Monday, December 1, 2008


Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I actually had a remarkably American Thanksgiving. 4 turkeys, stuffing, 12 pumpkin pies and canned cranberry sauce. Not to mention the wonderful company of a good chunk of the Peace Corps Mali volunteers.
All in all things remain very well. I’m currently in Segou, waiting for the grant money to arrive so that I can purchase the initial batch of cool season garden seeds to be sold in Sokolo. I couldn’t say the wait is entirely a drag. Lying around surfing the Internet definitely has a strong appeal here in Mali. Quick rundown of what’s been happening with me: firstly, I had my inaugural biking mishap. I was riding along the canal in Sokolo, one handed carrying a cup of soaked beet seeds, when I decided shifting was a novel idea. Needless to say I ended up swimming among the lily pads faster than a Malian women can provide her crying baby with a teat, which it must be said is quicker than you might imagine. This all occurred under the watchful eyes of about 50 of my village women. I have yet to live it down. Plus, I imagine I’ll have a hard time getting a good beet harvest planted as such. Secondly, the first ten minutes of soccer with my new soccer ball, sent by my wonderful father, resulted in a popped ball. An overly ambitious village boy cranked a shot, sending it way wide directly into a thorn bush. Luckily everyone was excited enough to finish playing for the day with a completely deflated ball. Thirdly, I feel absolutely amazing right now, as I made the first of the Fair Trade Single Origin Hatian Bleu coffee my mother sent me in a package. I don’t think any coffee drinker can truly appreciate the richness of flavor of simple drip coffee until you have drunken extremely sweet, watered down Nes Cafe for four months. Finally, I have just finished the Harry Potter series and feel that I may be ready to start dabbling in some actual literature, although what an ending. A++. My father just sent me a good foundation. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, just shy of 1000 pages with extremely small print, and two books about the history of Mali, Sahara and Timbuktu.
Things at site have been quite good, although my garden likely succumbed to the blazing sun yet again during my Thanksgiving vacation. I think I’ll have to give up aspirations of a healthy garden while I continue to have the urge to escape village life periodically to eat “American” food and use the internet. Rice harvest is just wrapping up at site, which should bring back the daily soccer games. People have been a little too pooped to play very often this past month. I’ve been thinking about writing a short story directly translating Bambara into English. For instance a typical morning conversation between to men might go as such:
Musa: You and the morning.
Bakary: My mom. You and the morning. Was the night peaceful?
Musa: Peace only. Was the night peaceful? Is the family well?
Bakary: Peace. No problem at all.
Musa: No problem at all.
Bakary: Absolutely no problem at all. Are you well?
Musa: My mom. What happened before, was that good?
Bakary: Yes. Very good. I left.
Musa: You left? Already?
Bakary: Yes. I must go and wash myself.
Musa: Alright. Well, say it to them.
Bakary: They will hear it. May the day be peaceful.
Musa: Amen.
Anyways, you can see it’s quite funny when you directly translate it, as it is when you directly translate any language. My mom is a translation of “N ba.” This is the response to many phrases including: You and the man (I ni ce) and you and the moring (“I ni sogoma”). The woman’s response to you and the man is “my power” (N se). Well so long for now. I will likely write again soon as I may be stuck here in Segou for a few days waiting for some money. Shucks.