My site is in the Sikasso Region, about a 25 minute bike ride off the main road. My village has about 1,230 people in it. We have three water pumps and various wells. Most people are farmers of corn, millet, sorghum, and hot peppers. We have a kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. There are two little stores where I can buy soap and small grocery items. The roads going in and out allow motorcycles and only the most intrepid of car drivers. It's beautiful and surrounded by forests and rolling hills and even a few small streams. Since the rainy season is coming, everyone is getting their fields ready, the mangoes are plentiful (I bought six this morning for the equivalent of two American cents, and that's paying a lot for this time of year), and it's cooling off ever-so-slightly. My own garden is pretty badass, if I do say so myself. I am really thankful that I brought seeds from home. So far I have beans, peas, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, zinnias, sunflowers, cilantro, basil, parsley, cantaloupe, watermelon, zucchini, summer squash, bell peppers and eggplant. I hope that some of that actually comes to fruition so I can introduce new vegetables to my village's diet. We'll see.
|Just you wait.|
|Drissa, my host dad, with my seed nursery behind him|
|Nnere (Nin-yair-ray), my 4 year old sister|
For lunch, it's toh. I think I've written about it before but it's just a powdered grain, such as sorghum, millet, or corn that's made into a pudding/porridge consistency and eaten with any number of sauces. It really tastes like nothing, so I'm indifferent about it, except sometimes I want some dang variety! We eat rice every few days. It's expensive to eat rice, so it's a rarity for most people in the village. After lunch it's more of the same- sometimes I stay to shell peanuts and chat, sometimes we make tea, sometimes we just chat. Each afternoon I go to one of the school teachers' houses to study Bambara and teach him English. He speaks French so he helps me with mine. That's our primary language of communication, and it's nice to be understood every once in awhile. Sometimes we play Uno. It is easily the funniest part of my day when Secou yells "UNO!!" across the yard and people stare. I mean, wouldn't you? We have some pretty interesting conversations about America, education, and language. It's a good place for me to test out some hot-button issues like gender and development before I think about addressing them with villagers.
|Madium, the older of my two host moms, grinding millet to make toh|
In the evenings I take another bucket bath (don't judge me, I smell. It's hot here and I sweat a lot, more than normal people, I think, which the Malians love pointing out to me-- "You have sweat on your chest and face and arms and your shirt is dark." "Why yes, that's because we live in Sub-Saharan Africa and I have white skin that doesn't know what to do with so much heat." Well, that's the smartass response I give in my head because I can't say that in Bambara). And then I go to my host family's concession again to help with dinner and to hang out until afterwards when we look at the stars, shell more peanuts, or just play with the kids.
I know it doesn't sound like much. In fact, it looks rather boring to me now that I've written it out. Each day is different, so it's hard to give you a complete picture. I do have a lot of down time and I have read a lot of books so far (see earlier post). But in a few weeks I'll be going back to Bamako with the rest of my stage (pronounced "staj" -- the group of people I flew in to Mali with and trained with) for more training about beginning projects and using our various community assessment tools to better understand the needs and wants of our respective villages. Actually, it's interesting, because a new stage of Water/Sanitation and Education trainees is coming in just under a month. I don't feel ready to be a sophomore, yet that part of my life before starting PC service seems so long ago. Life is just funny like that.
Anyways, this is far too long, but I hope that it gives you a better idea of what my first six weeks at site have been like. That's it for now! I apologize for not making this very funny or provocative. Maybe next time. I hope I have sufficiently distracted you with photos. Don't forget the chocolate- it's cruel to leave a fat kid stranded. For added emphasis, see below: