Well, just made it back from my site visit. Twas a long and eventful week, fun filled and stressed filled, but altogether not to shabby. I set out with my homologue, my in country working buddy, a week ago to the destination of Farabougou, 30k outside the regional capital of segou. The bus ride was quick (for Mali standards), and we got juice boxes and pastries to boot! Something I was told I should never get use to on a bus ride as that neeeever happens, except that once mostly likely because our group riding up to Segou is just that cool.
I ended up packing lightly because I was told I might have to bike out to my site–its only 30k away from the regional capital but apparently 30k off any major road….guess i’ll be getting into biking shape quite quickly in the coming months. Needless to say I did not want to be laden down with a bunch of stuff so I packed light, for better or worse. It turned out to be for the worst…at least at first. Note to future self: pack lots and lots and lots of water! The site took a good hour to get to by car (didn’t have to bike it this time!) and my homologue and I arrived late in the evening after traveling all day. My once white shirt now a lovely shade of reddish brown from the insane amount of dust blown into the car during the hour trip. No more white clothing for me!
Its a charming little village of 800 people, with several mango trees, lots of gardens–and I soon had the good fortune to discover–a place where lots and lots of To is eaten. To, for those that don’t know and might never want to know, is a gelatin-like millet porridge that I’ve decided I can stomach on very rare occasions. Twice a day for 3 days was a bit on the WAY to frequent side, with moni (sour rice porridge) for the other meals in the day, ha ha. And that in combination with my discovery that the one pump in the village was damaged (good project to start working on fixing that up!) and that the two butigi’s (stores) only sold sugar, tea, and peanuts kinda floored me for a brief bit. I remember thinkings “it’s gonna be one hell of a long week.” Especially with my oversite of forgetting any reading material to help pass the time between 11 and 4 when nothing happens at all because its so hot. The list of tirals and tribulations was beginning to get comical. I did luckily end up hunting down somebody who had papaya for sale and it was some of the most delicious papaya I’d ever tasted. So, in the end, that made up for 3 straight days of my food nemisis, To.
On day 4 I found out from the village that they want me to plant a fruit tree orchard (hell yes!) and dig a few wells to help facilitate an easier time watering the orchard. Along with that they wanted me to continue the work of several previous volunteers who had introduced new sorghum varities to the area–my task being the analysis of which variety performs the best and implementing a village wide cultivation of this new, probably more drought resistant variety. So I’m excited about that, anything involving more fruit trees! And for that matter, anything not involving To!
The people in the village were incredibly welcoming and I feel very indebted for their generosity (like my host family village) so I hope I can give them a productive 2 years. My host family and homologue are both very encouraging as I struggle through my basic Bambara and they have an endless supply of patience….so far at least. So hopefully we’ll make a good team as we work to accomplish the many tasks te village has asked of me and my homologue.
What made my site worth the several day hardship tho, is its proximity to Segou. Segou is the place where the French colonizers had historically set up camp more or less. So its dotted with old colonial buildings. Along with that it has a rich variety of restuarants (and good ones) which some of the other regional capitals don’t have. AND it has two hotels that have pools, and you can get ICE CREAM! And I made use of all these things–life couldn’t get any better! I was amazed, and felt a bit guilty too since I had just come from the village scene–the stark juxtaposition of village life to segou life was easily apparent. That guilt somewhat dissapated when I found out that all the in-city segou volunteers had been enjoying this pool, ice cream, and cold drinks combo on a daily basis for the past week! So I think they can be the ones feeling guilty. I’ll savor it while I can.
Overall tho I’m excited for my site, and once I get a garden going, figure out the resources at the neighboring villages, and can more fully move into my house and integrate with the village I think it will be a good match. Let ya know how it goes! Till then, its 3 more weeks of language study and then swearing in as a Peace Corps volunteer at the Presidential Mansion in Bamako. The first Stage in Mali to be sworn in on the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps and the 40th anniversary of Peace Corps in Mali! Wish me luck!
Hope all y’all are doin well. Let me know how things are going back in the states (and out for that matter–seems like stuff’s happening all over from the brief and limited news snippets I’ve been able to gather.) Send my best wishes on all y’all having a great spring! Talk to you soon, maybe as a PC volunteer!
Mario aka Negese Jara
And often what follows after my name: (N te sho dun, nka traore be sho dun…traore amine, jara akine) “and no I don’t eat beans, traore eat beans, Traore are bad! Jara are good!” And then a 10 minute segment of bean jokes follow especially if the person I’ve introduced myself to is a traore, because they are my joking cousin, ha ha. Often I try to squeeze in a bean pun (“Sho”mogow ka kene? instead of somogow ka kene?–”I your bean family fine” instead of the regular question is your family fine) It’s good times!