Thursday, January 22, 2009

What if the mightiest word is love?

I'm putting on a bee suit to collect honey from the hives (killer African bees!). My suit ended up having a hole in it so I just walked around wearing the suit...

This is at the Peace Corps training site in Bamako. We're learning by doing which is great for folks with short attention spans :) Here we learned how to make mud stoves so when women cook they use less firewood which means less strenuous trips out to collect firewood.

The first week I was in Mali all the new trainees (soon to be volunteers) took an oral language test to gauge our level in French if we had studied it previously. The questions became increasingly difficult to encourage the use of complex verb tenses and vocabulary and my test ended with a question about terrorism and war and what I thought a solution could be. I thought for a minute and then tentatively responded "Love?" My interviewer looked at me and said "Precisement."
As I sat and watched the inaugural address from a club in Bamako I was brought back to that first week of training over 6 months ago (!) when Elizabeth Alexander asked in her inaugural poem "What if the mightiest word is love?" It was so exciting to sit with my fellow Mali volunteers and listen to President Obama's powerful speech and the prayers and poem that accompanied it. The Malian response to Obama's election is overwhelming. I'd wager a guess that most Americans don't know where Mali is on a map let alone who the president is (Amadou Toumani Toure) but you better believe folks here know who our president is.
Life in Mali is worlds away from my life in Virginia. But some things are universal. I've laughed and cried with my new family (both American and Malian) and seen that families here want the same things we want in the states. Better lives for their children. Jobs to provide for their families. Communities to share in joys and lessen the sorrows. Why do people want all of these things? I think the answer is simple - love. I can't wrap my mind around how these needs aren't met for people here and am hoping that over the next two years I'll find some answers to my own questions about poverty and development in Mali.
As independent as I sometimes feel, I know I depend a lot on the support and love of my family and friends. And as I get ready to jump into two years of projects and cultural exchange here in Mali I'll keep in mind that for me, love is the mightiest word.


The Secretary said...
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Martha said...

Simply beautiful, Jennifer.

I heard you and Matt skyped last night. Too sweet! Sorry I was in class and missed you. Silly class!

Love you tons!

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