So my site assignment is to the village of Sokolo in the Segou region of central Mali. The area is characterized by an intensive canal system and a lot of rice farming. I'm replacing a current volunteer there, who worked to start a egg project with a local women's group. I don't really know much more about it. We go to site visit August 7th and stay for a week so I will know a lot more soon. I didn't get pictures up mainly because I couldn't figure it out. We come back to Tubaniso in a week so hopefully I can get some one to help me then. I return to Tamala today to continue our language and tech classes. Best wishes to everyone.
The internet is finally back up at Tubaniso. The server was fried by a lighting strike two days before we returned. Then it was unbearably slow for the first 8 or so hours as every volunteer rushed into the hanger with their laptop. We have been back at Tubaniso since Sunday and have once again been subjected to long days of sitting on our rumps.
The homestay has been a relatively painless experience so far. I live in a compound which is a large courtyard area surrounded by around ten low, adobe rooms where everyone sleeps. The courtyard area is left for livestock predominately. Cows, goats, chicken and sheep can be heard at all hours of the night. My host father is Issa Coulabaly. My new name is Bakary Coulabaly. Issa has around 7 children with his sole wife Fatamata. Issa's two brothers also live in our compound, resulting in a total of around 20 children who all find me verying interesting. We have Bambara language classes twice a day, unless we travel down to Kobe for our environmental sector tech class. The Bambara is coming dooni donni as they say and I get along really well with everyone in my family. The food has a times been difficult to adjust to, although usually it consists of solely carbs mainly macarooni and the only really trying meal was a healthy portion of tripe. My intentines have managed to hold pretty strong, which probably has a direct relationship with why I feel my homestay has been painless. There are 4 other trainees living in Tamala with me, Jon, Lucas, Monica and Joel and so far we all are getting along wonderfully. Some have not been so lucky at times on digestive front. Our language trainer is a true pleasure and is pushing us along at a quick clip.
Tonight I promise to put up some pictures so that you can get a little taste of Tamala. The hanger is pretty busy right now making the internet slow. I miss eveyone at home although Africa has not been as uncomfortable as I was expecting. The people here are very warm and inviting and the landscape is often breath taking. Anyone in my village will patientely talk with me as I test out my toddler-like vocab after class. I've been drinking a ton of the tea they make here, which is both really strong and really sweet. Sending all my love back states side. Also I have a cell phone. Anyone can call if they feel obliged. The number is some country code followed by 478-0057. Pictures coming this evening.
We have arrived in our training center, Tubaniso, just outside of Bamako in Mali. The accomidations here are a little different from the plush, overly AC-ed rooms of the Holiday Inn in Historic Downtown Philly. Everything is amazing here! According to our cultural integration handbook, I assume I am now in the first stage of culture shock. This is when everything is exotic and wonderful, mainly because we are still within the sheltered world of the PC compound. Last night was the first rain. It poured, waking everyone and nearly tearing the door off the round, mud hut I share with two other PCTs, Peace Corp Trainees. This afternoon we have our first formal class in Bambara, the local language. I'm having a blast and will add some photos later tonight.
My dad just set this blog up for me. I have to admit for a long time it has been a mode of communication that I have been essentially opposed to, the digital noetic killing decent writing and all that. But, it is nice to see pictures I took up on the internet. These photos are from a last supper I had at my mom's house in Raleigh, NC. My brother, sister, father, mother and aunt were all in attendance, and there were far fewer tears shed than I had expected. Tomorrow, I head to Philadelphia for my "staging" event for the Peace Corp before I am deployed to Mali for my two years of service. I'm a little nervous. My french is horrible and I managed to lose my passport and my credit card in the matter of two days. This could be seen as a bad omen, however I'm staying positive. Perhaps, this is simply my subconscious shedding my material possessions so that I can more easily integrate into my new reality in Mali. More likely, I have been indulging in the some of the sweet fermented fruits of American life too much and am some how being disciplined. Either way I depart with a light heart and lofty aspirations.