Friday, October 9, 2009

Dooni, Dooni (little by little)

Life here continues to uncover lessons to me about people and relationships as well as development and foreign aid in one of the poorest countries in the world.  In spite of all I've been taught about urine fertilizer, moringa trees, composting and gardening it sometimes feels like the greatest lessons I am learning are the ones about myself.  As other volunteers often discuss, I think patience is the largest obstacle I have had to conquer and I thought I was pretty patient before I got here!

Sunsets like these make even tough days feel OK

Malians are relentless jokesters and every time I talk with a man or woman they tease me non-stop with bean jokes, offers of marriage to their [insert male relative] and when I say that I have lived here a year and I have one more to go, they scoff at the short time and say, “Mali ma di wa?”- do you not like Mali?  It can get pretty tiring, especially when you’re having not-so-hot days, to grit your teeth, put on a smile and patiently say no, I don’t eat beans, no, I'm not interested in this random male relative and no, I do like Mali.  I think how I may be the only American this person ever meets or at least has a longer than head nod conversation with and so, even though I have had this same conversation at least 5 times already today, I try and make a good impression and not lose my cool (spread that American love, right?)  The last question about not liking Mali because I’m only here two years really gets under my skin.  I think how when you tell someone in America you’re doing anything for two years they look at you like it’s an eternity.   So when folks here tell me I don’t like Mali because I won’t accept their older brother/widowed father/toddler son as a husband or since apparently I am here for a two-week stint instead of two years I patiently explain that while I love Mali, it is not my home.  That while I love speaking Bambara, meeting Malians and my little mud hut, I will never be 100% at ease here.  I will never be able to walk down a street without some kid yelling out “Toubabu musoni!” (Foreign girl!) I will never be able to stop comparing life here to life as I know it in America.  I will never be able to stop missing, even if it is just a little bit, the comforts and familiarity of my real home. 

Annie's Dad Lamine - one man I don't mind spending a lot of time with!

Life here continues to open wide my green eyes to a new (to me) culture, a new (to me) way of living and a new (to me) language.  And even though the repetition of jokes, marriage proposals and doubting of my commitment to Mali can wear me down and make me want to avoid eye contact rather than have the same conversation one more time all it takes is one person to compliment my Bambara or to tell me I look like a"Bamana muso"(a Malian woman) in my outfit to lift my spirits and say, you know what, I may not ever feel completely at ease here but with a smile and a little patience, it sure comes close.   


Barack said...

Jennifer you know, you're right, don't pay attention to what or who bores you , just focus on what you think most important and close to you like agriculture and education here, and you'll see dooni dooni a bè ta niè ani e fana bè ta niè.

Jennifer said...

Thanks Manzo! It's not that I'm bored by people - I just have my own hurdle to overcome adjusting and integrating into a culture that's not my own. Greet the people of Bamako for me!

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