"Not all those who wander are lost." -J.R.R.Tolkien
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Leaving for Homestay
I ni su!
Tomorrow Andrew and I are leaving for our homestay site. We will be living in a village of 415 people about 100km south of the capital. We will be living with a family and learning more Bambara. While we are there, we won't have access to email, so the soonest we can check our email will be when we return to the training site in about two weeks. So please email us news from home in that time! Thanks to those of you who have already sent us emails; it helps us keep our sanity!
We attended a cultural fair last night, where we heard Malian music, watched dancing, and were able to barter for panyas (a type of skirt worn by the women). We both bought some traditional clothes that we will wear to greet our family tomorrow.
Festival at Tubani So
Andrew and I also found out that we will be placed in the Kayes (pronounced Kai) region of Malifor our two year service. That's way in the west, about 2 hours from the border of Senegal. We'll be really far from the capital, so far that we get plane tickets to fly from Kayes into Bamako a couple times a year. The geography is very lush, green, and hot. Apparently our house, which was occupied by a previous PC couple, will be situated near a cliff (in case I get tired of Andrew and need to get rid of him inconspicuously;)). Andrew gets to work with ecotourism. Kayes wants to open a chimpanzee reserve so he may be helping with that. I will be working in a fairly large clinic.
Notice the Kayes region to the west
We're excited about our assignment, but it does seem like we'll be pretty isolated from the other volunteers, whom we've gotten to know very well.
The past couple of days have been an interesting insight into Malian culture. Malians eat with their hands (well, only their right hand), which is a lot more difficult than you'd imagine. Typically the family sits on the floor around a large bowl filled with rice or to (a millet based malt-o-meal like substance) and they scoop a ball up with their fingers, dip it in sauce, and then eat it. Keep in mind that you absolutely cannot use your left hand (it's used for bathroom purposes only) and you aren't supposed to lean over the bowl. So it's been very challenging, but thankfully with Ramadan approaching, we will be eating by ourselves a lot.
So far no illnesses, though my stomach has been feeling a little weird. Apparently once we get to our homestays that's when the real stomach problems begin. We've had lots of vaccinations, and to my credit, I haven't cried yet. But I still have 4 to go!
We had a session about stereotypes that we have of Malians/Africans and stereotypes that they had of us. We haven't had a chance to confirm or deny our stereotypes, but if you'd like to send us yours, please do. Here are the stereotypes of Americans: obese, greedy, powerful, very rich, egalitarian, hardworking, entrepeneurs, feminists, homosexuals (not that we all are, just that they exist in the US), racists, and the most surprising of all: DIRTY! They think we're dirty, it's so hard to understand. Apparently, we are unclean (eat pig, don't wash five times a day to pray, drink alcohol), use toilet paper (supposedly that doesn't work as well as their method), and are underhanded (we fight dirty). So as part of our Peace Corps mission, we must show them what Americans are really like. Fortunately, the Malians get a biased view of Americans because pretty much all of us are liberals.
There are lots of cool insects here. We saw a spider that is bright red, about a half inch long, and velvety. We also have seen tons of millipedes and really pretty birds. Its nice sitting through classes listening to the bird songs. The mosquitoes aren't bad at all. The flies are annoying. It rained yesterday and there were tons of termites all over the place. We don't really know what's going on, but either they're fighting or mating because we see them in twos and it looks like they're biting each others wings off, or they're falling off, not sure. Either way, it was good to finally see why there were termite wings all over the floor.
Cool little red mite
If you have any questions about Mali, let us know! Another of our missions is to bring back Malian culture, to get you guys interested, and maybe even to visit! In a couple months, once we're in the swing of things, we'll send some places where you can donate money to help out Peace Corps projects, if you want.