Why Mali is sweet (according to one man in my host family): "Jam won, janngol wala," there is peace, and no cold.
I hit and passed my one month mark at site! It’s amazing how time works here. There are times when the afternoon will fly by or all of a sudden a week has gone by but at the same time my 3.5 months here seem like a lifetime. American life is so far away from anything I know at site.
Last week Peace Corps sent me my language instructor to tutor me at site. It was great. We studied for about 5 or 6 hours a day which would usually include (if I was successful) at least an hour or two of some quality chatting in either French or Fulfulde. My language is definitely improving but I still have a long way to go. Unfortunately the women with whom I should be spending a lot of time, speak Malinke among each other so I don’t understand. Recently I’m feeling more comfortable telling them to speak Fulfulde but they usually revert to Malinke within a couple minutes. It’s funny, in a place where education is next to none and people spend their entire lives in one village farming or cooking, they can speak upwards of 5 languages. In my village alone they speak, Bambara, Fulfulde, Bozo, Chetankore, Malinke and at least two others whose names escape me… There is definite pride in language. No one asks me to teach them to do math or science or anything like that but EVERYONE asks me to teach them either French or English. If I were here to teach English, the enthusiasm is definitely there… maybe I’ll talk about health education in French or English… although then they wouldn’t understand… hmmmm.
I cook for myself but en brousse, there are pretty slim pickings. I eat a lot of noodles and tomato sauce and never miss taking my vitamins ;) I’m in Sevare now to bank and go to the post office for some delicious protein powder, and stopped at the market yesterday for some vegetables. I think my body might go into a happy shock with all the tomatoes, cucumber, onion and green peppers I ate but it was amazing. Vegetables are really great. Everyone really likes the fish from the river in my village but unfortunately I haven’t seem to have developed a taste for it…
As for the environment, it’s still pretty hot here. I was recently asked how hot it is and I really don’t know. All I know is I was not a sweater in the US but here I regularly have sweat dripping down my back and take at least two bucket baths a day. Once the rains come the river is going to flood and people will take to the fields. I’ve been promised that I can help in my friend’s rice field which I’m pretty excited about. Some men were building on my neighbor’s house and they told me to join them but when I was coming they freaked out and told me I couldn’t. They were joking but I wasn’t. I was really excited about building a house! They make bricks out of mud, use mud as mortar then cover the whole thing in mud. I haven’t been taking many pictures because everyone already assumes I have copious monies floating around so I am trying to convince them that I don’t before breaking out my new, shiny camera.
There aren’t that many crazy cool Africa animals up here in the north but I live amongst a ton of lizards, cows, donkeys, goats and chickens. Animals are part of the community, they roam the streets, live in the family compound…
I am slowing figuring out what I will be working on… I am currently going to people’s houses to complete my baseline survey where I ask people about their health practices… where they get their water (wells), if they bleach it (rarely), if they wash their hands with soap (rarely). I talk only to the women because then I ask them if they know SIDA (AIDS) or other sexually transmitted diseases, family planning and contraceptives. That’s pretty interesting because some people have heard of these things but don’t know much about it so I have been telling them about STIs and contraceptive methods. Something’s gotta give with this population (50% Malians are under 15). I’m going to try to be culturally sensitive and all that but I will definitely try to talk about the benefits of fewer kids to anyone who’ll listen.
Otherwise I have been told to fix a well, dig a new well for the women’s garden and build a couple fences. The maternity at site is really nice, built my villagers in November 2010 but funded by Aga Khan Foundation (which the more I learn about the better the organization is). The building has solar panels so I’m also going to try to get them a vaccine refrigerator … Anyways, my plans are big but I need to see what’s actually feasible. In-service training will be very welcome June 13 in Bamako.