Trouble With Labor, Trouble With Capital
End of Feb. 28 Column

Mali Journal

My older daughter, M, is in Mali serving in the Peace Corps:

I've been living in a village for the last two weeks without electricity or running water called Djiallakorobugo, half an hour outside of the capitol city Bamako. My host family has forty people, 35 of them children from the age of 3 months to 24 years old. There are three wives, an aunt and an uncle, but the host dad is dead. My Malian name is Fatimata. My favorite brother is M, and my favorite sister is O, both 18, both most willing to speak French or slow Bambara with me.

We are back at Tubaniso, which is the Peace Corps training center. It is half America/half Mali. By American standards it is rustic, kind of a nice camping site, but by Malian standards it is incredibly plush, I now know. Here we have internet, electricity, fans, and toilet paper provided in all the squat toilets. We have separate spaces to shower, and pump water on tap, as well as cold treated water to drink. In the village we have a combination of pump water and well water that we can fetch or have a child fetch for us. And we have to filter it.

We just had Mexican food for dinner. In the states I would have been judgmental of the quality, but here it was delicious. Mmmmm, guacamole. I'm not actually super thrilled to be back surrounded by Americans. Everyone wants to talk about their own experience over the last couple of weeks, which makes it hard for them to listen to your stories. Also, I hate to hear people bitching, although I've been doing some myself.

It is really hot. And this is winter. Hot season starts to ramp up in a couple of weeks though. And then after that of course is rainy season. And no one works during either of those. So my first six months here should be pretty relaxed in pace. Time definitely feels different here. Without modern distractions, time passes slowly, but with eight hours of language class six days a week, my time is also pretty heavily scheduled and not my own.

Even though everyone here is pretty fit (because they don't really have a choice), they look pretty developmentally stunted too. Everyone is short and looks a couple years younger than I would have guessed for their ages.

I'm going to find out my region and what type of project I will most likely be doing the second week of March. I'm very excited for that. Once we find out we'll get to meet our Malian counterpart and go do a site visit and meet our new host families. I'm enjoying my current situation, but I'm more excited to know where I'll be spending the whole 2 years to follow.

The meals have been VERY carb heavy. I've asked my teacher to ask my family to provide more vegetables, so the last couple of days it has been better. Initially a standard day was a third of a baguette and eggs for breakfast (actually very good) with Lipton tea, potatoes and a couple chunks of beef for lunch, and rice or pasta with a couple chunks of meat for dinner. Since I asked for more vegetables I've been getting my couple chunks of meat on top of greenbeans rather than carbs. I also like the fish here, it is smoked and except for the bones, kind of delicious.