Thursday, April 9, 2009

School Woes

Socks, Arya, and Heart
So, big news since our last update. We have many new additions to the Wallace family. Please give a warm welcome to two new kittens, Heart (so named because of a heart-shaped spot) and Socks (born on top of one of my socks). Also, welcome 6 chicks, who will hopefully give us big white eggs and juicy meat in a few months.
In other news, we have discovered that we will be able to survive if suddenly humankind were forced to revert back to the caveman days in the event of a nuclear explosion or alien invasion. In addition to our excellent gardening skills, poultry raising skills, cheesemaking skills and food drying skills, you can add mud-oven building to our repertoire. After many weeks of mixing mud, digging clay out of our well, and chopping straw, we now have a lovely contraption that will bake muffins, cookies, pizza, bread, and roast vegetables and chicken. We’ve been having a delicious time introducing the locals to American treats like chocolate muffins and butternut squash bread. You should have seen the kids! For all of them it was their first time tasting chocolate or pizza. The only downside to this new cooking method is that we now resemble beach balls from all the weight we’ve put on.
Andrew and the kids with our oven

Nicole's breadmaking skills put to use

Andrew stretches the mozarella cheese

We’ve recently moved into the 21st century and have discovered Skype! We now have internet at the Kayes bureau and as such, we can talk free with our friends and family back home. If you don’t already have Skype, get it (, let us know, and we’ll arrange a call time next time we’re in town. Andrew’s screen name is Taurendur, and mine is nicoledcwallace.

Teaching was going well, until the school system interfered. After two teacher strikes, the 2nd trimester final exams were pushed forward a week and the seventh and eighth grade students were only given 24 hours notice to study for the first 4 exams. I felt so bad for them. Their results were really bad. And then the ninth form tests were “postponed indefinitely” because the teachers were being forced to work for the Mali census for a month (the original workers quit because the pay was too low). What this all means is that the students get a 5 week spring break, and there may not even be a 3rd trimester because there just isn’t enough time. The ninth form is supposed to take a county wide exam to pass into high school and I don’t know how they are going to do it because they are so far behind now.

I’ve been bored out of my mind the past three weeks because school was cancelled, and 118 degree heat has not improved my temper. We finally escaped for a week to Kayes, where there are at least cold drinks and fans, but we’re heading back down on Thursday and I honestly don’t know what I am going to do until April 21st, when school will *supposedly* start up again. And to top it all off, I woke up a few days ago feeling awful. Sore throat, fever, body aches, the works. It’s not gone yet, and Andrew has it, too.

Thanks to you who have donated money so far to our project. We used some of it today to buy clocks for the school rooms. We’ll be buying textbooks when the teachers make up their minds what will do the most good. For those who still want to donate, but need a way to do so, we’ve hit a snag with our website and with PayPal, so we haven’t figured out the best way to receive money. We think those who are interested should send checks payable to Mark Wallace, who will then Western Union the money to us here in Mali (please send us an e-mail letting us know a check was sent, so we can follow up on it). Or, if you have a PayPal account, you can directly send the money to our PayPal account ( under the “Send Money” tab, but
what that means is that we still can’t use that money as francs, but we will take an equal amount out of our Peace Corps stipend to pay for things, or use the PayPal money to purchase things online and have them sent to Mali. Sorry it’s so complicated. Anyone know of an easy way to allow friends to donate money to use online? We also promise receipts and pictures of any items purchased with donated money. Also, try Andrew put up a button that should allow you to donate using paypal or credit cards, although any time he’s tested it, it only allows paypal. Anyone know a fix?

Today we received confirmation that we’ve been accepted into the French teaching program! Weirdly, they placed us in two different academies, or regions. We aren’t even close to each other. We’re trying to get it worked out. If we can’t work it out, I don’t know what we’re going to do. Andrew’s been seriously suggesting doing a similar program in Asia or South America. I told him to keep dreaming. I would LOVE to visit those places, but I’m not ready to live in someplace so un-western for a while. Sorry, but I need a break from chaos. If we can go anywhere else in western Europe, where ice cream and clean running water are the norm, I’m in. But I can’t do another year of malaria tablets and no electricity.

I hope everyone is weathering the bad economy right now and that no one is hurting too bad. Honestly, I’m terrified to go home right now and I hope finding a job will be easier with a little more time. Thus, if we don’t end up going to France, I guess we’ll be moving back in with the parents! Just kidding, I hope. Another couple here just returned home because they found out they’re having a baby, which must be pretty scary, considering they’re returning to the states with no home, no car, no jobs, and very little money. But they’ve got the support of their friends and family to help them out.

That’s all for now, friends. We’re heading back to site tomorrow for another month of grueling heat and boredom. When we come back up to Kayes, we’ll be going to Bamako for the COS (Close of Service)
conference for our group of people. Yes, we’re that close to being done. Below see the links to our pictures from our trip through Mali with Andrew’s parents.