Posted by: kristinej | August 14, 2009

August 14th

I was planning to use this post to write about religion in Mali, but I had an experience Wednesday night that takes precedence… It was one of those experiences that I will be telling my grandchildren about.

As some background, the infrastructure is Mali is very weak, as you have probably guessed. Bamako is better in that it has electricity and running water, but it still lacks many of the conveniences that we take for granted in the US, for instance, a sewage system. In many areas they have basically pits on the side of the road for sewage and other runoffs from the road. They are cement, and are not constant but come every so often along the side of the road.

Well, Wednesday night we were in Bamako for a meeting and we were going to get a taxi after dark and since there are few to no road lights, it was very dark. I have grown used to keeping my eyes fixed on the ground to avoid tripping on various holes and rocks, but at this particular moment I couldn’t see a thing and I walked straight into one of these sewage pits, falling about 4 feet and meeting, well, a rather soft landing. I had heard about this happening to a Peace Corps Volunteer, who was actually seriously hurt, and so as soon as I landed I knew exactly where I was. I wasn’t hurt at all, which was lucky, but was obviously not happy to be in a sewage pit, and immediately started crying, “Get me out of here!” Jessica and Becky were with me, but even they didn’t realize at first what had happened since they hadn’t seen the pit either, and so before we knew it there were Malians flocking around from everywhere. A guy wearing an Obama t-shirt pulled me out and there magically appeared buckets of water and cloths and they started wiping me off and had me bend over a bucket while they scrubbed my face and neck and hair. It was probably the nicest thing I’ve ever experienced. Other people took my bag and were emptying it out (my computer somehow survived with only a dent) and someone even offered me a skirt to change into. Luckily we were only a block from the Peace Corps Office, so once I had my face and arms cleaned off, we went back there so that I could shower and find some clothes to change into. At this point, since I was clearly not hurt and was a little bit over the shock, we were able to laugh about it, but when we got to the Peace Corps Office, the guard was horrified that Becky and Jess were laughing and said, “That is not ok, that is not ok.” He was so mad at them!

Once I got in the shower I determined that it was not actually sewage all over me, but rather mostly motor oil that, as I found out later, people dump in to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. So that was good for obvious reasons, but also bad because I had to rub my skin raw getting it all off. I also had to throw my entire outfit out, as well as my Obama bag that I had recently had made. Other than that, I emerged unscathed, though I now have a deathly fear of walking in the dark and not being able to see in front of me!

The good thing that resulted from this experience was that I was reminded of how wonderful Malians are. Sometimes I get frustrated with things, like little kids yelling “Tubab! (White person)” everywhere I go, or people giving me a hard time about not speaking Bambara. Overall, though, Malians are so concerned about welcoming foreigners and making sure that they have a safe and wonderful time while they’re in Mali, and Wednesday night was a perfect example of that.



  1. Kristine! What a great story, I can totally imagine myself getting into that ‘situation’ and I am so glad to hear the community was there to help đŸ™‚ Kee up the good work, hope all is well.

  2. I’m so proud of you and I love hearing about all that you are doing. The pictures are wonderful and really give me a feel of what it is like there. Welcome to the world of being the minority but still being the majority because of your race. Barbados and Africa are worlds apart in some ways but as I read your blogs not so different in many ways. Please keep posting as Adia, Akeen ,and I love hearing about Africa.

    Aunt Kathy

  3. Kristine, Oil…Crap… I think I’d take the oil. Flashlights are a wonderful thing. We will send you a couple and batteries if needed. I know that was probably the last thing you would think would happen. I’m just glad you are not hurt. And now you’ve got me looking forward to your religious blog. Please take care. Robby Cubs aren’t doing so well. 5 out.

    • Don’t worry, I do have a flashlight, I just wasn’t expecting to be out late and didn’t have it on me. I’ve been carrying it around all the time now though!

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