My older daughter M is a volunteer with the Peace Corps in Mali. She had access to the Internet this week, so here's the latest:
So, I've been reading Monique and the Mango Rains at site, about a volunteer who served in Mali at some point in the past when volunteers were not only allowed to ride motorcycles, but were given them by Peace Corps. She was a health volunteer and worked at a maternity. Her experience is incredibly easy to identify with. I think I've recommended several books already, but if you want to know more about what my day to day looks like, go ahead and read this book, but subtract the boyfriend, change Miniaka to Ghanakan, and ignore all the birth stuff which I'm happily not dealing with in my own service. I have been starting every other sentence since I got together with T yesterday morning to take the bus in with "Well in Monique and the Mango Rains, ..." She's being a good sport about it though. Since everything I can verify is right on, I assume the stuff I haven't personally experienced yet, like conversations on excision, are also accurate.
On a side note, while I was doing some self-tutoring with my Bambara-French, French-Bambara, French-English dictionaries at site I made an unfortunate realization. I was reading a story about blacksmiths, since I myself am a blacksmith by last name, and so while I was in the "numu" (blacksmith) section of the Bambara-French dictionary, I confirmed that numuke is a male blacksmith, who can make anything out of iron or other metals, but also who performs circumcisions... and then sure enough numumuso right below it is a basket weaver or someone who does pottery, but who also performs excisions. Ouch. I go around proudly proclaiming myself a numumuso all the time. Now I'm going to twinge a little when I do it. Another book I finished this week was The Race for Timbuktu I think Dad might like this one. It is a series of historical accounts of British explorers, most of whom die on the coastline of Benin or Nigeria, but it also follows the one explorer who successfully makes it into the heart of Mali, before there was a Mali obviously. Most of the novel is reconstructed from correspondences either by the explorers themselves, or the Colonial Office in Tripoli, and it is full of dry British wit. It is a fascinating story of intrigue, which might actually be slow-paced when read in America, but here it seemed to skip right along.
This week I had terrible hay fever. I took some Benadryl, but then I ended up just sleeping through a couple days. When it rained that cleared the air and I could breathe again.
We had a big mobile bank meeting on Friday. It went reasonably well. Since the ladies have been making change out of the safe we now only have very large bills, which makes it hard when people want to take money back out.
M, my Malian boss as the head of Small Enterprise Development, was supposed to come for a quick visit on a drive between Bamako to Sikasso to visit another volunteers service but he sent me a text the day before, Saturday, saying he wasn't going to make it after all. I was pretty disappointed. When I had talked to him in Bamako he had sounded very enthusiastic about helping me with the library project which I have, for the most part, abandoned for now since I couldn't get the school director excited about it. M, as a child, was in a household with a Peace Corps Volunteer. Their volunteer read all the time, and M's dad saw that, and assumed reading must be important, so he always made books available to his kids, who went on to not only finish high school, which is already a huge achievement here, but also to go on to college, virtually unheard of, and then go on to get a further degree in America, the rarest of the rare. So literacy has a special place in M's heart. M is almost magical in his ability to clear obstacles away, so I was excited to have him come to village. I had spent whatever time I was able to breathe and move preparing my hut and my yard to entertain, even if he was only going to drop by. Nothing was wasted per se, since cleaning my living space was needed after the long stay in Bamako, but I still felt deflated when I got the text. He did say he'd come later though.
Since he didn't come, I was able to meet up with T in Niena for market day on Sunday. We got the keys to A's old house last week, and we had the neighbors weed the yard. The house is perfectly empty, but it is nice to have access to a clean negen and a shady place to wait out the hottest part of the day. Extremely nice. We took naps, read, and I used the occasion of being in a quiet place with reception to actually call some other volunteers I have fallen out of touch with and who I didn't see in Bamako.
I've already bought toilet paper, "cheese" (vache qui rit), nutella and oatmeal here in Sikasso. I'm hoping to go fabric shopping and hit up the ATM again. I'll have nothing to do Saturday but goof off, and Sunday T and I are going to hit up the market (Sunday is market day here too, on a x20 level from Niena) and grab produce before getting on the bus to go back to village. There are crazy things here you can't get in Niena like fresh green beans, potatoes, coconuts, and avocados. The biggest challenge is going to be not overburdening myself to the point I can't bike my loot back in the 7 km.
Last night T and I made honey-mustard carrots, green beans and mushrooms (from a can, but still, mushrooms!), and rosemary potatoes. Everything was a bit off since the ingredients weren't exactly American, but I was very happy with the results.