Nicole killed a rat! With a stick! We've had a rat problem at the Peace Corps office in Kayes and now Nicole is fighting it head on. We got another cat for the office to kill rats. She's called Kémé Saba (three dollars) because she cost three dollars. She's really cute. Arya, our cat back at our village, is doing well and climbing trees, tall trees.
Send us an update about you! Still at the same job, new job, new boyfriend, new school, anything! We're desperate for news, even if it's only one sentence.
We went to Bamako, the capital of Mali, for some training. I learned about grafting, making shea butter, and other cool things. Nicole learned how much she dislikes working with health. We both tested at 'advanced' in Bambara and French. I finished my report on my village (15 pages!) that details what natural resources are used, over-used, under-used, and what projects have been done in the village. I just finished translating it into French, so now I will have my community look at it, correct it, and create a final version.
A friend is reading The White Man's Burden, about how there are so many NGOs in Africa, so much money, and almost nothing is being accomplished. I haven't read it yet, but from what I've heard, it sounds like a good book to read. I did read Sahara by Clive Cussler and I'm annoyed that he made Mali sound like a Uganda or Rwanda with their dictators and mass murders. Mali is really nothing like that, not even when they did have political instability in the '90s.
I sent my mom some shea butter for her birthday from Shea Yeleen. A previous Peace Corps volunteer has created a company that buys shea nuts from Malian women, makes them into shea butter, and sells that on the internet (www.sheayeleen.org I think). We'll be working with them to bring Mali's shea production up to snuff and to create a demand for the product.
Our garden is going well. Thanks so much to everyone who sent seeds! We've been eating carrots (only carrots within 85 km), tomatoes, and lima beans. We had a well dug, so now watering is much easier and our plants are finally getting enough water. I planted 15 trees using the PLASA method (planting with only watering once) and so far they're still alive. We have oranges, tangelos, a mango, an avocado, a pomegranate, guava, papayas, and bananas. If we're lucky, we'll actually get fruit from the papayas and bananas. The rest of the trees were just to improve the house. The PLASA method is pretty interesting. Common sensically, one should plant in the rainy season so that the tree gets enough water and lives. This method teaches the tree to find the humid layer in the soil, and to direct all root growth there. When planted in the rainy season, the roots grow laterally, so when the soil dries up, the tree has a hard time, but with the PLASA method, the roots grow down so that the tree has enough water throughout the year.
I'm also working on planting a moringa/baobab garden. The leaves are really nutritious, so I'm going to grow a whole bunch and keep them short (they're trees) so that it's easy to get the leaves. If you get the chance, look up some pictures of baobabs online. They may not be the tallest trees, or the widest, or the oldest, but they are certainly the trees with the most personality.
Nicole had strep throat, so she was out of commission for a while, but she's all better now. She's scheduled for an animation on family planning with the girls of the middle school (some of whom are already pregnant). It's actually a very common practice here for 15 year old girls to marry 30 year old guys (the guys can't marry any younger because they can't afford it. It costs 10 cows plus a whole bunch of money, only some of which goes to the bride).
We're thinking about coming back to the US to visit in July and/or September. We're also thinking about touring Ghana, Benin, and Togo. Salah and Erika, any recommendations on Ghana? Wanna come?
We sat in on an English class and I got to teach: "Thirty days have September/ April, June, and November" (I know it's supposed to be "hath," but they can't pronounce the –th). I also got to teach the alphabet song, and Nicole got to explain rhyme. We'll be taking a more active roll in helping with English, and I realized that cassettes are a great way to learn English (books on tape, music, etc.)
Nicole teaching English
We're waiting for the embassy to review our application for the library. Thanks to Maggy (Scottish dancing friend) for the $1000 book donation! Even if we don't get the funds to renovate the building, having the books will be a big help.