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ali in mali
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august 2002

tubani so
the doves house


It's been a month now that I have been in Mali.  I've only gone to 6 towns so far.  This is very stationary for me!
I love it here.  We spent the first week in small mud huts at the training center.  "Downtown", the training center is called Tubani So, or the Doves House.  We lived in the village Zumanabugu.... we don't know what that means.
the night of our arrival, we had a quick ˝yagen lesson.  that is how to use the toilet.  it is a hole in the floor that we use water in "teapot type tools" called salidagas to wipe.  it is quite an experience.  the only truly disgusting thing in that are the flies, maggots and cockroaches that swarm out when you uncover the hole.   i can't wait to get to site where i have my own!!!!!!
The first week we all amused ourselves with simple games, ping pong and taking bambara lessons.  We can all get our basic greetings down.  Here's an example:
i ne somago....  good morning
nse/nba i ne somago... i house wife(girl)/my mother(guy), good morning
i ka kene ?.... how are you?
tora te.... no problem
somago be di?... how's the fam
tara tu la.... doing great
hare be?.... is there peace?
hare duron... peace always
it's great.  it has a wonderful rythm and you find yourself walking down the road and even if you are in a rush you must stop and say these greetings to the older people you meet as well as some of your peers.  the greetings could go on and on, but that was a brief synopsis.
we moved out of zumanabugu after our "demys".  demys was when we were sent out to someone's site to see what things were "really like".  i went out with my friend doug to the sikasso region and met a volunteer named heather.  she was really cool.  lived in a village called kincheery (spelled phonetically) and raised chickens.  she worked with a woman's association and encouraged their chicken raising, but she was having problems organizing them. 
we met heather and candace (a volunteer who is getting married to a malian here) at Mpessoba, the market town for their villages.  We all sat down, drank a pop, had some millet doughnuts and went to the market to get some fabrik and look awround.  as candace and her "demysters" were leaving, heather yelled out "don't forget your chicken" grabbed the pecking creature by the legs and smoothly handed it to her as she reached down for hers.  i don't think she'd seen a chicken up close before coming here.
we took a bus out to the closest stage house in koucialla.  this is also spelled wrong, but most of you at least will be able to pronounce it.  we met a bunch of other volunteers and went to the market.  i had a skirt "panya" made out of the material i got and we went back.  demys was alright, but koucialla was an armpit really.  a truckstop town.  but we had a great meal there of chicken, cucumbers, french fries and sauce at a stand on the roadside.  it was great!
Being stationed now in Samaya, a village of unknown proportions is much bettter than the training site.  I live with the Keita family (Keita a kein kosave!).  Hightower is my roommate... i think we lucked out.  she is a really cool health volunteer from texas.  our family is great.  i really enjoy hanging out with them.  i have 8 siblings in the family.  bokar, aseitu, via, sedou, batama, musa, youssef, and bebe... the baby.  they are all really cool.  i spend hours with them speaking in my garbled french/bambara.  today i went out to the fields with bokar (bois), via, and youssef to weed the peanut fields.  they didn't let me stay too long.  i'm also trying to give english lessons to our neighbor who speaks a bit of english already.  they are all really cool. 
my baptised name is batama keita, after my little sister.  she is really happy about that.  i hear all these people always yelling my name as i pass by "i ne che, batama"  "i be taa min?"  where are you going.  i'm pretty lucky on that.  the family lives right next to the market and i like all the people that hang out.
there are some sadder aspects.  the animals are situated in the back of our compound and the stable never mucked.  the family sits right next to it and drink their tea on the ground.  flies like nothing you have ever seen, swarm the compound at certain times.... 10 landing on any given body part at one time is not unusual.  i have stopped swatting them unless they try to go in my mouth or nose or eyes.  one brother has a bad case of malaria and a cousin that lives with us seems to be dying of malaria and severe malnutrition, among who knows what else.  either could be the poster child for any africa save the children program.  our compound has about 25 people.  i think that one kid will probably die while we are there.  it can be really hard. 
okay, grimness is always apparent here, but the people are so nice.  and love to talk to you.  i am having a great time.  i recieved my assignment.  i will be working in Tominion, in the Segou region.  this is bobo land, so i am now learning bomo, bambara and french.  my town speaks all of them.  bobo land is also where the christians and animists are.  it's near dogon country and there are some crazy festivals.  they also drink at least once a week... something not found in most of muslim country.  they are a lot of fun i hear.  they do eat dog, and that is a bit of an issue.  i'm definately going to avoid strange meats.  supposedly there is a great health center there, with 2 cuban volunteers so i can practice my spanish.  i will also be living next door to a french teacher and a medicine man.  i can't wait!
that's all for now.  mali is beautiful.  it rains at least every other day.  just wait til dry season i keep saying.
much love to everyone!

october 2002