Thursday, August 30, 2007

Return from Site Visit

Andrew and I just returned from seeing our permanent site, Dialafara, which is in the region of Kayes, very close to the Senegalese border. Our village is surrounded by the Tamboura Cliffs, a 100 mile long escarpment of beauty. It's very green, there are waterfalls, and chimps at the top! We haven't seen them yet, though, because the cliffs are really high up. Our village has about 1,900 people, but the community seems a little unsure of our role there. First, they keep comparing us to the previous married couple who lived there, and it's hard for them to understand that we are different people. They wanted us to live in these tiny mud huts, which were in disrepair, and in the middle of someone else's compound, which means no privacy whatsoever. We finally convinced them to move us to this cement house with its own private yard where we can garden. They are making the Peace Corps rent it though, because it's technically private property. They also think we will eat every meal with them, and I had to dispel that idea real quick. I'm not interested in starving to death!
The clinic where I'm working seems okay, but I think most of my work will be going door to door giving health presentations and arranging baby-weighing days. Andrew has a much cooler job. He gets to work with Tamboura Tours and help them develop ecotourism around the cliffs. I'm going to help by doing environmental/wildlife education with the children. His sounds cooler but as my supervisor said, "You'll be saving babies while he plays with the chimps!"

Unfortunately, I don't know that much more about my site because we were only there for four hours. The lack of adequate housing meant we couldn't stay overnight as planned. We had to begin the very long, bumpy journey back to the regional capital to stay at the Peace Corps house that night.

Public Transportation!!! I never believed it would be this bad! We took a 10 hour bus out of Bamako to Kayes and it was horrible. First of all, someone bought our tickets for a 6:30 bus and made the driver "promise" to wait until 7:30, when we showed up. Of course, the driver was gone by the time we got there, so we had to chase the bus about 40 minutes out of Bamako and hop on where it had stopped for a rest break. The bus was completely full by that time, so a lot of us ended up sharing seats with Malians, carrying our huge bags on our laps or in the aisle. Talk about a safety hazard. Then it started raining, and it took the bus 3 hours to go over a 50km stretch of unpaved road! We were lucky the rest of the trip, because we took P.C. vehicles to and from our site but we were almost unlucky. The nearest volunteer to us (only 85km south) had to take the "bus" up from his site to Kayes. We should have been on the same bus, because it stops in our village, but we had already left. Anyway, it left at 9:00am, broke down three times on the road, and the final time was around 9:00pm and since the headlights stopped working the bus stopped permanently and everyone slept on the side of the road. Thank goodness he had his cell phone and he called the PC and they went out and picked him up. Apparently the rainy season is the only time the road is bad, because the rain and the trucks turn the road into a muddy, rutty mess. We just aren't leaving our site for three months every year...

In other news, this Saturday is our one year wedding anniversary. I'm a little sad because we won't be able to celebrate in any way. I wish we had cake. :( If I had a way to cook I might be able to whip something up that has chocolate in it, but that doesn't seem possible yet.

For those who care, I am reading Harry Potter for the second time since the copy my grandmother sent me arrived yesterday! (:)) I read it the first time using a friend's copy, but I practically inhaled it (it took me exactly 8 hours) so I was really excited when my own copy came. I'm almost finished with it (again) so hopefully it will clear up some things. I really liked it, but the "afterward" really irritated me. It was too "tied up." But the rest was good although I totally thought she killed off the wrong people. It was almost unnecessary.
Anyway, I'm back to Famana, my homestay site, for more rice and peanut butter sauce, but this time I am armed with the goodies Laura sent me, so I shouldn't lose any more weight (I've already lost about 12 pounds).

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