Posted by: kristinej | July 23, 2009

July 23rd

My daily schedule has recently changed in a rather amusing way.  With Moise, my supervisor, now in Senegal for a month doing training for our new education program, he asked me to sit in on the facilitator trainings that started this week, mostly just to observe and report back to him.  Well, then another staff member thought it would be a good chance for me to work on my Bambara since the participants will be working on reading and writing, so I have basically become a student in this class of 12 other Malian women.  Our first class was this morning, and I got my own little notebook with some soccer player on it and a pencil that says “Proud to be an American” (I wasn’t the only one who got that one!).  The whole class was conducted in Bambara, though the teachers did check in with me occasionally to make sure that I was following.  Our first activity was to practice the Bambara alphabet, which is mostly the same but has a few different letters and is missing a few like Q, X, and V.  They also pronounce them differently.  So they wrote the whole alphabet up on the board, as well as a few sentences, and then we each had to go up to the front and read the sentences and the alphabet out loud.  Even though I had no idea what the sentences said, I did a pretty good job of reading them, and they actually clapped for me when I was done.  We then did a couple of dictations, where I again just tried to write the sounds that I heard, even though I didn’t know each individual word.  So that was my “first day of school” here in Mali, and though it’s not exactly what I was expecting to be doing, I think it will help my Bambara, and maybe I’ll make some new Malian girlfriends!

In other news, we’ve been starting to prepare for the arrival of 10 Tony Blair Faith Foundation Fellows, who will be coming in August to spend 3 weeks here attending a training organized by Project Muso.  The Tony Blair Faith Foundation has shown interest in Project Muso, both because of our diverse staff (composed of Christians, Jews, and Muslims) and because of our work with Malaria here in Yirimadjo.  The training will include sessions on a variety of topics including Malian history and culture, malaria prevention and treatment, and Project Muso’s work.  The Fellows will also visit sites in Bamako and our community health center and will shadow our community health workers for a day.  One of our co-directors, Jessica, is coming on Monday for a month, in conjunction with this training, so there is sure to be a lot going on.

Other cultural notes:

Animals: While many picture a safari when they think of Africa, here in the Bamako area we mostly just see farm animals like goats, horses, donkeys, and cows.  The donkeys are often used to pull carts with water containers on them, and I always find it amusing when I pass them either running or on my bike.  Also, I am glad that someone warned me about the noise that they make, because if I had not been told that they make extremely loud braying sounds, I would have thought that a neighbor of ours was being tortured, because that’s pretty much what it sounds like.  I haven’t seen too many cattle, but whenever I do I think of what Mary Virginia told me my first day here: “You don’t have to worry about the cattle, they’re totally harmless.  Although I do know someone who was gored in the butt once my one.”  And I just thought, man, not only do I have to worry about getting malaria or getting bitten by a rabid dog, now I also have to steer clear of cattle!

Motos:  Lots of Malians have either a motorcycle or a moped, and it’s a scary sight to see them all zooming in and out of traffic.  Actually, along the main road there is a separate lane for them, and it’s always a steady stream moving along, but other than that there aren’t really any rules of the road.  It’s not just men that ride them either – I still haven’t gotten used to seeing women all dressed up in their traditional clothing, driving a moped.  Unfortunately, most people don’t wear helmets, and you even see the occassional baby strapped on someone’s back, which is scary given how often accidents occur.

Television:  Any Malian family that has electricity also probably has a tv, and while the amount of time that they spend in front of it may differ, I think it’s safe to say that they all sit down at 7:11 every night to watch a Brazilian soap opera-type show called Marina.  It’s in French, and I watch it sometimes with my family.  They are all really into it, and I guess it’s becoming more interesting now that I know the characters, but it is pretty much the most ridiculous and poorly-acted show I have ever seen!  I often want to laugh out loud, but I try not to since the others may not appreciate that. Ironically, the show is preceded by USAID programming about development and health issues.



  1. Kristine, Stay away from the bulls. Robby ps Cubbies are only one game out. Can you believe it. They play the Reds next and the Cardinals play the Phillies. ( the Cardinals are in 1st.) By the way, the Phillies are in 1st in their division and are up by around six. Wow!!!

  2. Read your most recent post out loud to my mom and granny this morning…both were laughing when i got to the “proud to be an american” part of the story. I wonder if I ever saw your soap opera…I know that one of the ones all the chileans watched came from brazil too…hmmm…but yes…they are absolutely ridiculous and oh so very hard to try and keep a straight face while watching them (i got scolded once for laughing) hope all is well and we miss you!

  3. Kristine, your stories are quite intersting to read. I’m so glad that you are having a positive experience. I look forward to your future posts. Take care!

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