"Not all those who wander are lost." -J.R.R.Tolkien
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
I've completely lost track of time here since I've been on West African International Time (W.A.I.T) which about sums up everything that happens here in Mali, including transportation, classes, and even shopping. Everything takes probably more than twice as long here than in the glorious U.S.
I have to admit, I had a really bad couple of days about two weeks ago. For three days, I didn't want to leave my room, eat, bathe, or talk to people. I was feeling pretty down about the food (which is still the same malo ni tigedegena or rice and peanut butter sauce) and the feeling that my every movement is scrutinized by kids and adults alike. Everyone always wants to know what I'm doing, where I'm going, and they kind of look at us as a sort of entertainment. They are always trying to get us to sing and dance and they ask us to help with household chores just so they can crack up when we don't do them right. I know in my heart that they don't mean anything by it, and that my family genuinely cares about me and really likes me, but it was a hard adjustment to make. Thankfully, after a couple of days, the coolest thing happened to me: a snake found it's way into my room!
I'm sure to most people (including Nana) that doesn't sound all that great, but it was actually really neat for me. Not only was it something new and exciting, but I got to share my interest in reptiles with my host family which stopped them from killing a harmless animal (it wasn't venomous). Andrew actually picked it up with gloves and put it back outside. I'm attaching a photo of the little guy. Somehow that snapped me out of my funk and I was able to get on with my life. Malians have interesting fews of animals: snakes and frogs are big no-no's here. One night after a big rain Andrew and I went out and caught these huge frogs and everyone was laughing and thought we foreigners were being very silly, but entertaining. Until Andrew tried to get a Malian to hold the frog. To them, frogs are dangerous because they can jump inside you and steal your soul!
Our Language Prof who lives in the village with us is amazing. He does a good job of making sure we are as comfortable as possible, and he's become a great friend to the five of us in our village. The other night before we returned to Tubani So, we had a mini-party, and somehow we all ended up telling ghost stories under his hanger. Once it started raining and thundering, he let us move into his house where we continued to tell stories until about 1:00am. Then he walked everyone home and made sure our windows were locked (we were all terrified at that point!). His name is Moussa and he's pretty neat.
Tomorrow Andrew and I are making the long journey to our permanent site. We are traveling by public transport to the regional capital, Kayes, where we will spend the night. The next day, we will drive down to our banking town where we will learn our way around. Finally, after another night's stay, we will drive to our site where we will spend two days learning about our jobs and our new community.
Our Peace Corps swear-in date is September 20th, so we've only got a month left of Pre-Service Training, of which only two more weeks is spent at homestay. I can tell you, I will miss my little village of 415 people, especially some of my younger siblings, like Mamine, who is only 6 but follows me everywhere. My family really takes care of me. The other night I made "American" tea for my family, and as I got up to give the tea glass to someone, all the little children crowded around me, spilling the boiling tea on my foot. The adults immediately chased the kids away, and came running over to offer advice and give medicine (thankfully my toe didn't fall off!). For the next couple of days they kept asking me if I was okay. They are very concerned that we are safe and healthy and happy.
Our language has gotten much better, and we can actually hold conversations with people. We just had a mid-PST language test, and I and Andrew scored just one level below the level we need to swear-in in September. My evaluator said the only reason I didn't pass then and there was because we just hadn't covered one of the topics required to pass the exam. So we're feeling pretty great about our language, especially since no one else in our village passed that high.
We went into Bamako yesterday and had pizza and cheeseburgers and banana splits! It was amazing. And there was this huge supermarket where we bought snacks and food.
Thanks so much to those of you who have sent us care packages! So far we have only received Laura's package (the cereal bars aren't too squished!), but I know some of you have sent other things. Apparently it's cheaper and quicker to send bubble mailers rather than boxes; sorry about the late info!
Finally, we have cell phones! My number is 002233308572 and Andrew's is 002235584722. You just dial the number exactly like that and you can reach us if you need to. Unfortunately, we don't have cell reception at our site, so we will only be able to make or receive calls once a month when we go in for banking.