Posted by: kristinej | July 6, 2009

July 6th

I’ ve been here in Mali for a week now, and I feel like I’ve already seen a ton.  Last week I went on “yala” with my host mom, which means literally “wandering.”  My mom is a community health worker, so each morning she goes out and stops by people’s houses and sees if there are any sick children.  If there are, she sees what’s wrong and if it’s serious enough she takes them to the health clinic to be treated.  If there aren’t any sick children, she takes the opportunity to talk about some health related topic, like the importance of mosquito nets or vaccinations or whatever.  Even though I couldn’t understand most of what was going, it was still interesting and we actually did come across a couple of sick babies, so we took them to the health clinic to get medication.

Saturday morning I went to the community health worker’s weekly meeting, just to sit in.  There are 20 CHWs and they meet each week to talk about problems and submit forms for all of the people that they have taken to the clinic that week.  This week the big issue was the question of whether or not Project Muso should give free mosquito nets to the CHWs.  On the one hand, they work hard and probably deserve that, but on the other hand, the free nets are supposed to be for the poorest of the poor and since Project Muso pays them for the work that they do, they should be able to buy their own. 

Saturday evening, for the 4th, we met up with this former peace corps volunteer who is back in Mali with his family teaching at the American school.  He is actually leaving next month, but he offered to drive us to the American Club in Bamako where they were having a fourth of july party.  It was my first time in Bamako and I was so surprised to see the River Niger, since everywhere else it is so dry and dusty.  I was also surprised to see the fancy government buildings and the fancy homes and hotels for diplmats and other ex-pats.  The club itself was a bit like a country club I guess, without the golf course.  They have a bar, a commisary with American food, a big screen tv with couches, and a pool, which felt amazing, as did the air conditioning.  For the party they had hot dogs and hamburgers and some games for the kids and they had the Marine Corps come and do the color guard.  It was fun, but also very weird because you could almost forget that you were in Mali, and I think that is the aim of many of the diplomats and their families. 

At the bbq I met some volunteers from another health organization in Mali, and oddly enough one of the summer volunteers is from Champaign!  She went to Uni and is 2 years younger than me, and is at Brown now.  On Sunday we went with Randy, the guy who drove us to the party, and the other volunteers from the Mali Health Organizing Project  to Siby, which is a town nearby that has some beautiful natural cliffs.  Randy loves to rock climb, so he got us all set up and we tried that a couple of times and then we went with three guides to do a traverse up the cliffs.  It is a little hard to explain, but essentially they had attached a rope along and up the cliff, and then we all wore harnesses and we clipped onto the rope and moved along and up the cliff until we go to the top.  It was really fun but a little nerve racking too since some on the cliff ledges were not really ledges at all and you were essentially hanging on my your harness.  There were some great views along the way and at the top, and then we rappelled down and saw a cave with ferns and moss, a rare sight in Mali.  Our last stop of the day was the Arch, which is a natural rock formation at the top of one of the hills.  We climbed to the top and then scurried back down since it was starting to thunder. 

This week I’m back in Yirimadjo and have a few meetings for the education program that I’m going to with Moise, my supervisor.  This morning we rode bikes to the office, which was quite a haul, especially in the heat, but it was a nice change from the buses.  Oh, and on Saturday Becky and I went for a run, and it actually went really well.  I had my eyes fixed on the ground most of the time because there are so many rocks sticking up everywhere, but we went early so there weren’t too many people around yet, and it wasn’t too too hot. 

One funny story that happened the other day:  I gave my host family a couple of bags of dried fruit and a bag of bite size Oreos as a gift when I got there.  I am pretty sure that Mami, the 2 year old, at most of the Oreos within 24 hours – everytime I saw her she was carrying that bag around!  But the dried fruit I could tell that they didn’t entirely know what it was, so Assou asked me if they were supposed to eat it alone or put in something, so I said that they could it alone.  Well, when Mary Virginia and I were eating dinner at my house the other night, they brought us rice and it looked like there were little specks of something in it, so we asked what it was, and she said that it was some of the dried raisins and blueberries and cranberries from the bag!  It was a little weird having that in rice, but hey, I’ll take fruit however i can get it!

Hiking in Siby

Hiking in Siby

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