Do you welcome that uninvited friend in on your day off and offer him or her a seat and a drink? Do you dish up an extra plate of dinner for the one who inconveniently stopped by during the dinner hour? Do you cook up a meal and deliver it to those strangers visiting your neighbor?
If you are Malian, the answer to all of the above question is: yes. Hosting is the way of life here, regardless of who shows up at your doorstep or when. The word for host is "jatigi" and we have been blessed with a number of families that have gone out of their was to make us feel welcomed, well fed, and well cared for in village.
We eat lunch and dinner with three different jatigi families, and spend most evenings chatting with a fourth jatigi - my work counterpart and neighbor, Capi, his wife Assiata and their one year old son Musa. Before coming to Peace Corps I expected to play an active role in saving the world, but never expected become close friends with Malian my own age.
While we still have a ways to go on saving the world, we have developed true friendships with our jatigis Capi and Assiata. We cooked American food for them (chili and bread - a huge hit), Capi and George play late afternoon lawn games, Assiata and I cooked "birthday cake" aka french toast a few weeks ago for Capi. Their house is our nighttime hang out, and a place where we are always welcome to drop in for a quick chat or cup of tea.
Naturally Capi and Assiata's house was the perfect place for a New Years Eve party. And party we did...Malian style. Chicken, fries, bread, sodas and music. Though we didn't have a champagne toast at midnight, it otherwise felt like being at a lively house party in the States. Late night jokes, impromptu dancing, we closed the party down just before 4am.
Wishing you all a happy 2012!
Cheers! Ringing in 2012 at Capi's house
Salim & Capi
Assiata, Musa & Bintu