Wednesday, August 6, 2008


This is the view of my host family's kitchen and home (left to right) at sunset.
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.


Martha B said...

Baby Cuz, it is not "politely eating" if you wolf it down in four minutes. Just FYI =)

I love you tons and am glad to see another posting. I sent you a letter last week, which maybe you may never receive because I did not include "West Africa." I'll try to send a package soon with some tasty treats.

Glad to see you're doing well. Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us!

Rachel said...

Hey Jennifer!
I can not tell you how exciting it is to read your blog! I'll bet you didn't even know I was following it, but I definitely am! I myself will be starting my grad school in a couple of weeks, but I'm doing the Masters International program and have recently begun my Peace Corps application!! I really really really want to go to Mali and I'm just eating up all of your pictures and experiences! Stay positive (I know you will) and keep posting! I'll keep reading!

<3 Rachel Fellows

Anonymous said...

Well Jennifer it appears you are now a bona fide Malian. Those are great pictures. Since you havine been working on your crop, when will the havest be? Maggie and I are glad you have adjusted so well but you always been pretty flexible in whatever role you were in. We think of you often and read your blogs as they appear. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.
Do take care and keep the experiences coming.....


Laura said...

oh my gosh..that is beyond coincidence meeting with all those hampton roaders. but we do find one another!

Charlotte said...

Jennifer, I'm going to get all gushy on you, but I want you to know I proud I am to see your blog and know that you will be representing me as an American there in Mali. I was 10-12 years old when JFK was president and started the Peace Corps and I was moved at the time by the idealism. Same now. The pictures are wonderful, especially the blog header with the children. I'll keep up with you for sure. Hope it helps to know that one grandmother/librarian type has you in her prayers. Blessings.

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