Saturday, September 13, 2008

It's official!

Kamaje, my beautiful host grandmother that would clap as I danced and rub my belly when I said I'd eaten dinner and was full.
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.

Yesterday, (Friday the 12th), all the trainees loaded up onto one big bus and we headed to the American embassy. Once there, we listened to speeches by our country director, the acting ambassador, and our training director about our decision to join the Peace Corps and the completion of our training. Three trainees gave thank you speeches in the three languages folks learned: French, Bambara and Bomu. It was a little surreal looking around at the other volunteers newly sworn in and thinking about the past two months we've spent together learning about Mali as we studied our respective languages. Just to remind us of our roots, the ceremony was followed by a pool party at a club complete with hamburgers, hot dogs and potato salad.
Later in the day all the new volunteers and the older ones who came into Bamako to see us swear in celebrated together at the Pirate's Bar and then No Stress - night clubs owned by some Lebanese folks (like many of the restaurants and clubs are in Bamako). I haven't done much clubbing in the States and it was a lot of fun to get dressed up and go out dancing with everyone. We've all been going to bed early these past two months - usually no later than 10, 11 is pushing it. But last night, we didn't get back to the hotel until 3 in the morning, get crazy!
Nouhoum, the man in charge of our language training and a cousin of Malick Sidibe's, said we could meet this morning and travel together to Malick's studio which is within walking distance of the Peace Corps office. So I dragged myself from the mattress on the floor in the hotel room we stayed at in Bamako and walked over the peacefully sleeping bodies of exhausted volunteers to get ready to meet the man I spent 4 months studying last fall. I practiced my Bambara greetings with Nouhoum on the way and how I would say that I had studied him for my thesis only to find that he's on a trip to Europe for 10 days and won't be back until next week. But Nouhoum showed me his studio (pictures to come) and I'll be able to go back when I come back to Bamako in January for training. While disappointing, I'm glad that my Bambara will be at a conversational level by the time I meet him because even though Sidibe speaks French fluently because he went to high school, it's a palpable difference in the way Malians treat you when you speak Bambara and when you speak French. The interactions are so much more jovial and full of laughter and smiles when I communicate in Bambara than when I use my French.
I leave early tomorrow to take a bus to San to go shopping for my new house and to meet the police in San and find the post office. There's a nervous excitement in the air - after two months of training we're yet again moving away from those close to us (this time it's friends we've known for only 2 months but we've still developed strong rapports in the short time) as we did in July. I've got quite a laundry list of things to get for my house but am most excited about getting yellow paint to spruce up the mud walls.


Laura said...

aw! how disappointing about your almost introduction, but at least you will be able to see him again!! i love reading your blog, jennifer!

Martha B said...

How perfect that you have someone to rub your belly!

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