Back from site visit in the scenic region of San (in Segou). All the trainees spent the week at their eventual sites (which we'll go to in September after swear-in) getting to know the officials in the town and establishing rapport. My site is very much like Kabo-san-Mali (aka Kabe) in that it's very rural, or brusse, the people are lovely and it's beautiful.
Things of note in Zana (my site):
-Fully grown baobab outside my compound with about 25 birds nests in it. The birds look like a mix between egrets and pelicans, large but not too noisy and very fun to watch. If you like birds, you should definitely plan a trip out here because there are tons of different birds at my site in all colors and sizes
-I have my own house! First time living alone and I have a 3 room place (3 rooms total...) with a bedroom about 10 ft x 10 ft, a "kitchen" a little larger, and a sitting area where there will be a lot of crafting going on.
-My yard is very large and I have a chest high mud wall around my house, outdoor bathroom (it's as romantic as it sounds, really!) and well where all my water for drinking and washing will come from. There's also a special area for a nice big garden. I don't think my foods will travel well in packages so you'll just have to come here to taste the fruits of my gardening labor!
-I'm replacing a volunteer who did incredible work that is sustainable and she set a great precedent for me to follow. Sometimes villages see foreigners as banks and easy sources of money because organizations will come in and just give away things without making it sustainable - the volunteer I'm replacing made sure all her projects were community supported and run.
-I get to bike about 15 miles every week to get my groceries for the week (just dried fish and dried onions in my village - tasty but not exactly sufficient) so I have a guaranteed exercise program/release.
-San is my market town and is not as touristy as other cities like Bamako, Segou and of course, Timboctou because it's not on a river or main thoroughfare which means less tourists and also that the locals treat foreigners less aggressively. Of course I stick out like a green thumb but at least the people just call out "Toubab! (Word for french, white foreigner) and I say "N'amu! (that's me!) and we laugh and move on. Other cities, you can run into folks being relentless asking for money and things - not what I'm looking for.
-My host mom is a knitter and has a 2-month old baby. I knew I had big shoes to fill when they let me know that the volunteer I'm replacing, Tamara, was given the honor of naming their child. !!! But they seemed to like me and the baby peed on me which is a sign of good luck!
-The San volunteer house is incredible. Not only does it foster much needed Peace Corps Volunteer community, it has a toilet, hot shower and full kitchen! Lots of creative cooking took place this past week when we stayed there as we opened bank accounts and got to know the town. The current volunteers are delightfully friendly and open and there's a large library (with books, VHS tapes and DVDs). Nice to have such amenities so close by.
And PS - definitely check out the Wollersheim Time blog (the link on the side bar) if you want a cross reference for what I'm experiencing. I could very well be lying (how would you know??) about how beautiful Mali is and what training is like- but let their pictures and words be an assurance that I'm not :)
I'm leaving tomorrow for a long visit to my homestay site so I'll be back in touch in early September. I'm writing everyday so let me know if you want a letter!