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Mali Journal

My older daughter, M, is now with the Peace Corps in Mali.

Monday February 7, 2011


M texted me her village as Dialakorobugu, but maps.google.com thinks it is:

Dyalakorobougou, Kati, Koulikoro, Mali

Transliterations from African languages frequently disagree on spellings.

It is about 24 KM from the center of the capital Bamako or 14 miles at M's average speed of 12 mph on flat asphalt in America, just over an hour by bike However, I suspect the roads are dirt, so it is probably more like 2 hours. Still, that beats 2 days. And it probably can't be much more than an hour by bush taxi.

If you check out the satellite pictures, there appear to be buildings with no roofs, as well as buildings with roofs.

Tuesday February 8, 2011 MESSAGE FROM M
Hey all,
This is just going to be my village for the next nine weeks for training. I'm going to be there for language and culture immersion training. I'm studying Bambara, and all the other trainees in my business are also doing small business training. There are nine villages total in the area that are hosting volunteers. Some trainees are doing minority languages, but I'm doing the language spoken by 80% of the country (more than speak French), so I still don't know what region I met end up in for my actual service.

We're meeting our host families in two hours and driving out to the villages. I won't have Internet again until the 20th, but dad can send you my cell phone numbers which may or may not work.

So far so good here. It is hot, and only getting hotter. The end of February marks the beginning of the "hot season"... There will also be mangoes soon though. We tried tou for the first time last night, which is the traditional Malian starch made out of millet. The tou itself wasn't bad, but the sauce they put on it was just like slime. I hope I end up in more of a rice eating household, but if I end up with tou three times a day for the next ten days I guess that will help me get used to it.

So far my stomach is mostly OK, the biggest discomfort I'm having is from the high dose of mefloquin we had to take the first three days to get our immune systems up for malaria. From here on out it is just one pill every Sunday.

I feel like I haven't really gotten to Mali yet because we haven't really left the training compound and interacted with anyone who wasn't paid by Peace Corps to be nice to us. I walked down to the Niger River last night with a group of trainees while it was still light out, and looked at Bamako across the river and that made it a little more real.

I'm excited for home stay. Having a host family will be tough I'm sure, but at least I won't have roommates for awhile... I'll let you know how it goes in two weeks.

By Telephone Feb. 12-13
We spoke to M on her cellphone twice this weekend. She is living in a family with three wives, thirty children and two squat toilets. Most of life takes place outdoors. There are lots of animals around. The small children make fun of her laundry ineptitude. She is awake every morning at 6; there is silence until everyone has washed their face. The men go straight to the Mosque.