Posted by: kristinej | September 28, 2009

September 28th

In preparation for the launch of our new education classes in November, we have been going throughout the community to tell people about Project Muso and Tostan (the organization that we’re partnering with, whose participatory education model we’re using) and to get the support of the community leaders.  Our first step was to meet with the mayor of Yirimadjo and the dugutigi.  In both cases, we talked about what we plan to do and asked if they had any questions or suggestions.  Both groups that we talked to were very supportive and expressed that have been impressed by the work that Project Muso has already done in the community.

The next step now is to hold meetings with the general assemblies of each of the 20 sectors of Yirimadjo that we are considering for our sites.  In the end we will choose 14, so these “Etudes de Milieu”  are meant to get an idea of the demography, economic situation, and overall receptiveness of the community.  I went to one on Friday, and was impressed with the turnout.  The new classes that we are starting are not just for women, but for men and adolescents too, so we were happy to see a number of young men come, in addition to a great number of women.  Everyone gathered around on mats and listened as Moise and Koro talked about Tostan.  They then went through pages and pages of questions about the number of schools in the community, what percentage of the population was engaged in agriculture, if there was electricity, etc etc. The most interesting part were the last few questions, which asked about gender roles, like who in the family was responsible for making decisions, and if men should consult their wives before making decisions.  These meetings will continue throughout Yirimadjo for the next couple of weeks, and it has been amazing to see how the word spreads and how many people come out.  Hopefully that will bode well for class registration – with 14 centers and 2 classes of at least 25 people at each center, the program looks to touch the entire community, and we want everyone to know about it and be able to participate if they want to.

During the meeting that I went to on Friday, it was fun to just sit and observe the people around me.  There was one little girls especially who would just not sit still and kept walking around and trying to leave the compound.  In order to get her to come back to her, the mother would pull out one of her large breasts from under her shirt and sort of shake it around, as if to say to the girl, “Come here, you know you want some of this!”  Hard to imagine an American woman doing that, especially in a group of men and women.  Eventually, though, the girl lost interest in her mother and was still walking all over, so at point I pulled her onto my lap and she grabbed my hand and turned it back and forth, back and forth and examined my fingers as if to make sure that, despite the strange color, it was still a really hand.  The women around me got a kick out of that.

Another thing I’ve been enjoying the last couple of weeks is the random “friends” that I have around the community.  For instance, there’s the cross-eyed woman who sells fried dough early each morning along my running route, and who knows my name and always greets me and asks how I slept.  There’s the woman along the main road who I bought a sandwich from one time and who now shouts my name and waves enthusiastically no matter how far down the road I am.  And there’s the woman and her son who sell bananas along my bike path, who literally howled with delight the first time I gave her a blessing in Bambara.  And then there are the guys in the boutiques I frequent who know what I want and will tell me before I even come in if they are out of yogurt and when they’ll be getting more.  So even if I haven’t made any really good Malian friends yet outside of my family and the other volunteers’s families, it’s these relationships, and the fact that the neighborhood kids now yell out Fatoumata instead of Ichiata (the name of an old volunteer) or tubab, that make me feel like I’m becoming more a part of the community.

One last story, one of those “Only in Mali” moments.  Our office is a couple of rooms in a house, so there are always lots of kids running around, and women doing laundry and cooking and such.  I was in the office on Saturday when a dog ran in and wedged itself behind the desk I was working at.  Shortly after, about 7 or 8 boys ran in with sticks and started trying to move the desk (which is huge and has our computer, printer, etc on it) and trying to hit the dog with their sticks to get it out.  At first I figured I would let them try, but the dog was not moving at all and one of the boys starting actually stabbing it and saying he was going to kill it, at which point I started yelling at them to get out, that I didn’t want a dead dog in the office.  At this point Anjali showed up, and the boys were still coming in and out, so after practically pushing them out the door I shut the glass door to keep them out.  We never actually close that door, we only close the outer door, so what we unfortunately then realized was that the latch had gotten stuck and we could not get the door open from the inside or from the outside.  So we were stuck in the office with 8 boys laughing and making faces at us from outside.  Finally, after about 45 minutes and much pounding and shaking and eventually the work of an actual repairman, we were freed from our little prison.  When I went home the dog was still behind the desk, and it was apparently only much later in the evening when the poor thing finally came out.



  1. that’s so funny, sounds like you handled that pretty well. Maybe you are feeling more adjusted by now??

  2. Hi Val,

    Yea, I definitely feel more adjusted now and am getting used to Malian life. Hope you’re doing well!

  3. Dogs… I’ll take a cat any day. Robby

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