Posted by: kristinej | July 2, 2009

Arrival in Mali

I arrived in Mali on Monday morning, after 3 days of traveling.  Because of weather in New York, we had to land in Chicago and then I missed my flight to Casablanca and had to sleep in the airport and took the following flight the next night.  I made it to Bamako early Monday morning, though my luggage wasn’t there so we had to stay at the airport until 6 AM to get that sorted out, and luckily I was able to go retrieve it Tuesday morning.

Things are going well so far.  My host family is fairly well-off by Malian standards, so I have a room with a door out to the courtyard, where people spend pretty much all of their time.  I have 6 brothers and sisters.  The oldest girl, Assou, is 20 years old and speaks really good French and is really nice, so it has been nice to be able to talk to her.  In general people don’t like to speak French unless they absolutely have to, and I don’t really understand anything in Bambara yet, so she and the other American volunteers have been my lifesavers. 

Pretty much everything here is different from the States.  The toilet and the shower are in a room outside – the toilet is just a hole in the ground and to shower you get a bucket filled with water and just use that to wash.  They actually shower about 3 times a day here, I guess because it is always so hot.  It is the beginning of the wet season here, so it’s not quite as hot as it could be, but it still gets into the 90s everyday, and most nights when I go to bed it is around 90 degrees in my room. 

The food is very different too.  For breakfast they have this porridge thing with millet in it, and the first couple of mornings I had an egg sandwich and sweet milk too, but I think that was just a welcoming thing, because the past two mornings I have had leftovers from dinner along with the porridge.  The other meals are usually rice with some sauce and maybe a potato or small piece of meat, or coucous with fish (dried or fresh), or spaghetti.  So lots of starch.  So far they have given me my own plate and I eat separately from them, which is a bit awkward.  Also, they give me massive quantities – pretty much a whole box of rice or spaghetti, and if I don’t eat it all they seem to get upset and say that I am not eating enough, but the other volunteers said that this is just more for show and that they just want to fatten you up so that other people will see that they are good hosts. 

I have gone into the office a couple of times, but won’t have any real responsibilities other than learning Bambara for a few weeks.  To get there we have to take two different “buses,” which are actually green vans that have benches around the inside, and they cram as many people in there as possible.  There are very few white people here, so we always get lots of stares, and sometimes kids will yell out “tubabu” which means white person, or they will yell out the Malian name of one of the other volunteers, even if she isn’t there with us.  The little 2 year old girl in my family just stares and stares at me but won’t come within 3 feet of me; Assou says that it is probably just because she is not used to seeing a white person.  I should also mention that my host father gave me a Malian name: Fatimata Daou, or Fatime for short.  It has taken a little getting used to responding to something other than “Kristine.” 

The other 2 volunteers who are here now, Mary Virginia and Becky, have both been in the Peace Corps and have been here for 2 years or more, so it’s really nice to have them helping me along, and they have been really nice and say that they are impressed with how well I am doing considering how different everything is. 

That’s about all I have time for now, but I will write more soon.

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Responses

  1. We didn”t realize that you had posted a blog until after I sent the email. We are fascinated by the information We hope the family will soon be able to treat you as a regular member which we know will be more comfortable for you. You do a great job of writing.

  2. I can’t imagine how different it must be for you. Can you think of anything we can send you or your family? Please continue to update your log. We are thinking about you & praying for you & your family. Love you lots, BETSY

  3. Wow Kris. Sounds like a scary/exciting/intimidating/eye-opening experience thus far. I am certain you will do well as you continue to adjust and learn. Keep your head up and enjoy! Much love.

    PS: Thanks for the Birthday package. So great! And I must say, you know me too well ;).


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