Living in a small village in Mali is very different from New York City to say the least. It has had its ups and downs, but overall it has been a very positive experience.
One confession: It is freeing not to be plugged in to a computer or a phone 24/7. I am active during the day because at night all I have is a kerosene lamp. Coned has not reached B. Village, the small settlement in which I am living here in Mali for the next 10 weeks.
I have been renamed a Malian name: Lasine Coulibaly. Each ethnic group in Mali has what is called a “Joking Cousin” which acts as entertainment and a peacekeeper amongst different ethnic groups. For instance, because I am a Coulibaly, people will joke I am a “bean eater” and I can retort with “you are a donkey” or “I ye Fali ye” in the local language of Bambara, a quasi patois of French that I am learning 7 hours a day, every day. I need to become intermediate mid in order to qualify for swearing in as an official volunteer on September 3, 2010. Language lessons can be a bit tedious but I feel I am getting the hang of it and getting to speak more each day with my host family.
Bambara is not all I am learning. There are many cultural differences in Mali such as covering your knees (that’s rig, I can’t wear shorts in Africa unless I am plying sports or riding my bike), using only your right hand (I am a lefty) because the left hand is dirty- you use it to wipe when you use the “negin” the outside bathroom that you squat to deposit goods, where creepy crawly things come out of at night. One hopes that it might be covered and separated from the area you take a bucket bath in (that’s right, a bucket bath- no shower!) but it is pretty refreshing because you realize how little water you need to actually clean yourself and you get to bathe under the clear sky and beautiful stars. Another cultural point is that you GREET everyone. “I ni Sogoma” (Good Morning) then “N ba i ni sogoma” for men or “N se i ni soma” for women and it is a sign of education and respect to greet, especially elders. There are more lines but I’ll spare you the entire shpeal and reserve more cultural aspects and gender norms for a separate post.
Another fantastic thing is that I am riding my bike! I learned in September and this is the first week I’ve ridden a bike or in Bambara “negeso”. We ride from village to village visiting the other trainees, sometimes 3k away from where we are on rocky roads with puddles. I am going to be slick on even paved roads when I come back to the states. From this, I’ve also lost 5lbs in the last 13 days. I hope it continues, hopefully not from Mr. D though (our euphemism for Diarrhea or malnutrition).
Okay, well, it’s almost bedtime for me but I will post more on all these things some point soon. We are very busy here with training sessions and activities so it is difficult to get away. However, my contact information is located on the contact page and I posted my phone number on facebook.
I would love letters and pictures from friends and family. In fact, if people would like to send me anything, the address is on the contact page as well. Expediting is probably best seeing as it takes a long while to get anywhere here. Items that would be super helpful:
Mosquito repellent with deet, mac and cheese in box, clif bars, nytimes sunday, flyswatter, magazines, usb with new music, other snacks, logic puzzles, and marlboro 27s.
Thanks ya’ll. Tune in for more later on!
A la ka su here chaaya, by which you respond: Amina
(A night blessing)