Saturday, August 9, 2008

Andrew Eats Cake

Howdy partners!

I'm here in Tubani So again, our volunteer training ground, and I'm eating cake and on the internet. Life is good. I'm here to train the volunteers and their Malian counterparts how to do community assessment. Fun fun fun. The new batch of volunteers is in the process of being well trained, and they're just getting ready to leave the training grounds and go see their village for a week, before coming back for more training. It's insane the difference a year makes. Its absolutely unbelievable the change in language (to the detriment of my English, of course). I was able to comfortably train Malians and Volunteers speaking in English, French, and Bambara.

Nicole is safely returned, with few difficulties. She told me she'd be sending an update of her US trip, so I'll leave that to her.

I'm in the process of updating our e-mail list, so if you get multiples of these e-mails, know of others who want to receive these e-mails, or don't want to receive these e-mails anymore, let me know! It shall be done.

Work is crazy this time of year for an Environment volunteer. Helping women with shea butter, gardening, men with new sorghum varieties, selling local seeds bought in Kayes. The seeds you guys sent (thank you thank you thank you) are being grown in my garden and if they work, given to men and women whom I trust to grow and multiply. So far: lima beans. It's so hard to grow things here. We had one zucchini! Unfortunately, the bugs had 5, and this was planted 6 months ago. The zucchini was divine. We're okay on seeds for now.
Nicole returned with a bunch of herbs and odd stuff like kohlrabi. Beans, squash, melon, cucumber do great here. Nightshades like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers also doing okay. Can't seem to get broccoli, carrots, lettuce to grow. So far, we've harvested lima beans, tomatoes, 2 heads of lettuce, 1 zucchini, 2 beets, 4 carrots,
and 3 radishes. I thought once I got past the animals eating everything, the lack of water killing everything, I'd be okay. Nope. Now things are getting too much water, still more insects than you can shake a stick at, what I assume to be nematoads, and crappy soil. I've tried everything I can to protect one cantaloupe, pockmarked by caterpiller bites. I've raised it off the ground to protect against nematoads, covered it in a blue screen to protect it against larvae, but I think it's still not going to live.
One of our gigantic squashes!

Also, I've become a farmer!!! I farm peanuts and corn (and I have sorghum fields farmed by locals). My back is very tan, my hands callused, and my fingertips stained brown. I feel so manly. "Farm boy, fetch me that pail of water..." Now, when all of the Malians order me to come help them in their fields, I can gracefully decline
by saying, "Sorry, I've got my own fields. Yes, I really am farming. Yes, I really can farm. No, I'm not paying people to farm for me." Now all I have to do is sleep on my nose to squash it and my Malian transformation will be complete.

Book by Baba Wagué Diakité

Thank you Erika and Maggie and Glen and Leann and everyone else who sent/is sending books! My village probably has the most English books in all of Mali. We haven't counted (or started catalogueing), but I'd
guess between 200 and 300. Also, I found some kids books written by Baba Wague Diakite. They're in English, but about Malian stories, and his daughters' visits to Mali. I'd highly recommend buying one. It gives a perfect picture of what Mali is like. Buying _The Magic Gourd_ off of Amazon...$14.00. The way malian students' faces light up when they read in English a fable their grandfather told them ... priceless. That's the good news. The bad news is that Washington has not sent money to the American Embassy in Mali, and thus the Embassy has not sent money to our approved project. Theoretically, once they get the money, we get the money. Thankfully, the most essential part of a library (the books) is going good. All we need is a book case and we've got a veritable library. The funds will really help establish a computer room and a conference room that will provide light at night to study.
Old school to be turned into a library

I'm hoping to put up a project to get a garden well for a local village. The women are genuinely motivated, not just looking for handouts, so I feel okay starting the process, and the well is needed. I was sold when they decided to plant a live fence instead of the $1000 chain-link fence. My guess is that the garden well project will cost around $500, and I'm hoping that you guys can help me out with it. The women are required to furnish 25%. I know many of you have already sent packages and books, and I thank you for helping us out.
For everyone else, I'm hoping you can donate $5+ to help build a well. I'll let you know when it goes online. If you're really gung-ho about it and could respond saying you're definitely interested, that'd help me get an idea of how much we can spend (maybe a pump to help reduce pulling so many buckets of water, buying some fertilizer, garden tools, etc.)

Hmm, any cultural updates... Oh, I forgot to transfer my photos. I'll do that now and put some with this e-mail. Done. Check out more at

I saw a cow cut into 32 pieces (see photo). Other than that, can't think of any new cultural news. Oh yeah, the three villages: Baroumba, Diaguina, Netekoto have a custom/law that if there's a death in one village, all 3 villages stop all work (read farming. Cooking, laundry, dishes, and baby-sitting don't count as work). Solidarity or laziness, you decide.

Final news: I am coming to the US! I'll be arriving September 14th, assuming Delta hasn't cancelled my flight due to the "fuel crisis." I'll be in LA Sept. 14 to 17, Berkeley 18 to 22, LA 23 to 25. At least that's the plan. Looking at it, that isn't enough time anywhere, so this might change. I'm coming because GRACE AND AARON
ARE GETTING MARRIED!!! Ala ka den balo (may God give you children). Let me know if you'll be around, we'll do lunch. Also, Berkeley people, let me know if you've got room for me to crash on the floor at your place, hotels in Berkeley are ridiculous.

I'm taking orders for shea soap and shea butter if you want some, $0.50 per bar of soap, $2.00 for 200g of butter. (shipping and handling not included) Soaps come in Shea with honey/cucumber/neem/green mud/glycerine. All good for moisturizing skin, helping wounds heal, and helping out Malian women.