Journal Writing
End of March 28 Column

Mali Journal

My older daughter is in Mali with the Peace Corps.

She reports: So, I'm in Sikasso after having spent a week at my site.  It was a good week.  It was a little intense, as I was mostly with Malians, but I had one day where the Peace Corps came to check on me and then they gave me a ride to my banking town where I saw where the nearest other trainee's house is (right across from the bus station, so super easy to find), and talked with a third year volunteer who lives here in the capitol. 

Also my last day in village a current volunteer who lives 7 km off the main road in the opposite direction (I'm also 7 km off the road, so we're 14 km apart and share a bus stop village, Dugukoloubugu) came by to visit, and she ended up spending the night so we could bike to the main road together to flag down a bus.  It was a little odd because in the US someone I'd never met wouldn't stop by for a sleep over unannounced, but it worked out fine because she's cool.  She's been here since July.  Her Bambara is obviously better than mine so everyone in the village is kind of wondering when I'm going to get some language skills too.


My tutor does speak some English, but he actually seemed relieved when he found out I could speak French, so I think we're going to do my Bambara lessons in French.  We did a practice session for a couple hours and his French and Bambara are both very clear and easy to understand.

There is a lot going on in N'tjila.  We did a lot of "greeting," so basically we just went around and said hi to people and I got introduced, but I also attended a caisse mobile (local bank) meeting, visited the women's garden, and met some women who do cloth dying.  They also already know about drying and canning fruit, and they're making good quality shea, so I'm going to be building on a solid foundation rather than starting from scratch.

I don't get phone reception in my village.  I get some reception on the top of a hill next to the school if I really need to call out, and I can SMS from next to a tree in the middle of a field.  No joke.  There are two land lines or "cabines" in the village, but I found out that while they can receive and make reliable calls, they need to be charged and need to have credit to work, so they aren't always going to be in service.

My banking town doesn't have internet, but I'll probably get my mail box there.  There is a market on Sundays which I'll probably come in for.  I can either bike in, bike to the main road and flag down a bus or taxi, or go on the special once a week taxi special for market day.

Sikasso didn't have internet or electricity when we first got here, but obviously it does now.  Internet is slow, but apparently better than it was a couple months ago.