In the heart of darkness, a mile or so from the coast and its hotels for European tourists, all the furniture they had was this : a wooden box for a seat, and all the cooking had to be done on a tiny makeshift stove, filled with charcoal, when there was charcoal to be burnt... Such was the living room, under the stars... It could have been Mauritania, or Senegal (there are no coasts in Mali). It happened to be Senegal.
The beginning of inspiration and happiness was on the road to M'Bour, on the coast, where our friends could finally buy the first sacks of cement and the rods of iron rebar that were needed to construct our first well in the desert. Perched on that treasure of cement and iron, we were the lords of creation then...
In that borderless desert of ochre sand, khamkham (the occasional thorny brambles) and the once in a while baobab tree, dawned on us the power of this reminder : "the beauty of the desert is that it hides a well somewhere..." All we had to do was to dig that well.
Around this first well some parched land was acquired, and the people immediately named it "the Field of Friendship and Brotherhood". The people worked this barren earth, Africans and European volunteers side by side. Seeds from France were offered, and brought by plane, planted. Fruit-trees from Africa also were later put into the ground - banana trees, mango trees, goyave trees, lemon trees...
Because of winter rains, the traditional hut made of earth and thatch had cracked open. The next step was to build a "real house", made of cement blocks that were made on the spot, and left to dry in the sun until they found their final places in the walls. A couple of horses (and a brand new cart) were bought; and to replace the tiny candles, solar lamps were brought from Europe, on their funny, outlandish tripods. The village's wise man was there in person to greet the new light and give his blessings.
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