Saturday, September 8, 2007

Site Visit to Dialafara

So Nicole and I went to our site in the Kayes region. It took us a couple days to get there (had to take the long way around, stay overnight, bad roads, etc) but we finally got there. We were there for all of 4 hours, talking to the mayor and dugutigi (chief); trying to work out our housing situation (the house they had provided was unfinished and utterly lacking in privacy). Luckily, we managed to find a much better house with a big yard, privacy, and the contract has been signed!

I am very looking forward to working here. The Tamboura Cliffs run along the road between Kayes and Kenieba and they are absolutely gorgeous. My job is to work with a new hotel that is starting up. I'll be working with ecotourism and gardening and reforestation and fire management and environmental education and its going to be loads of fun. This one car ride has changed my life. It has openned up an interest, a career path, that I never imagined: ecotourism! I'm really excited to get started. I've done enough tourism to know what is (un)appealing to tourists, what is fair and beneficial for the community, and what is environmentally okay. I can forsee myself coming back from the Peace Corps and spending the rest of my life in ecotourism. I can envision going to grad school to study it. I'm so excited to have basically the whole Tamboura Cliffs to myself. I'll be a John Muir and wander all over it, discover its hidden treasures, learn all about the ecosystems, and establish a tourism program that preserves it. I know my hopes are set too high, and I need to make sure to not do this all myself but to let the Malians do it so that it will continue when I leave, but there's so much good I can do!

For those of you wanting to check this area out, you can see the cliffs on Google Maps. Go to Mali, then to the very west, almost in Senegal. There's a road that runs from Kayes to Kenieba (south) and if you look along that road, you'll see the cliffs. They run for at least a hundred miles, and they're pretty tall (unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any information online) and all Lonely Planet has to say is that Kenieba is surrounded by a picturesque escarpment. This in no way encapsulates the beauty.

So since returning from my site, I've been learning what I can about ecotourism. Also, I'll be working a lot with Shea Butter production. Shea Butter comes from this area (West Africa) and can be found in almost all beauty products. More on that later. My language is coming along. Its amazing to see how well I can speak in Bambara after a little over a month of instruction.

Thanks to those who sent us packages. Even the _crappy_ books are blessings! (thanks emidala). For the record, bubble mailers sent normal post arrive the quickest, safest, and cheapest. Thanks to those who sent us mail! Hopefully the return letters will arrive safely.

We 'celebrated' our first wedding anniversary. Hard to believe its been a whole year. I wish we could have done more, but we'll make up for it in a few years when we're out of Africa.

Anyone wanting to come visit us, the best time will be in early 2009, after I've set up a great tourism program. You can join the herds of people flocking to my site. Lots of great birding opportunities too!

Peace Out!

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