Friday, August 12, 2011

Month in Review

July Challenges -

Coming home after June's training session to a house that had been flooded after our village got 12.8cm of rain in one day. Moldy books, moldy clothes and a leaky roof. Weeks of working with our landlord and house repairmen. When rain falls on a mud house, small amounts of mud wash away as well, so parts of our house literally wash away whenever it rains.

Rainy Season + Rice Farming Season

People are in the fields all day every day as July-Sept is the peak in workload for rice farmers in our village. Almost everyone in our village owns a rice field or works in one, including govt officials, teachers, office workers etc. People are busy, tired and soggy which makes generating excitement to start new projects somewhat challenging.

Wuluwulu Ji
The liquid waste that drains from the nygen (bathroom) onto the street is called wuluwulu ji. When the rains fall, roads turn to rivers carrying the wuluwulu ji all over town.

Reasons Why We are Still Here -

Rainy Season
Wuluwulu ji aside, rainy season means that hot season has come to a close. Temperatures are more manageable, we see clouds on a regular basis and typically fall asleep to a breeze at night.

Basil etc.
Salim's garden is thriving which means tomato sauce with fresh basil. Pasta is available in any village here though the name for all pasta is "macaroni" regardless of the pasta's shape. The garden is still in its infancy, two large piles of compost are slowly cooking and will be ready for peak garden season in a few months. We are also growing a handful of trees thanks to seedlings donated by Bintu's work supervisor--mango, pomegranate, guava, flamboyant and a tree called moringa that Salim grew from seed.

As difficult as it can be to communicate in Bambara some days, we have been blessed with a very supportive network of hosts or friends in village. We have places to go to "hang out" instead of simply hiding out in our house waiting for the days to pass. Our friends are also supportive and willing to listen to us ask questions about the tough times we've had.

Dooni Dooni (little by little) things do get easier
We are gaining the confidence to work through things that were so challenging in the beginning--Bintu danced in the town square with a circle of women in front of hundreds of people during a celebration for Pan African Women's Day. It was one of the fastest ways to earn street cred from the most powerful women in village.
Salim lost his cell phone in a cab in Bamako and was able to call the phone, explain the situation to the person who found the phone and pulled a nearby construction worker into the conversation. The worker then sped off on his moto to retrieve the phone 5km away for a cash reward. Negotiations conducted 100% in Bambara.

It's impossible to sum up the entire month in a single post, but we tried our best to share the highs and lows. We are now headed back to village after a Bamako whirlwind wedding anniversary celebration weekend. In Bamako we attended the swearing in ceremony for the newest group of volunteers. The ceremony was held at the US Embassy (not quite as amazing as our ceremony at the president's house, but good nonetheless). We are now officially not the least experienced volunteers in country.

Thanks to a connection from Tom we were invited to a lunch event at the acting ambassador's house. It was enlightening to hear development workers' perspectives on Mali and the people at our lunch table enjoyed drilling us with questions about life in a real live village. The food - fantastic. Tables and silverware too.

We celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary at a small hotel in Bamako and enjoyed a peaceful, quiet retreat. It's hard to imagine going through this experience solo, I am so thankful to be one of the few married couples here.

Work wise we are continuing to network in village and have started small projects, though it is too early to tell what will take off and what will flop.

The month of August this year is Sunkalo which means "fasting month" in Bambara (aka Ramadan). There is a celebration at the end of Ramadan followed by the largest feast day of the year in early November.

Signing off until next month.


  1. We just had a pesto dinner party last night with the elder Cunninghams and a missionary priest from Uganda. Nowhere near your part of Africa, but it couldn't help but bring you to mind anyway. I'm glad you have access to pasta, or tomato-basil season would be bittersweet!

    Love and prayers, Staci

  2. its great to hear about your adjustments in village, sounds like you all are doing the right stuff! just wait for cold season... every moment becomes awesome. try oatmeal for breakfast... it changed my mornings! I miss you guys, and Mali.. bon chance! inibara! keep the blog up, its great to read