Posted by: kristinej | July 14, 2009

July 14th

I’m spending my first birthday here in Mali, and though I don’t think I can find a cookie cake anywhere, I think it will be a great day.  We are going out to an American restaurant tonight for dinner so that I can get some American food and a milkshake, and then spending the night at a hotel that Peace Corps volunteers get vouchers for.  Then tomorrow we will go to the Grand Marché in Bamako, which I am sure will be crazy but fun.

Sunday we went to the Peace Corps training center to sell some of our women’s mud cloth to the new volunteers.  That was interesting for me, since these people had been there for only 24 hours, so even though I’ve only been here 2 weeks, I felt like I knew at least a little more about Mali than them.  There are 70 new volunteers each year, some of who drop out within a few weeks or months.  Most are my age, but there are a few older adults who come as well.  One man we met had done the Peace Corps in Vietnam when he was younger and now, in his 60s, is coming to Mali to do it again.  Peace Corps volunteers spend about 2 months at this center outside of Bamako, where they take Bambara courses and have all sorts of orientation sessions, barely leaving the center until they go out to visit their sites for the first time.  That was strange for me, since I got off the plane and went straight to my homestay!  We ended up selling about $70 worth of bogolan, and I got to meet some of Becky and Mary Virginia’s Peace Corps friends, so it was a fun trip.

In other news, I had my first marriage proposal yesterday, from the guy who put air in my bike tires.  I met him the other day with Mary Virginia, and then I had to go back yesterday to get something fixed, and he was like, “Here comes ma cherie” and his friend came up and said, you know he wants to marry you.  So then I just laughed and said that I was already engaged to someone in the US, so that wouldn’t be possible.  Apparently it’s also acceptable to insult men, saying that they are too skinny or too short or something, so I’ll have to try that next time.

Another thing that is interesting about Malian culture is what they consider appropriate in terms of clothing.  You are not allowed to show your knees, so everyone wears long skirts, but they are a lot less concerned about covering your chest, especially for married women.  Usually on the bus there is at least one woman breast feeding, and a couple of times I have come out of my room to see my host mother sitting on her mat without a shirt on.  And the first time I met Mary Virginia’s host sister, she had just gotten out of the shower and just started changing right there in front of us.  There is definitely a whole different perception of body image.  While my host sister is very thin and seems to enjoy that, a lot of girls and most women are larger, even quite overweight.  Assou told me that women, once they are married, will take pills to make them gain weight.  I have no idea what those pills might be, but I think that being larger shows that you have enough money to eat well.  Malians also don’t hesitate to comment on your weight.  For instance, when I showed Assou a photo of my parents, she said, “You’re fatter than your mom,” and Becky’s family has been known to say that she looks bloated or that she must have eaten a lot that day.  They aren’t trying to be mean, just commenting on what they see.

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Responses

  1. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! Happy 22nd birthday, too bad you can’t spend it with your fiance here…i know he would really love to be with you today! I hope you are having a wonderful time, it sounds so incredible! We are all thinking of you today and hope you also have a wonderful Bastille day! It has been fun reading your blog and hopefully we will get another chance to talk online before too long! Love you and Happy birthday again!!!

  2. Kristine, i will leave this message on this site as well. Happy Birthday!!! From Betsy, Robby, and Allison ps keep letting your bike repairman know you are taken, me

    • Thanks for the birthday wishes! Miss you guys!

  3. Kristine, by the way, Cubs out 3 1/2. Allstar break. me(Robby)


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