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ali in mali
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february 2003

running around and getting use to failure

very positive thoughts, eh?
 
so i guess i should share a little bit about work now.  i think that my living situation is clear.  did i also mention that it is hot here?  you guys have the 6th largest storm in history and i think i'm 99 degrees.
 
i think the most productive activity at site for me is teaching an hour of english at the highschool during the weekdays.  the kids are great.  it's amazing how respectful they all are.  i am called ms. alexis by them and they love to come talk to me after class.  several relatives have come up and told me that the students think it is fun when i am there.  i have a sneaky suspicion that it is my accent.  they all imitate the nasaly american accent when repeating after me.  then we all laugh. 
 
the text book they are learning from is not the best in the world.  the other day i read a lesson plan and the dialogue went as follows:
this is mine.
no, it's mine!
no, give it to me, it's mine!
shut up!  it's mine!
i told them that wasn't the best way to handle an argument.  none of the kids have a textbook for them selves.  the teacher holds a master copy and has a kid write the lesson up on the board.  the english teacher is not a very fluent speaking man, although he does try.  they fit about 40-50 students per classroom.  a classroom that should really hold half of that.  there is no electricity and many of the students don't have lights at home either.  i was told that when i have children that i should want boys.  i asked why.  the teachers told me that only the boys studied well.  i asked if they didn't think that was because when the girls went home they had to wash clothes, cook dinner, sweep, clean and then by the time night comes, they are probably too exhausted, let alone have the availability of electricity to study by.
there is a "self help" program that the ambassador has that i am applying for to see if i can get funding for electricity at the school to enable the students to go their at night to study.
 
i am also working on a mobile bank with the women's associations of Tominion.  this is not going so well.  the women really want one, and i've set up everything except designate a committee, which i think they need to do.  they keep putting it off and delaying a trip to a neighboring village to review the mobile bank there.  this bank will create a way for the women to learn the concept of saving and eventually enable them to get credit. 
 
the butique formation is going quite well.  i have the entire outline written up in english and french with worksheets.  it's pretty exciting.  we are going to have a 3 day workshop with a day follow up a month later.  the first day focuses on review of the businesses, how they are using capital and what they are doing with their businesses.  the second day is for record keeping and basic control of stocks and finances and the third day is for marketing strategies.  i can't wait.  we'll hold it in 2 towns and 2 other pcv's want to come out to check out. 
 
i'm also working on several income generating jobs for the women's groups.  nothing yet has really interested the women except peanut recipes.  i think they want to cook and eat really.  but some ideas that have potential are epiculture (beekeeping), bakeries, soap making (which they already do, but want another training on for scenty soaps), candles, jams, oil pressing and i'm pushing for keeping rabbit huts.  there are many others, but they haven't caught anyones attention yet.  we'll see what we can do.  the magistrate keeps hinting to me that we should open bwatun to tourism.  i'm not sure.  we do have a big church and a crazy man, but we'll see. 
 
we are also begining a large project in segou.  a friend of mine and myself are going to get a monthly meeting in segou to start recording the progress of projects on a mainstream filing system.  then i'll send a general outline to a friend in bamako to create a database of the outlined info for sites.  we will keep a cross referenced filing cabinet in each region though so that we know what's been done, how, where, why and everything involved.  i was getting mad at the volunteer support and thankfully this guy in bamako had a similar idea, so now we are going to work ensemble to get something started.
 
the gender and development meeting went well too.  we had an entire day planning the camp outline for this summers event.  80 kids will be coming out to learn about health, HIV, agriculture, careers, and community development.  we are pretty excited. 
 
that's about it for now.  i'm in bamako and hating it.  nothing is coming together.  i waited all morning at the artisana market to talk to a woman i had an appointment with.  she never showed.  i'd like to try to sell a book that the widow's association will make (if i can persuade them to) at the malian festival in dc this summer.  i'll try calling again this afternoon. 
 
i then tried going to the USAID building to pick up some radio show cassettes on health and sanitation, available in all local languages.  i had given them tapes yesterday.  the baschees lied to me and they took me 10 k away from the building and i got fed up and came here to finish writing up this finance outline.  i'll try again this afternoon.... or maybe just become homicidal.  it's not the best picture seeing me standing in the middle of sewage and dried fish, screaming at a baschee driver how much i hate him and shaking my fist at him. 
 
site visit is in 3 days.  so i get to go to segou very soon to set up the house for the party.  i'm excited.  my team mates are really cool and i can't wait for them to get installed.  it will be really interesting. 
 
au revoir for now.  hope you are all doing good. 
 
much love,
alexis



tabaski