Saturday, December 27, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Joelle showing off Christmas decorations we found on the side of the road in Bamako :)
Discharged from the Peace Corps medical unit in Bamako with antibiotics and advice to keep brushing and flossing (I had a tooth situation), I headed to the nearest gare to catch an afternoon bus to San. Bamako can be overwhelming and going to the bus station is no exception. Men rush at taxis shouting station names whose buses are leaving "Sisan, sisan!", 'now, now', and they quickly escort you and your bag to the ticket seller before you have time to think twice. At least that's what happened to me (and others after I shared my story with fellow passengers). But after the painfully long bus ride I just endured I'll be firmer next time and only go to the bus station I know is best. Here's a time line of how I spent the last 24 hours and a great example of how patience and a good book and knitting needles can make anything OK.
Dec. 22, 12:00 p.m. arrive at station and buy ticket
2:00 p.m. promised time of departure
4:30 p.m. actual time of departure
4:45 p.m. false start, just moved to another bus station outside of town to pick up more passengers
7:30 p.m. after bus fills up, we finally leave
8:00 p.m. flat tire
8:30 p.m. back on the road
8:45 p.m. loud crack, another flat tire
9:00 p.m. - Dec. 23 10:00 a.m. various breakdowns and run out of gas multiple times
Dec. 23 1:00 p.m. - arrive in San after almost 24 hours sitting in "Bamako Express" bus
So, what should have taken 8 hours (in a Mali bus on a good day, but is really 6 hours in a car going non-stop) took me almost 24. There were many times where I said to myself, Jennifer, what were you thinking when you bought this ticket? But I wasn't alone! There was a bus full of Malians thinking the same thing right along with me. While I don't like to generalize, even in stressful situations I've found that Malians have proven to take things in stride. Not that folks weren't upset about the constant setbacks but there really wasn't much we could do unless we wanted to wait on the side of the road and hope another bus came by. So instead, I tried to smile at my new bus friends as much as I could and it really made the journey that much better. I also befriended a precious little 8 year old named Batuma. She insisted on sitting next to me after we got acquainted when the first tire popped and then she fell asleep on my shoulder as the bus lulled us into a stilted slumber.
Coming back to San really felt like coming "home", especially after such a tiring journey. I took comfort in the familiarity of the boys selling bread by the station and stopping in to pick up packages from Miriam at the post office. Vincent, my tailor, had finished two outfits for me and they fit perfectly (pictures to come!) which put a smile on my face and his. Then, I stopped to have a soda at one of the "boutigi's" and lamented about my journey with Moulie who owns the store. He shared with me one of his own horror travel stories which made my experience feel less singular. Finally, what put the biggest smile on my face and laugh on my lips was the gift waiting for me back at the volunteer house. I started to tell my bus story to two of the other volunteers in the house when Geoffrey, the guard, (since volunteers aren't always at the house, Peace Corps hires three rotating guards to always be there) gave me a present wrapped in cellophane that said "Best wishes!" and was tied with ribbon. I opened it and found a bouquet of fake flowers and baby's breath from one of his friends who hangs outside with him. His friend is perhaps pushing 60 (nothing against older men, but a little out of my range) so the gesture really made my day more than concerned me (as it would if a younger guy gave them to me).
While I'm still rubbing my eyes with sleepiness and cursing the "Bamako Express" for being more like the "Bamako Broke", today (and yesterday) prove to me that I (and Malians) smile a lot more than frown and that's what matters most.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Christine is a surefire way to brighten any day
I pass these two (and many other) trees on my bike ride into San each week and whenever I see them I think they look like two friends laughing together.
My cat, Caya, had kittens. While I'm not wild about having all the cats in my bed, they can be pretty cute.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Yes, I even take timed pictures in Mali!
The completed fence with my house at right and the solar panel that charges my car battery so I can cook and read after sun-down
One thing I'm really excited about getting started is my garden. Esayi eyes me with a questioning look whenever I pick up gardening equipment like perhaps I'm holding it for the first time. While it's true I don't know loads about gardening, I've been doing my research and I'm also an eager learner and looking forward to all that Esayi is going to teach me. He came over this past week (well, just walked around my house really, since his house is just behind mine) and we got started building a fence to box in where my garden will be. Esayi did most of the work but let me pretend I was helping by letting me dig a few holes and weave some of the millet stalks. It's definitely going to be a hurdle to convince men that I can do any sort of labor. I get pretty frustrated when anyone tells me I'm not able to do something and my stubborn side comes up so I'm working on that. Fortunately Esayi, though quick to encourage me to rest, is also quick to see that I really want to help when he does manual labor (especially when I barely break a sweat doing it) so it's just a matter of persistence.
Annie wants to plant onions in the garden and I have seeds for watermelons, cucumbers, tomatos, carrots, beans and flowers.
Harvest is slowly coming to a close in my village (and around Mali). This past week saw lots of carts filled with millet being carted in from the fields to store in mud structures like the one seen here.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Looking at my blog, it seems like I live with only Annie and her baby Christine. In reality, there's a whole slew of Coulibalys. (women always keep their last names here so if they ever want to return to their father's home, they can).
From (left to right) Samuel, Ibrahim, Emma, Moussa, Batuma (Miriam), Le Vieux (Thomas), Annie, Khadia, Aminata and Christine. (Not pictured are Esayi (Annie's husband) Johanna and Yacouba, Esayi's brothers and Khadia and Aminata's husbands respectively.)
While only 1% of Malians are Christians, there are a lot of Protestants in my village (maybe half) which means a lot of one-wife households.
The family is standing in front of the kitchen where the three women cook. (kithcen in Bambara is "gabugu" - this language is too fun!) They're on a two day rotating schedule; two days one woman cooks and the others rotate pounding the millet and washing dishes. It's a good system though all the work is pretty exhausting.
While Malians may not celebrate Thanksgiving, volunteers do! I'm celebrating with others in my market town and can't wait to see the creative cooking that will ensue over the next couple days.
Monday, November 17, 2008
My host-mom Annie with her older sister, Khadia (left) and her mom Hawa (at right). They live in another village but come into San every Monday to sell a sauce ingredient I can never pronounce let alone spell.
This is another Hawa (not Annie's mom) who sells tomatoes at the market in my village.
Market day in San requires a few things from its shoppers including: sunscreen, a broad-rimmed hat, patience and a fancy-cloth outfit. Armed with all four (though my outfits leave a bit to be desired since I need to get another "complet" made), I head out each Monday morning to face the crowds and heat to buy my week's groceries that can't be found in my small village 15 miles away.
I try and time my trips carefully, leaving at about 8:45 to reach market by 9 when most of the women have set up their booths and laid out their cloths and baskets filled with vegetables, fruits and grains. You cannot rush the task and there's also the pervading sense of claustrophobia so that I find myself stopping after each purchase to take a deep breath before heading on to the next item on my list.
As I navigate the rows and streets of women hawking their wares, a steady beat from an animal skin drum keeps me in time with the other shoppers. The beat comes from a man who is selling medicine out of old soda bottles relabeled and filled with cures for ailments of all kinds. I hear "Toubabou muso" (foreign girl) and get offered pills that will make me big and fat for when I go back home.
Passing on the pills I head to the meat market where I'm supposed to buy two kilos of beef to make hamburgers with other volunteers tonight. Everyone else in the house seemed hesitant to volunteer for the job and since I'd never done it before and was going to market anyways I agreed to buy the meat. Now I see why folks don't jump at the opportunity. What in the states would maybe take 5 minutes takes about 45 minutes here (including all the greetings and blessings).
I started the process by choosing the cleanest stall in the row of meat sellers. "Sik" removed a hunk of meat from a hook on his stall and hacked off two kilos of meat that he then wrapped in butcher paper and slid into a plastic bag. Next, we navigated through the stalls to a meat grinder around the corner who turned out to be a 14 year-old boy named Brahim who's handy with a sharp knife. For 200 CFA (about 50 cents) he cut the meat into small bits. As he cut, the cardboard he used as a cutting board tore to reveal the bare wood table beneath it. Brahim quickly grabbed a scrap of butcher paper from under the table and slid it under the torn cardboard, nodding to me with a look as if to say "Don't worry, it's sanitary." With no running water, un-refrigerated meat and flies, the torn cardboard is the least of my worries. Once he finished cutting, we headed to yet another location under a hangar to find a hand-crank meat grinder attached to a small bench with a vice. His friend sat on the bench to steady it as Brahim attacked the meat grinder with vigor. I braced my leg against the open end of the bench as we spent the next 25 minutes grinding through the 2 kilos of beef.
Two hours later, relieved of my groceries which I dropped off at my host-dad's horse cart to be taken back to village, I made my way back to the volunteer house. Sweaty, grimy and feet tired after my foray into the market I relax on the couch with the other volunteers, breathing slowly and thinking about the delicious hamburgers we'll eat tonight. After all the work that went into getting the meat (on Brahim's part), I'll savor every bite.
Monday, November 10, 2008
This is Sita Sogoba and me. I was shocked when I saw her representing for my hometown so I went and grabbed my favorite sweatshirt so we could commemorate our love for VB together.
I loved this man's shirt and hat. I've taken to walking around my village around 4:30 every day because the lighting makes everything glow (as it does all over the world).
Do babies ever get boring? I don't think so! I love playing with Christine because she's so self-entertaining and is always laughing and smiling.
Monday, November 3, 2008
This is my endearing and lazy cat Caya (pronounced chai-uh). She likes to wait until I've started reading on this table and then jump on and lay on top of the book.
Two things that are reversed in terms of cultural ideals here (for an American) are the perception of weight and age. In America, women and men would gasp at someone telling them they are old or putting on weight. However, where I am, people take pride when others comment on their increasing age and telling them they're getting fatter.
My host dad keeps saying "Djelika, you need to eat to be big and fat so when you see your family they'll say, 'Mali is good for you - look at the weight you've gained!'" I try to explain to him folks back home don't view weight gain in quite the same light but he looks at me suspiciously like I'm just telling him that to shut him up. Yesterday when I told my host mom how beautiful she is she replied "Oh, I don't think so, I'm getting skinnier now that it's harvest season, maybe when I put on weight." The juxtaposition of the American fixation with being skinny and the Malian ideal that the fatter the better is a bit jarring and is still taking some getting used to.
And as for age. Perhaps it's a universal value to respect your elders but in Mali, it's a source of pride as soon as you can start to say you're getting older. This isn't as jarring as the weight issue for me since I've never had a problem (in the States) of folks thinking I'm older than I am. However, while I know many people perceive me as distinguished and wise because of my uncontrollable laughter and skipping around, I don't think I actually come across as being all that old. When a man came to vaccinate the farm animals in my village this past week he asked me how old I was. I asked him to guess and he said, "35?" Smile on my face and suppressing a laugh I told him he was only off by a few years.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
This is the health center. To the right is the maternity wing and the left is an operating room and the doctor's office. The vaccinations and weighing take place outside in the middle of the hangar.
In a village about three miles from mine there is a health center and a mayor's office that serves the needs of 27 surrounding villages, each at least 1,000 people in population. On Tuesdays from 8-whenever the work is done, the doctor there vaccinates babies and I come to weigh them after they're vaccinated since there are too many women and not enough time for the doctor to do both. It's a great way for the women in the villages around mine to get a look at me and to know me a little so if we want to do projects together I'm not totally foreign to them. I also relish the chance to hold sweet babies who aren't old enough to recognize I'm a foreigner and so don't start crying just because I'm white (which happens often with children ages 2-7).
By the time the vaccinations start there are at least 30 women waiting and they continue to arrive throughout the day. I keep a tally of the babies I weigh (at the doctor's request) and last week 75 women came between 8:00 - 3:00 to get their baby's first shots and a dose of vitamin A. Women walk for at least an hour, and in the case of my village, an hour and a half, to get this vaccination and as I look around while I wait for the next baby to weigh my heart feels heavy inside knowing they have another long walk home in the heat of the day with a hungry belly after the shots are done. They can't just bring a snack pack along with them to eat - all their food is cooked on a large scale and doesn't travel well so there isn't another option. None of the women complain about the long wait, long walk and eating late. I'm struck by the power of women and mothers because I know that all of these things affect them. I'm hungry and tired and I eat a full meal before coming and have a bike which speeds up my travel time so I know they must be too.
A friend asked if malnourishment is a problem where I live and the short and simple answer is "Yes" though it's not strikingly apparent. While I imagined hunger to be emaciated children with protruding bellies, the results where I am are more subtle. Most of the babies I encounter are fat and smiling but they are all still breast-feeding. Once the breast-feeding stops the effects of hunger become more apparent. Some children's hair gets a yellow-orange shade and I know there are extended bellies hiding underneath their t-shirts when children get their nightly bath in the compound. By the time they're 8 or 9 years old, the hair returns to a normal black and the bellies retract but their diets don't change so the malnourishment remains.
It's hard looking around me and feeling helpless in the face of such a big problem. While it would be easy to just buy food to give away, what would happen when I left? As I struggle with how I can be a vehicle for positive change during my time here the word "sustainable" becomes more and more a part of my internal dialogue. I've reached no neat conclusions to this messy problem but am hoping that further discussions with fellow villagers will produce some answers and together we'll be able to at least shake a stick at hunger and malnourishment.
Monday, October 20, 2008
This is one of the many Baobabs (and two women) that I pass on the way to my village each week.
The next picture is my host sister Batuma (if you're named after your grandmother or mother you aren't called your name - her real name is Miriam - you're called Batuma) and my host brother Emmanuel.
A few crucial aspects of the Malian culture revolve around last names and the married (or unmarried) state of women. Being a foreigner, these aspects are amplified as the people I live with are eager to learn everything they can about me (and I them). But this information isn't relegated only to the people with whom I live and work - sharing my last name and whether or not I have a husband is a daily occurrence when I'm at market or just walking around town. This has become so normal to me that when I talk with friends outside of Mali via email or skype - I forget that these are not things people share as they meet strangers. I'll try and give a concrete example starting with a little background anecdote.
There are a finite amount of last names in Mali, sort of like everyone being a Jones, Smith or Davis - except they're Malian so it's Diarra, Coulibaly or Dembale. When the French colonized Mali, legend has it the only clan of people who ran to hide rather than fight back were the Coulibalys thus making them the brunt of many jokes because of their lack of bravery. What they have here is something called "joking cousins." It's sort of an on-going inside/outside joke where when you greet someone for the first time (asking all the required questions for every greeting, new or old: Did your night pass peacefully? How is your family? How is your husband? How are your children? How are the people of your village?) you ask, and what is your last name? If you're a Coulibaly meeting a Coulibaly you laugh, and say a ka ni (that's good!) and maybe even shake hands. But if the other person is a Diarra or Dembale (or two-handfuls of other last names) they frown and say oohhh, a ma ni (that's bad! - but with a smile and a laugh) and then say, You're a bean eater! (Implying, yes, you guessed it, that you fart a lot) Or, You eat donkey! (Implying you're a country bumpkin I suppose, I haven't quite figured out why you'd call someone a donkey eater)
As crazy as this may sound, every time I go out to buy something I go through this ritual and since I'm a Coulibaly (and proud of it!) I'm constantly being railed on for eating beans and donkey. It's wonderfully amusing how Malians never tire of this joke and it's an instant way to connect with a stranger. Even if you don't have the same last name as the person you're greeting you can still laugh together and call the other person a bean-eater.
As for whether or not I have a husband, I always say yes to avoid offers of marriage so they can come to Ameriki (America in Bambara). But even when I say that I am taken the men will usually offer a "proposal" just to get a rise out of me and see how I react. I put the fire out pretty quick though when I say that men and women in Ameriki share responsibilities and that men cook, clean and take care of the kids alongside their wives (at least that's what I'm expecting!) and the Malian men balk and say, essentially, keep your extra plane ticket! :) I've also tried to explain the concept of a weak American dollar and a bear stock market but I don't think my Bambara has reached the level of economic discussions just yet.
I've learned a lot about patience in the short time I've been here and I'm sure to learn more. Malians love repetition and since I clearly stick out as a foreigner I constantly have to repeat what I'm doing here and the afore mentioned facts which can get a little tiring but is worth it. When I remind myself why I'm here - to live and be a part of a different culture - I leave with a smile on my face and a laugh on my lips. I'm going to relish these interactions for the next two years because when else will I be called a bean-eater because of my last name or receive endless marriage proposals because I'm a foreigner?
Monday, October 13, 2008
The men unloaded the cart of peanuts, roots, leaves and all in our compound and then about 20 women came to help with my family's harvest. Groups of 7-10 women sat around big piles of peanut plants and got started pulling the nuts from the roots. I sit and marvel at the sense of community here. People are always outside because it's too hot to sit indoors and the houses are just for sleeping so there's not any room anyways. It's such a warm feeling of community, though I'm sure when I comment on this to my new neighbors they think, this is how it is, how else would people do it?
I finished my morning chores (washing my dishes and sweeping the hut) and pulled up a stool and got to peanut pulling. At one point, the women made me make good on my promise of guitar playing so I played "Lyin' Eyes" (of course) and my new hit, (or rather, Tom Petty's old one...) "American Girl" which I think is an appropriate song for me to use as a launch for cultural exchange :) One of the women danced during my whole playtime and so I just kept playing and singing because I had a captive (albeit, occupied with peanut pulling) audience. I had to take a nap mid-day (peanut pulling is tiring!) and when I came back the women were still hard at work and the pile just kept getting bigger of work "to do" as the men brought in more cart loads of nuts. But by the time the sun started to set, we had finished and everyone went back to their own compounds to get started cooking dinner and rest; here, because tomorrow is a weekend or holiday doesn't mean work stops. There's always something to be done and it seems like the people (namely, the women) of my village, never rest.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
So you're probably all thinking (at least I would be) nice pictures Jennifer, but what the heck are you doing over there anyways? And so I'll take this blog entry to try and explain a little.
I spent two months (July-August) studying Bambara in a small village outside Bamako and 3 weeks ago I moved into my own mud house to continue to learn Bambara and get to know the people in my village. Peace Corp's approach to development is a slow one, and rightly so. We don't just plop into a village and start projects but rather take time to get to know the people with whom we'll be working and perfect our local language skills. In January I'll go to a two week training where I'll learn more about environment projects I'll be working on (we also had technical sessions for our various sectors during those two months in Bamako mine being environment) Some possible projects are: working with shea butter and nuts (exporting, selling, finding buyers), a women's garden, building a chicken coop to raise chickens for eggs to sell/eat, and various tree plantings. These are ideas suggested by the community I'm living in and I'll spend these three months and the next two years trying to see if they're feasible (financially and time wise). Since I'm not an agriculture expert (although art history and french are liberal areas of study, they didn't cover much composting or tree planting), I'm relying a lot on the people I live with to teach me what they do and what is and isn't working for them. I'm not going to be able to learn how to farm/garden in a way that I could possibly know more than what they do already - they've been doing this their whole lives! But what I am hoping to do is to connect my fellow villagers with resources to improve what they're already doing. To find a higher paying shea nut buyer. To dig more wells or install pumps for cleaner drinking water. It's really, like I said before, a matter of connecting the people I live with to outside resources. The village I'm in is pretty far off the main road and most people don't travel outside the village. But I am in and out with access to internet and other resources.
As for what I do on a daily basis, it's pretty relaxed. I wake up early (5:45) to my cats jumping on me and asking for breakfast. Then I wash my dishes from the day before and try and help my host family with their chores like pounding millet or sifting the millet once it's been ground. I also play with my 5 month old host sister a good bit while her mom works non-stop. I tell you something, they need to make Mother's Day a national holiday here because the women here are incredible. Non-stop manual labor and they take care of all the children. While I'm sure the men work hard, from what I've seen, the women do everything they do and more (hey, is this like the states?? :) Juuuust joking. I cook all my meals on my gas stove and have a fun time being creative with my somewhat limited resources. If I get tired of pounding millet (physically tired that is) I'll sit and knit. I'm a knitting fool now! Or I'll sit and read or write letters. My host mom and I go out to pick peanuts or chick peas and cut okra. Did you know okra is prickly?? I have to wear gloves because it feels like I'm picking cactus pears! At night I do some yoga, cook dinner and then go outside to sit and talk. My family watches t.v. that's connected to a car battery (charged by a solar panel during the day) and I try and understand what's going on but usually just talk with my host mom Annie as she knits and we sit and shell chick peas to eat.
Here's another anecdote highlighting the small-town nature of where I'm living.
I was in San on Monday and saw some women from my village. We greeted each other and they had seen me dance a little at the women's meeting last week and asked for a repeat performance. Never wanting to disappoint I agreed and gave a little shimmy and shake there in the market lasting maybe 10 seconds. On my way back to my village the next morning I was biking hard and sort of zoning out. The road is two lanes and not many cars at all pass by (mostly just donkey carts, bikes and some motorcycles). Well, I was getting close to where I get off the paved road and bike for about a half hour in the dirt and I wasn't sure where to turn off. I pulled up to another bicyclist (worried I wouldn't see another) and greeted him. After we finished our greetings (still biking) he said, oh, you're from this village, you take this road, before I even asked. Surprised, I asked him how he knew what village I was from (this was about an hour outside of San and he was one of about 5 bicycles I'd seen on the road). He said, oh, I saw you dancing with the other women from your village at market yesterday. Unbelievable! When I got home, I told Annie, my host mom, about it and she shook her head and said, Djelika, you really shouldn't dance at market, people will see you! I said, Annie, I think people notice I'm different anyways... :) But it reminded me so much of my own mom or someone telling me, Jennifer, now don't do this it's not a good idea so I couldn't help but laugh. If you were worried whether or not I'm laughing over here - have no fear, it's happens daily with all my social and language blunders. Not so different from the US!
Monday, October 6, 2008
But back to the women’s meeting. After Annie and I had finished dinner I put on my tailor made Malian outfit and we headed over lighting the way with my high-beam headlamp. My village, and from what I've seen, many of the surrounding villages are sort of like mud labrynthes. The compounds themselves have lots of space for kids to run around and to do all the chores but sometimes the compounds back up to one another and are divided by narrow corridor-like passages that make me feel like I’m navigating a medieval castle. I hope my pictures do more justice to what it’s like here than my words.
When we got to the meeting place we set down the stools we brought and greeted the few other women already there. An older woman I think is the association president picked up an iron pot and started beating it with a stick producing a shrill noise akin to a school-yard bell. I looked at Annie and asked her if she was announcing the beginning of the meeting to the 5 of us already assembled because it seemed like a loud way to start a little meeting. Annie laughed (good naturedly) at me and said that no, she was announcing that the meeting would start soon for the rest of the women in the village. Sure enough, for about 20 minutes women starting trickling in with their own stools, flashlights and kerosene lamps. At the meeting, the women discussed their peanut field and that they’ll go out to harvest the peanuts on Friday. I spent most of the meeting looking at the women around me (about 30 showed up) and wondering how these associations function since my Bambara comprehension isn’t exactly at a level where I can understand a meeting. I’m spending a lot of my time observing here and participating too. Harvest season is upon us here in Mali so folks are heading out to their fields everyday to dig up peanuts, chick peas and beans and cut okra for sauce. Soon they’ll cut down the millet and corn and then the work of thrashing and storage begins. All by hand too! Annie determines whether or not the field is too far for me to go to; her concerns for my hydration and fatigue are high.
I left the meeting smiling at the other women’s compliments of my outfit (I think they find it endearing when I wear Malian clothes and they sort of coo over me which makes me laugh a lot). I hope you have a little more insight into what I’m doing over here and if you were wondering how big my village is, take a small iron pot outside and hit it as hard as you can with a stick to see how far the sound carries. And if someone shows up asking about your peanut fields, you’ll know why.
Monday, September 29, 2008
It was my first Saturday night in Zana and I heard the tinkling of keys and a tap tap on my corrugated iron window shutters which means Esayi, my homologue, was coming to give me a visit. He announces when he's coming by making these noises because I'm so jumpy and I really appreciate it because it means I don't scream every time he comes to see me which is daily. I was in my kitchen cooking dinner, my hair still dripping from my nightly bucket bath under the stars. Esayi said folks were meeting at the church to sing and if I'd like to come, was welcome to join. I finished making dinner and eating it and made my way over to the church which is an unassuming mud structure no larger than my house, which is just the right size for me, but makes for a very compact worship space. I sat in the back on a cement bench and watched the evening unfold before me. Esayi stood at the front of the church with another boy, Emmanuel, and they led the singing. There were maybe 10 people there, but as the singing progressed, more people came out of the woodwork and joined me on my cement bench and others. I felt cozy and at home sitting there, listening to music I couldn't understand but could feel the emotion in the people's voices. A single kerosene lamp was all we had to light the room and it made the two men up front's shadows loom large before me and made everyone around me glow.
Top Ten Zana:
1 Cute little pigs run around everywhere
2 No cars - it's safe and eco-friendly out here!
3 Stunning sunrises and sets
4 While it's hard on the back, it is very soothing to sleep outside under the stars and with a breeze
5 Zana is filled with patient people who like to laugh
6There's an interest in ultimate frisbee! Little by little (Donni donni in bambara) we'll get a team going so we can play a game
7 Folks will listen to me play "Lyin' Eyes" ad nauseum (just like my college roomates :)
8 I don't have to worry about cutting the grass (or neighbors eyeing my overgrown lawn with weary eyes) because people just come into my yard and hammer stakes - with their livestock attached - into the ground. It's like my own petting zoo - goats, horses, donkeys, chickens. You name it, it's likely in my front yard.
9 There's a harmonious mix Christianity, Islam and animism which means I get to celebrate 3 times the holidays!
10 There's an endless supply of babies to play with and coo over.
And here's a little anecdote to give you an idea of what life is like here when I come to San, my market town:
And here's a little anecdote to give you an idea of what life is like here when I come to San, my market town:
Two of the other newly installed San volunteers were out shopping for house things at the market and as they walked, a child wouldn't stop pestering them. The kid kept waving an old book in their faces - and they kept shooing him away and, with their fragmented Bambara, trying to explain they weren't interested. The kid followed them throughout the market until he gave up and handed the planner to an older man who then approached the two volunteers. Now, with the children here, it's expected that they'll accost "toubabs" or foreigners, but older people generally tend to keep to themselves. The older man didn't bother with words - he just put the book in the volunteer's basket and left. The two volunteers were so confused - so they opened the book, which they now recognized as a planner, and flipped through the pages and found, written in small print and in pencil, the name of a volunteer who has ben here for two years and is extending for a third. The little boy had just wanted to return the lost book and knew our community is so small here, he knew toubabs would return this book to whomever it belonged.
This is just one example of why I know I've found another place to call home here in San/Zana.
Monday, September 22, 2008
My house is all moved into and I've got all my furniture except a bookcase. I spent this week getting started knitting with my host mom and greeting folks. My cat, Caya, is a great companion even if she does take up too much space in my bed. One thing, of many, that's lovely about my house is there's a wall around my whole yard, but also a smaller one right in front of my house so I can sleep outside in my mosquito tent without anyone being able to see me. Star gazing here is a big past time of mine and every night it seems I manage to see a shooting star.
I'm loving my village and feel like I really lucked out with my homologue and his wife who are terribly wonderful. More next week- I'll prepare a blog post before I come to the internet cafe.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
This is my out door bathroom, called a negen (with funky e's). Inside there's a covered hole that you use as the toilet. I'll bathe here as well and it's beautiful when the sun is setting because there's a perfect view of it from these mud walls.
Here is one such sunset in Zana.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Here's my cooking area, I'll try and duplicate this because it seemed to work pretty well.
My front room with the tent I slept in set up. You too could sleep in a tent in my home! Or we could sleep under the stars and on the roof.
This Baobab is right outside my compound. The birds that live in it are really large, as you can tell by the size of their nests.
This is one of my other sisters, Jatu, who often came over to see what I was up to and silently observe.
Usuman! This baby always had a smile on his face and was my favorite baby because of that cute smile and sweet belly.
This is Christine, the baby at my site who is 2 months old. Isn't she precious!
My new house! The structure in front and to the right is a kitchen, but I'll do my cooking inside and use that place as storage (?).
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Talking about the fishbowl feeling in the last entry, this was the normal amount of people who would sit around me and watch me, silently, for the first few nights. Now that I can actually say something back to them, I'm less - though not by much, of an anomaly.
Me and Joelle, a kindred spirit, and another agriculture volunteer with our "dabas" in the test garden in Kabe. We're learning about agriculture through half-day sessions with current volunteers and Malian trainers in my homestay village through hands-on demonstrations. I wear my hat everyday but as you can see by Joelle's outfit, am not required to be in dresses or skirts all the time by any means.
This is the view from my hut in Kabe. The bench in the middle is where my host dad hangs out at night. The structure to the right is one of his wive's huts. Malian men are required to be provide separate homes for their wives and then they have their own place too.
Here is Gibril (at right) and his brother Adama getting ready to head to Bamako to play music. Transportation is funny around here, no one follows traffic laws and motos are always weaving in and out. Gibril charges my cell phone on this motorcycle battery.