End of April 18 column
End April 25 Column

Mali Journal

My older daughter, M, is in the Peace Corps in Mali. Her internet access will soon be much less frequent, so enjoy these journal entries while you can!

[This is an English translation of the coverage of her swearing-in ceremony on the web page of the Malian television service]

Last night we had our thank you dinner for our host families. My sister O came, she was the only older sister who I really talked to, primarily because she was the one who was confident enough to speak to me in French. She is the oldest daughter still at home, so she pretty much runs the household for forty people despite being 18. My brother A was basically head of household since the father had passed away, and he's only 24. I thought about inviting A2, but I'm glad I invited O because I think it was probably more special for her to get to leave the compound and go have a nice meal. She does go to Bamako sometimes for family stuff, but in general men can leave whenever they want, but women are stuck at home unless it is a wedding or funeral. L and J also invited host sisters, so that also made it less awkward. We had chicken and fries, and they made a point of telling everyone to wash their hands beforehand, which is an ongoing battle here (most Malians who do "wash" their hands don't normally use soap). I wish I could have invited one of the three or four year-old kids too, because J and L's sisters were both also moms of small children they got to come to the event, but O's not married yet, so there was no reason for her to bring one of the babies.

Today I went to the suguba ("big market") in Bamako for the first time. We started with lunch at Broadway Cafe (expat diner), but we miscommunicated between the trainees and half of us ended up at one location and half at the other. Ultimately it worked out though, because if we'd stayed together we wouldn't have been able to catch a cab or make any decisions. The market was basically just a bunch of small roads with vendors. I was expecting something different, but I guess that is why we're told not to set expectations, ever. It was hot and tiring, but I got some fabric, a head wrap, and some gold sandals for swear in. There's an option to go back into Bamako tomorrow morning for more shopping, but I think I might just wait until we go into the American Club in the afternoon for lunch so I'm less dirty and exhausted for the pool.

It turns out they rented a bus to take us to Sikasso, so we don't have to take public transport all the way to our regional capitol the day after swear in, and since I'm so far off the main road, it sounds like they are actually going to drive me and all of my stuff directly to site, which will be nice, and possibly less of an adventure than transporting it on a donkey cart, but again, I shouldn't set any expectations. It still could turn into an adventure.