Happy New Year Everybody! It has been an obscenely long time since I've shared anything about my life over here in Mali. I would love to blame this on an inability to access the Internet, but in reality the blame is more justly placed on my laziness.
Things here have been great recently! Most importantly, the project that so many of you funded has been a great success. The main part of the renovations have been finished and The Campement of the Friends of the Elephants has hosted its first tourists, my wonderful mother Frances and my Aunts Mary and Kate. The trio came over for a two week vacation, arriving the 27th of January and leaving the day before yesterday. We had a fantastic trip including: a boat ride on the Niger, a three day Dogon hike, an elephant sighting, two great nights in Boni at the amazing campenment, the slaughter of a sheep for a party in my village and a trip to Segou for the Festival sur le Niger. It was fantastic having family visit and it gave me a new appreciation for this country as I was able to see it through their eyes.
The festival in Segou was especially impressive. The crowd was predominately Malian providing a very organic experience. This was a direct contradiction to the white-washed, European crowd I was expecting and let us really experience Malians' love of music. I'm positive I've never seen a more enthused crowd, especially to what I would call mellow acts. I believe my mom and aunts had a great time here. I know I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I've also recently received funding for a women's garden project in my village. Working with a Women's association there, we are going to dig a well, make some compost pits, get some new seeds, tools and give these ladies a revenue source for the association. It's been nice working on a project that I have a little bit of prior experience with.
Christmas this year was fantastic. I went on a 2 week trip to Ghana with four of my best friends. It was absolutely amazing! Gorgeous, cheap, english speaking (kinda though they seem to add an "o" to most words), developed and clean. The transportation overland was a bit long (47 hours), but the pay off was oh so worth it. The biggest differences between Mali and Ghana that would likely only be noticed by a Peace Corps volunteer are as follows:
1. "It rains ice cream-o!" (Translation: in Ghana nearly everywhere it is possible to buy "ice cream." While this "ice cream" is more similar to cake frosting, it is none the less cold and as you may have guessed since it tastes like cake frosting really delicious. It was also something like 2000 calories, but in typical African fashion a "healthy treat" (from the FanIce label) since anyone could use the calories.)
2. "Beach-o!" (Translation here is pretty obvious, but the beaches of Ghana were stupendous. Clean, isolated, once you got out of the big cities, and surfable. I will be going back before I leave.)
3. "Does that really say Milk Stout-o?" (Translation: Ghana had more than two types of beer and they tasted good. This was such a welcome change from the Castel and Flag world we live in up north that there may have been a time or two when we over compensated. Also, they had a milk stout that could be found most places and was delicious. Being a Christian country, there were also bars all over the streets that sold palm wine, local liquor, or bitters (British colonies.))
4. "Shop-rite-O!" (Translation: The Shop-rite is how the Ghanians in Accra refer to the Accra Mall. While there is a Shop-rite in the Accra Mall, there is also a food court, Apple Store, Nike Town, and get ready for it MOVIE THEATRE. It was amazing for the first hour. We honestly took pictures inside the mall. But, after an hour I remembered why I hate malls. We did see Sherlock Holmes and Avatar though. YES!)
Any way, Ghana was amazing but not as great as having Moma Frances and Aunt Mary and Kate here. Mary took tons of pictures which I will put a link to once she posts them. It was great to see some family. Any who are willing are welcome.
Back on the road.
2 years ago