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.
It's been 4 weeks today that I've been in Mali and while I do seem to think more than usual about time and it's passing, that still catches me by surprise. It feels like I left for Philadelphia last week (sometimes...) and at others, like it was ages ago. We're getting ready to head out for our site visits this weekend where we'll get to see what our living situation and village is going to be like for the next 2 years. Kabe is pretty separate from a main road which is great for getting to spend time with my host family but not so much for spending time with other trainees. I'd like to be able to meet up with them during the week when we're at homstay but the road to Kabe, like the one to Casablanca (thank you for that movie Memaw!) is a rough one to say the least, so we're a little isolated. Fortunately the surrounding area is enough to satisfy me and when I go to site I will have a bike. In fact, my site is about 5 km from a drivable road it seems so I have to have a bike, even for our site visit this weekend, and I'm very much looking forward to getting to explore the village on two wheels.
It's fun coming back to Tubaniso and hearing everyone's different adjusting stories. It seems to "survive" here you have to have a vibrant sense of humor, or at least an appreciation for it, and an ability to look at what's going on around you and say, "yes, this is wayyyy different, but I'm pushing along." Some of newest, closest friends embrace laughter and sharing these stories and it feels so good to laugh along with them at the situations we're encountering.
Of course it took coming to Mali to realize how small the world really is. I went to Bamako for a quick medical visit with another trainee who wasn't feeling so well and we got to talking with another current volunteer who is one year in and when I asked where she was from, of course she said Virginia Beach. I was hungry and excited to take advantage of being in a city (which means I'm around pizza and ice cream!) so we headed to a nearby restaurant The restaurant had a bar area for passersby and the likes of me to sit and quickly refresh. I sat down to eat my pizza with the VB volunteer and we struck up a conversation with the only other guy at the place. The french reader and motorcycle helmet gave him away as a traveler, and perhaps the English as well, but we got to talking and found out, naturally, that he too was from the 757 - though Hampton and not our beloved Virginia Beach. He's biking around West Africa for 5 weeks on a moped/motorcycle he bought in Mauritania (or Senegal) and just taking in the scenery and culture before starting business school. It had only been about 3 weeks at the time since I'd been in the US but I was nonetheless already very excited at the prospect of pizza. I got my food and as we talked and very politely ate. When I finished, he looked at me with a little awe and commented "Um, you just ate that pizza in about 4 minutes." I looked at myself and laughed at the crumbs all over my pants and said, yes, I was reallly hungry.