My older daughter is a Peace Corps trainee in Mali, coming up on her swearing-in:
Yesterday we went on a fieldtrip to a woman's cooperative that makes shea butter products. Now that I know where I'm going and what I'm going to be doing it is nice going on these types of fieldtrips because I know what is going to be directly applicable to my service, like this for example. I am actually going to be working with shea, so the whole trip was extra interesting. The group we visited actually really had their stuff together. They are sponsored by a Canadian NGO and have a Peace Corps volunteer helping them, so they're getting a lot of outside help, but still, they seemed to have good quality control, good marketing, and a good product. It is definitely a product (shea butter moisturizer, conditioner, and soap) that I could see selling well in California, and they even got Fair Trade certification recently, which will help them attract even more investment. The Canadian NGO is called maison de la karite. I haven't looked them up yet, but I hear they have a webpage, and I may try to partner with them too if they work in Sikasso.
Swearing in is the evening of the 12th, but we're going drinking/eating/dancing Monday night. It will be funny to see everyone in their western clothes.
Our Associate Peace Corps Director is Macki, a Malian National, and he is basically my boss now. He made a good point the other day when we were talking about tech exchanges (taking our homologues (Malian counterparts) to see other PCVs (volunteers) to see how their projects are going). He said that we shouldn't skip too many steps. If my women's association is just gathering nuts and I take their president to see the organization I went to the fieldtrip to visit then they might get too ambitious, when the next logical step would just be to process the nuts and sell the butter, not to jump right to buying equipment or making soap, which might be unobtainable right now. So I really need to see what they're actually doing on the ground, which is what the next two months are about anyway.
So, we got our schedule for Monday, and we're going shopping in the morning, and then we're going to lunch, then we're checking into a hotel in groups of five, and then we're going to eat dinner at the hotel and head to three clubs/bars in the expat area of town. They're arranging most of the transportation, and have arranged things with the clubs because we're going to be 60 trainees and about 200 volunteers, so people need warning that we're coming. It should be an interesting night. Then Tuesday we come back here to Tubaniso, and we all get bussed out together to the presidential palace in the afternoon for a five pm swear in and reception.