OK, just kidding. We didn't actually go on vacation as planned. Both Andrew and I had too much work to do at our site that we couldn't justify taking off for an entire month. We'll go instead in April or May. So what have we been doing?
1. I'm working on a health-related theater competition to be held in the county capital in January. Each junior high is sending one group to compete for a prize of $200. This is a really big project and I don't have control over every aspect of it so I'm pretty nervous. But I finally got the funding that I requested so I can rent equipment the day of the competition. Now, if the community will just follow through on their part of the contribution…
2. I'm a teacher! I've been teaching "Economie Familiale" which is basically Home Economics. It's largely a health-related class, but it's a lot of fun. In my 9th grade we talked about the causes of diarrhea and how to prevent it, and we even made oral re-hydration solution together. The downside is that my 7th grade has 144 students, my 8th 81, and my 9th 60, so it's a really tough job keeping them in control by myself and trying to make sure everyone is keeping up with the class. It's made doubly hard by the fact that the 7th and 8th form don't speak great French, so often I'll think they understand but then when I read their exams and homework they can't even put a sentence ogether! Another problem is that there is only one book for every five students, which makes sharing very difficult. The students sit three to a table, so many tables don't get a book. It's really hard. They fight over the books and almost tear them apart. It's funny because the school teachers didn't want to pass out ANY school books, because a) there aren't usually enough b) the students destroy them, c) the students don't read them, or d) the teacher is still using his 1980 photocopied textbook that doesn't match the nice, brand new, expensive textbooks that could theoretically be passed out to every student. So we had to push and prod to get the teachers to hand out any books, because let's face it, what's the point of having textbooks if they sit in a cabinet and no one gets to use them?? Besides, the students DO read them. They love books and it's such a rare treat for them to have them.
3. Andrew is a teacher! The biology teacher got promoted and left town, and the admin people don't have anyone else to send to teach bio, so Andrew volunteered. He's doing a great job. He's been killing bugs, putting them in my jam jars and then pinning them to Styrofoam and showing them off in class. It makes for a really messy kitchen but I'm sure the kids are having fun (and so is he).
4. We're in Bamako now, the blessed capital of Mali, getting some work done on our applications for the teaching program in France, and spending ridiculous amounts of money. There's a real grocery store here so we're stocking up on supplies. We'll be making a feast for the new volunteers in our region for Thanksgiving. EDIT Nicole made a fabulous feast with chicken; green beans; mashed potatoes; stuffing; cranberry sauce; and butternut squash pie, yum. All while reading books 3 and 4 of the Twilight series. We had cheddar cheese, crackers, and sausage for lunch. All 12 of us volunteers almost died in bliss, not having eaten any of those things in a very long time.
Joshua, Mark, Sam, and Ashley eat Thanksgiving yummies
5. Andrew just made contact with a new NGO in town that works on improving French skills at the elementary level and so he is going to be spending a lot of time working with them as well.
6. Gardening season is upon us and Andrew is working with a Malian NGO to start up women's gardening instead of looking for gold. In 2003, the old PC volunteers built 3 cement wells to try to start gardening, but the women never built fences like they were supposed to, so cows ate all of their produce the first season and the wells have sat unused since then. Due to women's groups presidents' inability to let others use their otherwise unused land has proved too difficult, so a new plot of land has been selected and the women are hopefully fencing it off and having a well dug. Once that's done, Andrew will show them how to compost, start a seed nursery, space seedlings, etc.
The project is for $375 so with so many people on our email list, that's less than $10 a person (the more the merrier). Each textbook costs about $8, and he's hoping to be able to buy about 60. I wish we could get more textbooks, but the community has to provide 25 percent and they can only afford so much. If you're interested in funding any of the other projects that appear, please do so. They're all our friends and need help. Even $5 can be a big help. Also, he's planning on doing a well project for a women's garden in January. If you wanna hold out for that, no problem.
Here are some interesting things that have happened to us recently:
1. A moth flew in my ear. Right INTO MY EAR! It was terrifying. It took Andrew about five minutes to get it out with tweezers.
2. On Andrew's birthday, we were walking through Bamako and a group of kids pulled my hair and threw rocks at me. When I yelled at them they scattered. It was really upsetting but I'm okay.
3. We carved butternut squash and gave out candy for Halloween. It wasn't the same as eating gross amounts of chocolate, wearing cool costumes, and watching scary movies, but it was fun.
4. I have become Twilight obsessed. Honestly, I don't know why. I think the writing is pretty bad, the story is cliché, and I don't particularly like the main character. But I do love Jacob and Edward and that apparently is enough to keep me reading the first book (5 times in the past two months). I haven't read the last two books, but I did order them from Amazon and should receive them soon. That should tell you how obsessed I am; shipping alone was more expensive then the actual books. Andrew almost had a heart attack. Then, when I ordered the soundtrack, he actually did have a heart attack. Poor guy. I don't even like vampire stories!! Is the book laced with highly addictive crack cocaine? Someone explain it to me!
A couple of people have asked about Christmas presents. If you're so inclined, we'd love to receive the following:
-Donate for the project! -Food, as always -Seeds -Books, mainly:
The Gulag Archipelago
At Swim-Two Birds
The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire
Letters to My Mother
The Unquiet Ghost: Russia Remembers Stalin
Bill Bryson (but not Notes From a Small Island, A Walk in the Woods,
or a Short History of Nearly Everything)
Indian religious books (not native americans) like upanishads, vedas, etc.