The cost of the modest ceremony is equivalent to half of the monthly salary of a teacher. In a village where malnourishment and poor health is a significant problem, this expenditure marks the importance of the new building and of the investment in education.
We sit in prayer at the east side of the grounds for the new school, east signifying the hopeful promise of beginnings. After words of thanks to the Gods, prayers of hope, and incantations I can’t begin to understand, we raise our hands a final time in gratitude. Let this school be blessed. Let this be a place of learning for all of our children. Let the building stand strong for years to come. Old women nod with authoritative approval.
I can’t help but smile as the achaa takes small parts of the various food items and sprinkles them near the fence, an offering, I am told to the God’s who will inevitably come late. I appreciate a culture that accepts those who are just a little late to the party.
As quickly as it all begins, the workers come to take pieces of the pork, noodles and rice. They sprinkle some on the ground and eat the rest voraciously. They have been working hard, after all, digging for the foundation all morning and afternoon. In the freshly unearthed soil, they place bundles of burning incense. My camera now long out of batteries, I take the only picture I can, a mental shot of the dozens of burning yellow prayers among piles of dirt and grass. In the early evening light, the smoke colors the dusty air, the whole ground burning in offering.