Jan 26, 2009

Ntja-Peli Dedication Ceremony

All projects are wrapped up (latrines, water retention, irrigation, etc) and hundreds attend the Njta-Peli Hall dedication ceremony.
Category:Lesotho 2008/09 
Posted by: Ann

Hi all,
I'm writing from Amsterdam on way home from Lesotho, still warm in the glow of the dedication ceremony, and wanted to send a quick email to share.

While you may not have been there in person, you were very much there in spirit. Throughout the course of the 6.5 hour ceremony (2.5 hour mass and 4 hour ceremony), "the Lake Union" was thanked and recognized often. While I wish everyone could have been there, the GREAT NEWS is that Craig Savio, one of the week 10 volunteers, video-taped nearly the entire ceremony. Upon his return (I think sometime next week, after safari) we'll figure out a way to get a copy to all who are interested.

The morning began with the hanging of a large framed sign listing all the students, teachers, volunteers and donors who made this project possible. You can imagine the clamor of students looking for their names... it was almost as much of a magnet as photos of themselves.

The ceremony itself began at 10am (was scheduled for 9am, but it's Lesotho time :)  with a processional of the students, followed by the bishop and other officiants, the sisters, the volunteers, and the choir. As always, the singing was wonderful and moving, even without understanding a word of it.  This was followed by the 2.5 hour mass (original plan was a 1 hour 'short mass' - not sure what happened with that plan), the first 30 minutes of which was in the blazing sun (except for the bishop who was in the shade of the hall). While still outside, the bishop blessed the building, sprinkled the entire west face with water as part of that ceremony, and after the ribbon cutting, continued the blessing and sprinking inside.

Once inside, mass proceeded, which was followed, without break, by 22 other speakers, singers, and dance acts. The hall was jam-packed with dozens standing in the back where ever they could find room, as well as the scores of students squeezing around the windows and doors. I think much of the local community was in attendance.  In preparation many of the nuns and teachers were up all night cooking, and fed everybody at the close of the ceremony. I'm guessing there were close to 1,000 people there.

You'll see for yourself when you watch Craig's video, but I just wanted to mention here the recognition given Rome and all of us throughout the ceremony. They clearly appreciated how many hands joined by a common goal can make great things happen. They are very excited about this hall and all it means to the school and the broader community. Furthermore they acknowledged all the other components of the project, including the mattresses, irrigation, water reticulation (bore holes, tanks, etc), and as Catherine put it, "the state of the art toilets".  Dignitaries from as far as Maseru came, as well as the Principal Chief of the region, all singing the praises of this effort and the importance of maintenance of it. Furthermore many of them heartily and gratefully acknowledged that this project was led by women and was an example of what women can achieve in Lesotho.

I made a short movie about the project itself, which was aired near the start of the ceremony. Catherine scheduled it there to help give visitors who had not been part of the project some sense of the project background and purpose.  As you can imagine, the kids loved seeing themselves and the movie was well received. I'll post a copy of it online when I get home.

One of the most touching parts of the ceremony to me, aside from the well-deserved recognition of Rome and her leadership, was the performance of two thank you songs, one written by the students and one by Nkwele, one of the teachers. The songs were beautiful, and the stage was full of students, each one holding a large sign with one of our names on it. While the singers lowered the volume of their song, each of our names was read aloud as the student holding the respective sign stepped forward - very cool.

Okay, I'll leave the rest of the detail to Craig's video, and get on with a project update.

As of Monday afternoon, the 3rd septic system, the one next to the girls' dorm, had been sealed. Additional concrete block walls were built to block in the toilets from the open field, making them accessible from only within the girls' dorm area. Thabang said they needed the privacy.  :)    The toilets will be set in place by Wednesday at the latest, as that is the final day of the project.

The sound system was installed last week and volunteer Martha Wiggin now possesses an honorary PhD in sound mixology.  She figured out all the connections, knobs and buttons and now there is sound that can rattle the building.  In fact, the building was rattling on Sunday night after the ceremony, when we had about an hour long dance party in the hall - they kids are beside themselves with joy and energy over this new feature.

Other finishing work is happening, including building brick steps up to the toilets, cleaning up dropped concrete blobs from along the paths to the toilets, the finishing of the paver area in front of the hall, mounting of the final sandstone window trim pieces and grouting of them, and paiting the window glazing. 

During Monday morning's work session, our week 10 volunteer Perry Estevenin, an artist, brought up the idea of painting a mural. The volunteers were abuzz with the idea and the most recent version of the plan that I know of was to paint it on the outside wall of the building that was our workshop, on the wall that faces the new hall. They were planning to project a Seattle image on the wall, using the new LCD projector, to be able to trace an outline of the skyline and then use the left over black paint to fill in the pertinent parts to complete an abstract image of Seattle. We're also planning on writing all of our names as a border around the mural.  All of those ideas may have morphed between 3pm when I left and that evening when they were working on it - I can't wait to see the photos.

Almost time to board the plane so I'll sign off here.  Please be sure to put Feb 11 on your calendar - that's our celebration date with Catherine and Emmanuel at the boathouse.  I can't wait to see you all there and hear everybody's stories.

Peace, joy and thanks to all!