Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fumbles, Food and Fun!

When writing my blog posts I often feel like waving my arms around me and saying, 'See??!!'  because my words fail me.  I spent these past 3 weeks waving my arms around and saying 'See??!!' but it was to a friend.  I spent these past 3 weeks talking until I was blue in the face but it was with someone next to me.  Exploring Mali with one of my best friends, Sarah, we talked about our lives in Mali and France and she got to see the country she's been reading about for 2 years on my blog in person.  Seeing her nod and get a real grasp on my life here was touching and an incredibly rich experience for us both. 
Sarah and Maridee checking out mud cloth in Koutiala
The day after arriving in Bamako and staying at my friend Ryan's place (thank you!) Sarah and I loaded into an NGO pick-up truck with my overweight bags and her carry-on size suitcase and headed to Koutiala.  Once there we relaxed at the volunteer house and tried to catch up on some sleep - I was pretty fuzzy after a 12 hour flight and a bumpy truck ride.  The next day, watered and fed, we headed with Maridee, another PCV who is based in Koutiala, to the mud-cloth association where she works.  We learned where the dyes come from, how the mud-cloth is made and some of the history behind the designs before making some purchases and taking a few lovely pictures.

From Koutiala we traveled to San in a friendly mini-bus where the other passengers loved Sarah (of course!) and taught her lots of things in Bambara in between questions about her man and reasons for being in Mali.  In the span of the few days we spent in San Sarah learned to greet in Bambara, purchased many bolts of fabric to be made into gifts and matching outfits and ate a large amount of peanut-butter-sauce-covered rice.  While passing through a plastic-sheet covered stall in the fabric section of market an old, frail man took one look at me and Sarah and made me promise I would take her inside in case of strong winds to prevent them from blowing her away.  I happily agreed and Sarah nudged me to say the same about him!

Tea at Uncle's (left) was a mainstay of our visit to San
After biking the 20km to village (it's part of the travel ritual :), Sarah finally got to give baby Christine snuggles, Annie hugs and Esayi confirmations that yes, she was in good health and happy to be here.  We collected shea nuts with Annie one morning, tried to help pound millet into flour, toured the village to meet all of my friends and folks I work with and spent a morning in the cereal bank as the last of the grain was issued to families in my village. 
Sarah is a trooper biking through the marsh from my village!
We were then honored to attend Cassie's farewell party at her site and next headed to Djenné to see the largest mud mosque in the world on Djenné's market day.  The mosque is pretty much all there is to see in Djenné so after a day there we headed to Mopti and stayed with a volunteer, Susan, (thank you!) and then to Sevaré where we purchased treasures (of course!) and prepared to leave for our Dogon hike.  The 3-day Dogon hike took us on a beautiful tour of the lush cliffs with breathtaking views of the encroaching desert and scrubby brush below for only 8,000 CFA/day (about $16) from Dourou to Telly. 

Checking out the scenery in Dogon country
Carefully navigating the rocky terrain ahead of us I lagged behind the group on our Dogon hike.  I heard Oumar Guindo, our sailor-mouthed guide and comedian for the trip, holler back to the rest of us 'Got it?!' after his inaudible commentary on the landscape around and below.  I waved my arms around and said 'See??!!' to Sarah and she turned back and smiled.  I have been truly blessed to have Marija, my Mom and now Sarah come and share in my experiences here and actually see for themselves this beautiful country and the people I know (and all the ones I've yet to meet!) in it.  Because when it comes to Mali - sometimes there just aren't words. 


Laura said...

lovely photos!! glad you made it back safely. it was wonderful seeing you in richmond...hopefully see you again in december!!

Marija said...

I love the last pic with those classy hats!

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