Posted by: kristinej | November 11, 2009

November 11th

Yesterday was Becky’s birthday, so we celebrated by spending the night in a hotel and having brunch in the morning.  We then went to the National Museum, which none of us had been to before.  It was weird to see so many white people in one place and to think that there are actually tourists in Mali.  It’s nice to see that Mali has such a well-done museum focusing on art and culture, but at the same time you wonder how many Malians will ever actually get to visit the museum – the $5 entry was more than even we wanted to pay.  Right now the museum is having a special photography exhibit featuring photographers from all over Africa, focusing on the theme of borders.  Some of them were really good, though it was too bad that overall theme seemed to be violence and poverty – there wasn’t much uplifting about the exhibit as a whole.  The variety of photos was also a good reminder of what I’ve realized in the last few months – how diverse Africa really is.  A lot of people refer to Africa as a whole, almost as though it is one country, but being here in Mali I feel like going to South Africa, for instance, would be about as big of a change as going to Spain. Language, culture, economy, etc all vary incredibly throughout the continent.


I think that most of what I’ve written here has been very positive (with the exception of the gutter incident and the bus ride from hell), but that isn’t to say that living here isn’t hard sometimes.  Anjali, one of the other volunteers, put it well when she said that even when you’re having a great day and really love it here, Mali is frustrating and exhausting.  I find that that’s so true – I can be riding my bike home from work, thinking how beautiful the river is and really feeling good, and then some jerk decides he’s going to pretend to jump in front of me, making me swerve, and everyone around laughs and all of sudden my mood plummets and I remember that everywhere I go I’m being stared at, talked about, and sometimes laughed at.  Or, for example, sometimes I really enjoy chatting with people and practicing my Bambara, but other times I just want to go buy a sandwich and not have to say my name, say that the other person eats beans, tell the overly-forward men that I’m already married, tell them that yes America is good, but so is Mali, and no I can’t get them a visa to go the US, etc.


But, on the bright side, my mood can improve just quickly, and one thing that I’m loving now is that my host brothers and sisters seem to finally be getting used to me, especially the 3-year-old girl.  We can’t communicate very easily, but she now talks to me all the time and hangs all over me and peeks in my room.  She’s the cutest thing ever and I think I will be tempted to steal her and take her home with me next summer.  My youngest brother, who’s about 5, got hit by a moto on Saturday and while he’s ok, he has a huge bump on his head and one eye is swollen shut so he looks kind of like Frankenstein.  With six kids, there’s always something going on.


I think my prediction that cold season was right around the corner was a little premature, as we are now in a second wave of mini hot season.  It’s hard to believe that there’s only a month until I come home for Christmas and New Year’s, and we’re already preparing for our Thanksgiving trip to Sicasso (with a Peace Corps turkey dinner) and for seliba (Tabasci – the big Muslim holiday.  I already have my basin (fancy cloth) outfit made and am all ready to see some lambs get slaughtered.


PS – I have not been posting any photos of people on this site for their privacy, but I am keeping a private Flickr site, so if you are interested in seeing my photos, just email me and I will give you access.



  1. Your sense of humor has grown even more since you have been there. Keep up the good work. me

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