Posted by: kristinej | July 18, 2009

July 18th

As anticipated, I had a good birthday here in Mali.  We spent the morning at the office.  Since rainy season is starting, it stormed while we were there, and all the dirt streets turned to mud.  Unfortunately, I had ridden my bike to work, and had told my family that I would be home for lunch, so finally at one Becky and I decided to just ride back, even though it was still drizzling.  Everytime it rains the temperature drops substantially for at least a couple of hours, so I was actually a little bit chilly on the way home, which must have been God’s birthday present to me.  Anyway, I don’t usually ride my bike in the rain in the States, and in Mali it’s a whole other thing: since most of the roads are dirt, they turn to mud that then sprays up all over the place when you’re riding on them.  Not to mention the fact that nobody leaves their house when it rains, so we got even more weird looks than normal.  Then, when we got to our neighborhood we found that the boards spanning the little creek that we had walked over in the morning, so we had to ride along the creek trying to find another bridge, getting stuck in the mud on several occasions.  Since my family already thinks it’s funny that I ride my bike and go running, I could only imagine what their reaction would be when I rolled up to the house caked in mud, and sure enough they were just about rolling on the ground.  Even though they were talking in Bambara, I could tell that they were saying things like, “Look, it’s all the way up on her neck!” or “Look, her feet are completely covered!”  I just laughed along since I knew I looked ridiculous too.

After washing off and eating lunch, we went to a meeting for work and then went into Bamako for dinner where I had an awesome American meal, inlcuding a milkshake.  Then we spent the night at a hotel that Peace Corps volunteers get a certain number of free vouchers for, which was nice because I got to sleep on a real bed and use a real toilet.  I guess I haven’t talked much about my actual living situation, but right now the only real furniture in my room is a cot with my mattress on it, which is actually pretty comfortable.  Our bathroom/ shower is a little room outside in our courtyard.  The toilet is just a hole in the floor, and then to shower we just fill a bucket with water and take it in there to wash.  Sometimes they put in some hot water too, but either way, when it’s as hot as it here, a bucket shower actually feels awesome.  You just have to ignore the giant cockroaches or whatever they are.

On Wednesday we went to the big market in Bamako, which was fun but a little overwhelming. Thursday and Friday we had dinner parties at two different houses for Mary Virginia’s departure, and Mary Virginia and I got henna on our feet (see photo).  It took awhile since it’s a pretty detailed design, but it should last up to a month and only cost $2!

I also realized that I haven’t talked about my host dad much.  A lot of Malian men don’t participate in their families at all, have multiple wives, and/or keep their wives from participating in programs like ours but from what I can tell my father is pretty different from that.  The family is pretty well off, which I think I’ve mentioned, and they actually have a car which is pretty rare.  I’m not sure where he works now, but I think that he has worked at USAID in the past and so has picked up some English and likes to try speaking it with me.  He also seems genuinely interested in the work that I do, and has asked many questions about what Project Muso does, although he already has some idea since my host mom is a community health worker.  Also, on a couple of occasions I have seen him helping his son with his homework, reading off his dictations or whatever.  Of course, many of the gender gaps are still evident, like the fact that the women do all of the cooking and housework, including cleaning his car, and the men eat separately from the women, but I think it’s a lot better than in many Malian households.



  1. kristine, You know Allison has always loved the rain, so she would have enjoyed that bike ride. It’s interesting that your host father seems so interested in the program. As you know sometimes it only takes a few to change a whole. Maybe it will rub off on others. Stay safe and stay away from the cockroaches or whatever they are. Ha!!! Cubs now in 2nd and only 2 out. They had a great series with the Nationals and went undefeated. Nest is your old home town. (Phillies) Hopefully they will keep it up. Robby

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