Saturday, July 12, 2008

Toubaniso, Mali

  The Peace Corps leases a 10 acre plot of land from the Malian Department of Agriculture for our training site.  The compound is walled in though once you past the solid green gate you don't really see the wall and instead just notice all the lushness (of the greenery not people) around.  It's the beginning of the rainy season which was confirmed for me last night after using the naygen (sp? but it means toilet in bambara) at 4 a.m.  I drank a liter of water before going to bed because my roommates instilled fear in me as they reminded me that the doctor said we should be drinking 3-4 liters of water per day.  As soon as I crawled back under my mosquito tent the buckets released and I was lulled back to sleep by the sound of fierce rain on our tin roof.  
  All of our teachers are Malians and so far we've been learning about how to take care of ourselves to avoid "Mister D" as the doctor calls it (diarrhea) and safety precautions among other things.  Malians are very friendly people and apparently the only concerns are when you're in the city or urban areas where people are less traditional and take advantage of tourists.   Don't worry about me though - I'll likely be in a fairly rural place with lots of shea trees!  Mali is the largest grower of shea trees in the world but only holds 12% of the international market for shea products because the women add too many impurities to meet the standard.  I had my interview with my Agriculture director who said that I would likely be working with shea butter production and the marketing of the product or fish farming.  
  The Niger river runs alongside our enclosed space so a few of us walked down today to check it out.   This afternoon there were fishermen in gondola like boats fishing and one of them noticed us looking at him so he pushed his way on over.  We exchanged greetings (nodding and smiling when we didn't know what he was saying) and it turned into him asking if we needed a ride to the hotel across the river (obviously looking out of place on a river bank away from the city).  We can't really communicate beyond "Hello, my name is Jennifer, how is your family" so we smiled big and shook our heads before leaving.  On our trek to the river, I of course was searching for a hippo, but alas, was lucky enough to not see one...  My two current goals (aside from Peace Corps things...) while here in Mali are to meet Malick Sidibe and to see a hippo.  
  Today we started our language training for Bambara.  It's a learnable language though we're all still stumbling along through greetings.  All the volunteers here (about 10) who do our training and have been here for a year speak it very quickly and without any trouble so I know it can be done.  
  Tomorrow a cultural festival is happening so lots of vendors and folks will come out here to show us Malian culture in a microcosm.  We leave on tuesday for 12 days for our initial homestays where we will be in groups of 8 (though each with our own family) to really learn Bambara.  
  It's been a week (almost) since leaving Virginia Beach and so far so good.  More later!


Jym Horak said...

What a beautiful abode! It needs a little ornamentation though... Maybe Chad can move in?

Lara Teague said...

Hey Jennifer!

It sounds like you are off on a wonderful adventure. I hope you see a Hippo(at a distance:) and I will be on the look out to purchase some Malian Shea Butter. I love reading your blogs...keep us all posted back here in the States. Love, Lara

Anonymous said...

hi, Jennifer, I am really proud of you. You are so brave to go to a rural area. I can learn/gain something from you while reading your blog. Thanks so much for sharing your experience here. Keep posting message if you have time. Only one more week, I also need to go to live in other country~ Japan. I will also try to open a blog to share my experience with friends like you. Please take care! Miss you and Pray for you.

Heather said...

I've been thinking about you Jennifer. :) Good to see on your blog that you arrived safe and sound and are avoiding "Mister D". Keep the stories coming! :) Heather

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