Since arriving in Mali, there have been signs of the 50th anniversary everywhere.  Billboards have been posted in Bamako and the construction of new buildings has been plentiful.  When we first got here, I remember thinking that September 22 seemed like quite a long time away, but it arrived sooner than expected!

Because I’m no longer in or very close to Bamako, I didn’t go into the capital city for the big day.  The people in town with TVs were able to pick up some of the coverage via public television though, and it looks like they pulled out all of the stops.  See more coverage at the official Web site.

I actually had a great day celebrating with the people in my town and the surrounding villages, and I was able to capture some great photos and videos from the day’s events.  I joined my language tutor at the town’s big celebration in the soccer stadium.  Many people attended the event, including the mayor, the prefet of the commune and several well-known Malians that hail from the town.  There was music, dancing and your typical political-style speeches from the politicians present.  Overall, it was a great celebration, and you could tell that the people were very excited to be celebrating such an important milestone in their history.  For more on Mali’s history click here.

After the town celebration wrapped up, I headed to some of the surrounding villages with my counterpart.  This was really fun, as many of the villages are very small and the entire community is very intimate (some have as few as five families living in them – five very large families!).  Both of the villages we celebrated with, killed cattle for the occasion, and we ate some very yummy fresh beef with onions.  I don’t have meat often here, so it was a nice treat!  One of the villages also had a huge dance party and, of course, I was right there in the mix!  Many of the women in the shea butter association live in the surrounding villages, so it was great to see and celebrate this special day with them.

Upon returning to my town, we headed over to the soccer stadium again to watch a big game between teams from my commune and a nearby commune.  As a former soccer player, I am amazed at the ability of the Malian teams to play with very little equipment and on a dirt surface.  You never quite know where the ball will go or if you will slide on the dirt/sand getting to it.  Again, I have some good pictures!  It seems that all Malian referees have the same skills, or should I say lack there of…let’s just say I saw quite a few questionable calls!

All in all, I think the 50th Anniversary went off really well, and it was fantastic to be here to witness the celebrations.  As many of the politicians said, “here’s to the next 50 years!”