Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Talk of the Town Tuesday: Jim Cave, Peace Corps Mali Volunteer Extraordinaire

Jim with the Coulibaly kids - Christine loves him now!
Have you ever left a job you loved because it was time? Have you silently (or not so silently) worried if your replacement would be up to the task of what lies before them? Have you wondered how they would adapt to the working environment and if they would love it the way you did? I think it's safe to say the answer to all of those questions are yes if you are a Returned (or current in my situation) Peace Corps Volunteer who has enjoyed their service and site and has been replaced.

Fortunately, my fears were assuaged when I met Jim Cave, the volunteer who replaced me, last August. Leaving village last year to come to Bamako for my third-year with USAID/PHARE was easier after meeting Jim because I no longer worried if he would early terminate his service or not be up to living out in the bush. He fit in from Day One. Born in Great Falls, Montana, Jim is the kind of guy that calls his family weekly just to chat and that anyone would want to call a friend because he's so sincere and genuine. He took right away too the simple beauty of the San region and the gentle nature of our village. A mutual Malian friend once said of Jim, “He hasn't integrated into Mali's culture – he's just a part of it.” And it's so true. Whenever I tell other volunteers, when they ask where my site was for the first two years, that Jim replaced me – if they know him – they automatically sigh and say “Jim Cave? He's such a sweetheart!” And it's so true.

After studying Political Science and History at Montana State, Jim came to Mali – his first time leaving America (aside from skipping the border into Canada) – to be an environmental specialist with the Peace Corps. After Peace Corps he's hoping to see the world – maybe by teaching English in Thailand or Indonesia – before studying law at the University of Montana where he hopes to concentrate on worker's rights. Before joining the Peace Corps he spent a summer in Washington D.C. working for Montana Senator JonTester where he was particularly interested in labor and worker's rights and then he spent a month with the Montana Farmer's Union which focuses on small family farms in the state.

He's adorably handsome, kind-hearted and seriously, pretty much loved on the spot by anyone who meets him. This past weekend I went back to village with Abdoulaye and he suggested Jim be the Talk of the Town this Tuesday.  But of course, I said!  Jim's the Talk of the Town every Tuesday!  I could gush about him to anyone willing to listen and even to those who aren't but I'll let you fall for him on your own with his interview:
Abdoulaye & Christine, Me, Le Vieux, Annie, Esayi and Jim (back row) Emma and Batuma (front)
Name: Jim Cave aka Adama Coulibaly
Birthplace: Great Falls, Montana
Birthday: April 8, 1988
Marital status: The lady who scoops up this treasure is going to be lucky
Occupation: Peace Corps Volunteer, Mali
Langauges spoken: English, Bambara

What are you three favorite things about the village where you live?
  1. Easily the Coulibaly family (Annie & Esayi et. al). Esayi is not only my best-friend in Mali but quite possibly my best-friend period. They've made me feel such a part of their family and have been so supportive [as I adjust to Mali].
  2. Everyone's a farmer here and there's a sense of community with all the communal and seasonal work that takes place like brick making, house building and repair and farming. There's a real sense of helping one another out.
  3. I am in biking distance to San. [Which, despite what the Lonely Planet Guide calls “just a truck stop,” is quite possibly the best city in Mali.] (wait, did Jim say that or did I? I think we both did)
What's so great about Mali?
  1. The people! (are you readers getting the idea that Mali, like Virginia, is for lovers?? (of people that is!) I like how open to conversations people are.
  2. Ethnic groups continue to maintain their identity through dress, traditions and language. I like how different the country is depending on where you go.
  3. It's a varied country with the Sahara desert in the North and a lush, almost tropical climate in the South. People in San speak legends of what it's like in Sikasso where they sometimes have two growing seasons (gasp!)
Where would you like to visit in Mali?
I'd like to visit Sikasso and Dogon country and if the security situation were different, Gao and Timbuktu in the north. It's wild to see Tamasheks get on the bus – they look and sound so different than Bambaras!


What's your favorite blessing or proverb?
Dooni dooni konon be a ka nid dilan
Little by little the bird builds his nest.
Take your time!

Allah k'an kelen kelen wuli. [blessing said before you go to bed]
May we rise one by one.
If everyone gets up at the same time it means there's a problem somewhere! Best if we don't all get up at once.


What work are you doing at site?
I've helped to coordinate continued training for both the men's cereal bank association as well as the women's cooperative that focuses on shea nut and butter production. I'm hoping next year to work more closely with a Farmer's Field School to focus on field crops and problems like erosion and how to combat pests.


Why should we visit you in Montana? (as though we needed a reason!)
If you've only ever been on the East Coast coming out to Montana is like visiting a different country. The animals, the landscape – it's all so different! The cost of living is also reasonable relative to other states so you won't spend a lot on food or accommodations here but can enjoy skiing in the winter and hiking and fishing in the summer. There's also no sales tax!


Any final comments?
I'm glad I replaced you – you've been a consistent help. I also know my Mom is going to read this so I'll let her leave a comment. :)


Thank you Jim/Adama!  I'm so glad you replaced me, too.  And thank you Mrs. Cave for reading :)
All we're missing is Tamara!
Abdoulaye is Takana-izing Jim and Christine.  He liked it!


5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jennifer. This is how I felt about you when I left that village!!

I am so glad that the Coulibaly family and the village has had you and Jim. You are both great volunteers!

- Tamara

Jennifer said...

Thanks Tamara! We'll photoshop you in the next picture :) or maybe you'll be here for it!! Everyone greets you and Pascal!

Anonymous said...

i was in montana and i met jim after he had to leave mali and my little brother's girlfriend is yeah samake's niece. I met her and she is so amazing/since he was away from me at boarding school i missed him/ when i found out he had kadi as a girlfriend whom he met in track class i was astonished and so happy that he was taken care of by such a wonderful girl!
i missed jim so i typed in his name after trying to remember it for a few days and found your nice pictures! thank you well also we had another kid named nouman stay with us here and thats when she came to visit I guess they both know yeah samake and nouman showed me a picture of him and his brothers eating honey out of a big salad bowl they had honey all over their cheeks and he said that the hive was right inside his house on the ceiling and his parents grow mangos and oranges or fruits or something so awesome to meet them and jim too

Anonymous said...

also neither of them are mormon and despite the powerful pressure they get from the mormons they say if you ask me to come to church one more time i'm going back to mali because that is not why i am here// nobody else in noumans huge family has ever known how to read or write and he wants to become a diplomat he is going to be student council president next year

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRKim09cnng

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