Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Homestay- Head First Into Malian Culture

View of Our Village from a Rock Formation

Road from Our Quaint Village to the Big Town

 Bambara Language Class

View of George's Compound
(KEY: Red Circle=Compound / Yellow Star=George's Shower / Yellow Line=the Road)

We are each living with separate host families (10 minute walk from one another). Although it is strange to live apart, it allows us to work on our language and forces us to integrate with our hosts as opposed to leaning on one another. The homestay phase lasts through the end of March, with brief periods of time in which we come back to the training center.  We will also have the opportunity to visit our permanent sites
Our homestay families--Cunningham/Gamble role reversal.

I (Bintu) am living in the dugutigi's compound. (Dugutigi = Chief of the Village). The compound is big and so is my host family!  People are always coming and going. It took days to figure out who was who in the family and I must admit that I still don't know who is who. The chief is elderly, my actual host father is the chief's son. I am named after my host mother. My host parents have 5 kids, two of which are married. The three youngest all all girls, ages 9-13ish.

While my nuclear family of 7 doesn't sound that big...the compound itself houses at least 5 family units and other individuals all connected in someway that is too complicated for me to understand based on my current language skill level. The compound is a rectangle with multiple dwellings/rooms that all open up to a very large shared courtyard.

As far as I can tell my host parents have one grandson. He is about 2 and everyone refers to him as "dugutigi." His actual name remains a mystery. He has the run of the house. For the first week I was there he threw baseball sized rocks at me (this was greated by laughs and little discipline). Belive me--life seems overwhelming when eating meals with a new family, speaking language at the proficiency of a two year old (on good days) and finding that the other two year old in the family was more interested in making me a target for rocks than being my friend. Little by little he has warmed up to me. We had a breakthrough moment a few days ago and have now hugged once.

OK, I will admit that Sherri's boys probably never threw large rocks at her houseguests while they were growing up, but I am getting a taste of life in a big busy household.


  1. Wow, sounds like you guys are really adjusting quickly! I love reading your updates.

  2. You never know. Some of those Cunningham boys are pretty crazy. I can picture rock throwing :).

    It's great to hear your updates!

    Love, Staci

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  4. i did throw a rock at arthur at okoboji on vacation when i was about 8. he was under water and i was strangely compelled to see what would happen if i threw a rock near him. he came up bleeding from the top of the head. we have had a major breakthrough since and have now hugged once.

    it is so cool and impressive that you are doing such a transformative language and social immersion. i think everyone here stateside is proud and a little jealous of your strength. i hope you will teach us some bambara. it must be so different from the latinate/germanic languages we know in the "west."

  5. So proud of you two. You are already doing amazing things that I can't imagine doing myself. Anna remember boys are mean when they flirt with you so maybe the grandson has a little crush on you. I am sure you will be great friends by the time you leave. It is so exciting to see what you are up to. I can't wait until you get your permanent home so I can start sending care packages. Salsa con queso? We will see how it travels. I miss you both dearly and look forward to the next update!

  6. For Marriage and MundaneMidwestern Cuisine, please come home in September (no date specified yet) for Whit and my wedding. Just kidding, I know that Mali needs you more than we will but we will miss you! I will email all the details. Your blog has been gorgeous. I am loving peeping at it over my lunch hour.

    So much love, and all my prayers.

  7. I spoke to Anna today; they will be back at the teaching center on March 9 and should have internet access. They rode their bikes on Sunday to church then enjoyed a tour of the country side. I think they will have lots of fun stories to share once they are able to update the blog.