Posted by: kristinej | December 8, 2009

December 8th

I’m sitting in our new spacious office, listening to Christmas music and drinking highly caffeinated tea served by our guard…life is good.

Some stream-of-consciousness thoughts and observations:

While I don’t love the heat, I do appreciate that I haven’t seen a substantial cloud in over a month, and I can leave the house each morning knowing exactly what the weather will be like.

Some woman in the boutique just told me that she wanted a soda.  My response: that’s good, you should buy one.  Maybe I’m a jerk, but hey, I’m not the waritigi (rich person) that US Embassy employees are.

I went to buy peanuts this morning from a woman who yesterday told me that I was her teremuso (friend) and she told me that her husband wanted to meet me, so I went with her into her compound, and turns out he could speak English since he had lived in Liberia for 25 years before the civil war.  He told me that I was intelligent for being able to speak Bambara after only 5 months and then introduced me to his son, who motioned to my earrings and said that he is an artisan and then showed me pictures on his cell phone of all the things that he makes.  I told them I would like to come watch them work sometime, since they make the jewelry right in their yard, and then the son told me that if I come next Monday he would make me a necklace to take to America with me.  I said sure, I’ll come, but I’m not sure if he means that he’s giving it as a gift or if he’s making it for me to buy.  I’ll have to consult with my Malian culture guide, Becky.

There are a million kids in our new neighborhood, and most of the time they are really annoying, but I do find it amusing how they can’t tell the 4 of us apart.  Sometimes I’ll be walking to the office and I’ll hear something like: “Aminata! Bonjour!”  “That’s not Aminata, it’s Rokia!  Rokia Doumbia” “No, it’s Nantene!” “Nantene!  I ni sogoma! Nantene! Fatoumata! Rokia!”

A man in our neighborhood died on Saturday, and the funeral was on Sunday. I didn’t go, but I saw the women gathered under an awning, and watched a huge crowd of men walk to the mosque and back.  The man died suddenly Saturday morning, and it’s strange to me to think that by the same time the next day, his funeral was already well underway.  I’m not sure if it’s Muslim custom to have the funeral so quickly, but I suppose that in Mali funerals are a more ordinary event than in the US.

I’m starting to appreciate the impact that malaria can have not just on young children but on adults as well.  In the last week, my oldest sister, our worker girl, and my host dad all had malaria, and they all missed several days to a week of school/work.  In addition, whenever the kids get sick (and everyone in my family has had malaria at least once since I got here), my mom often has to miss work to take them to the clinic.  You can see how, besides just the obvious high mortality rate, malaria can affect the economy if people have to continually miss work because of poor health.  I wonder if my family wonders how it is that I have not gotten malaria yet; if they have even heard of a malaria prophylaxis that prevents you from getting malaria.

Yesterday my host mom’s mother was in town (she often stops by for a day or so) and in the evening she called me into her room, where she was sitting topless, and we managed a semi-conversation, for the first time.  She thought I was from Germany, and I said no, America, and then she asked me why Assou, my sister, wasn’t coming with me next week.  I never know how to answer those types of questions!  Almost everyday someone tells me that they want to go to America, and all I can really say is that that’s good, and that yes, it is hard to find the money and the paperwork to go.  Ultimately we said that it was because she has classes that she can’t miss.  Then, later in the evening the grandmother came back outside where I was sitting and said, “Fatoumata, from… what’s that country called again? Oh, right, America.  Barack Obama!”

I brought some fabric to the tailor to make an American-style sleeveless shirt, and he actually did a pretty good job, except that he made the classic Malian tailor move of putting the stripe that supposed to go under your boobs straight across them.  Luckily, there was room to lengthen the straps, so that helped the situation somewhat, though now one strap is longer than the other, so I have to go back again and get that fixed…gotta love Malian tailoring.

Last weekend a local organization held a “Santa Sale” at the Palais de la Culture, with tons of local artisans, and we managed to get a table for our bogolan boutique.  It was a pretty fun event, with music and food and lots of great jewelry and artwork.  I managed to finish my Christmas shopping, and found that in a crowd of white people, being able to speak at least some Bambara is a big hit with the vendors and really helps with the bargaining.

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Responses

  1. wish you were my “secret Santa”


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