes however, my attention span was already waning. The sun was blaring down on us and the dry air combined with the clouds of dust coming from the field were starting to annoy me. But I had a liter and a half of water and I was prepared to tough it out. Then suddenly, a few players got into a scuffle and before I could tell what was going on, every player started running toward the fight. The three referees were no match for the 20 angry boys and within seconds, people from the sidelines started rushing the field. In less than a minute, the small fight had turned into an enormous mob of people pushing and shouting and after punches started being thrown, the referees called the game. So it was a tie… 0-0 and the game only lasted about 7 minutes. The spectators that hadn’t rushed the field decided they couldn’t be bothered to file out of the small opening in the fence (or maybe they were upset that there wasn’t going to be a game) and they started to push down entire sections of the grass fence to leave. My Tokara and I started walking back to our bikes when the shouting seemed to intensify and all of a sudden, the Velingara team was being chased off of the field and back to the dump truck that they came in on (they really did come in on the back of a large dump truck from Velingara). People were waving big sticks and rocks as they ran after the boys from Velingara and as the truck started to pull away (thank god they got it started on the first try), those people started throwing what they had in their hands at the truck. I couldn’t believe it… huge sticks and rocks were flying through the air. People were shaking their fists and shouting and, well, I had never seen anything like that before.

The rest of the week in Amadara was good. I made a lot of headway with the school teachers in two neighboring villages for the upcoming tree season. I’m planning on helping the teachers teach the kids about tree nurseries and out-planting. Of course, they will also get to enjoy the benefits of the shade and fruits in a few years.
Now I’m back in Dakar though, working on finishing up the documentary. Our deadline is the end of February so we have our fingers crossed that it will all come together smoothly over the next few weeks. I can’t wait to be done with it and get back to my village. It’s been too long.

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