Monday, September 29, 2008

Tripping Out

Well, I'm back in Mali.

I had a great time in California. I saw lots of friends, and wish I could have seen more. I was so rushed, and a bit sick, but I managed to cram in a trip to LA, San Francisco, and San Diego. I think I travelled a total of 16,000 miles and over 100 hours on this trip. I still have another 100 miles and 6-12 hours to get to my village. The trip between Mali and Senegal is the worst trip I've ever had in my life. It takes 5 hours to cross the border (2 miles) because the Senegalaise have to check everyone's bags, then everyone's ID (but not at the same time or place, oh no, that would be efficient). If you're lucky enough to not get left behind, you have to then have the Malians check everyone's IDs and bags (again, not at same time or place). The border patrol is on a total power trip. They wouldn't accept my official Malian ID, nor my visa in my passport, so I had to give the agent $30 (which he pocketed) for him to stamp my passport with a visa. Luckily, I got back onto the bus before they pulled away. Not all passengers were so lucky. I yelled at the driver to get him to stop, or at least to unload their bags, but they didn't want to wait there all night. A couple others helped me out and we yelled enough and got them to stop and wait, then again, then again, then again, and finally the Cote d'Ivoirian and Nigerian got on the bus after going through the same shit I went through. The bus driver was so anxious to go because He had started the trip 4 hours late because they kept switching busses on us. The first bus hadn't made the trip in a month; the second was short about 10 seats, and the third ended up breaking down twice on the journey. I had such a nice seat on the first bus, no seat on the second, and a very cramped seat over the hot engine on the third.

But the US was nice. I ate well, although it doesn't look like I gained any weight, sorry for those trying to fatten me up. Here's what all of you need to appreciate about the US:

Millions of miles of paved roads
No bugs
Running water
Air Conditioning
Common Sense and efficiency are valued
Availability and choice of all foods
Entertainment options

Think on each of these and be thankful that you live in the best country on earth, God Bless America!

I got to give a little talk at my cousin's 3rd Grade classroom. They were really cute, had tons of questions, and will hopefully send some letters to my 9th graders (hopefully my 9th graders will be able to read their letters).

I managed to bring my microscope to Mali. Now maybe they'll believe me that germs really do exist.

I also managed to bring about $300 worth of food (mainly mixes and dried foods). That should keep us a month or so.

Vera, I meant to give you some African French music. I'll see if I can send it over e-mail next time. African French is much easier than French French. They trill their r's. They often speak with excitement, especially when saying 'par rapport' and 'raison pour lequel.'

EAP: it was so good seeing you guys! Do you have an e-mail address for Linnea? Nicole says her messages keep bouncing back.

To all the newly married/engaged couples, congratulations. Best wishes, we'll try and get to as many weddings as we can.

To all those who donated stuff (basketball, blow up globe, Baileys, etc.), thanks, I got it here safely!

Nicole likes my hair, woo hoo! I got it cut (no offense Nicole, but you're not the best with a pair of scissors) at Fantastic Sams.

Senegal looks a lot like Mali. Dakar, the capitol, looks a lot like Bamako, only slightly cleaner and taller buildings. Everyone speaks French and Wolof. It was annoying not being able to speak Bambara to the Africans, I'm so used to it.

People asked if it was weird getting readjusted to civilized life. The answer is yes. Other volunteers had no problems. At first, I couldn't speak to black people in English, I was too used to French or Bambara. I almost died of joy when I went to the supermarket. In Dakar, it was weird having a smooth ride in a taxi on a nice road.

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