Friday, November 11, 2011

Memorable Journal Quotes from 9.11.11 - 10.2.11

9.11.11 - 10.2.11 :
My First 3½ weeks with my host family before school started

« « Bamako, Bamako. Nous allons au Bamako pour parler le Bambara. » - written by my little cousin Iba. »

« Our hosts families picked us up on 9.11.11, which got Sidney talking about how great it was that on the 10th  anniversery of 9/11, 5 American kids were going off to live with welcoming, Muslim families. »

« It’s the norm here for families to have housekeepers and cooks who live with the family, and also chauffures. My family has only one housekeeper, Awa, and sadly she only speaks the native language, Bambara, and no french, so my conversations with her are quite quite limited. »

« I take 3 cold showers a day, the colder the better. Also, I need to wear shoes in the bathroom at all times, we have communal flip flops. »

« I used hot powdered milk in my cereal this morning. The milk here, even the liquid milk, tastes different and it’s not my favorite. »         (This was before I knew to put sugar in my powdered milk, now I love it!)

« It’s so hot sometimes it wakes me up in the middle of the night. »      (I’ve gotten used to the heat by now and am dreading the moment I step off the plane in January in wintery New Hampshire!)

(Oh my goodness this donkey keeps hee-hawing outside of my house and it’s so loud! It scared me so badly the first time I heard it, because I had no idea what it was!)

« My host sister makes these delicious juices, like bissape and gingèmbre (approximate spellings). To make it, she washes the small fruits, then keeps running water over them and sifting the excess muck from the water, then adds a ton of sugar and fruit extracts. »

« I love my neighborhood, there is a soccerfield right next to my house and people are always playing there and hanging out around it. »

« I fall asleep to the sound of birds, flute sounding instruments and quiet conversations going on outside my house, and I wake up to the call to prayer and the rooster. I’d have to say those are some really nice moments of the day. »

« I helped Awa handwash clothes yesterday, which kinda hurt my back from bending over, but I really had fun. You gotta scrub really hard, but I’m not even going to try to explain the technique because I can’t even do it. Awa has callusses on her hands from ringing out the fabrics so many times. »

« To wash our clothes we use water from the well, which we fetch with a rope with a bucket attached. »

« This morning I cooked myself eggs on the little outside stoves that they use to cook. Normally all the cooking is done outside, because most houses have cement patios outside of the house building which are used for cooking, and they are inside of the tall walls that surround the house. The stoves are about 1 foot tall, and either use coal or are lit with gas and matches. »

« When I’m walking down the street or in the car, every so often passing people, mostly children and boys, wave to me, wink at me, blow me kisses, try to talk to me, even ask me to be their girlfriend, or yell out « Toubabou ! Toubabo ! » which means « white person » in Bambara. It’s funny, a lot of children around 5 or 6 years old, some of whom have never seen a white person before, all chant the same song, « Toubabou, toubabou, toubabou. » I now answer to the name « Toubabou ». »

« My host sister loves my ukulele, I taught her how to play « One Love » on it and she plays it constantly, but not at night or during the call to prayer. Oh, she also told me that when it gets dark you’re not supposed to whistle. Oops. »

« Iba, my cousin, taught me how to play a Malian card game, and then I tried to teach Awa, which was difficult because I had to mime it all out! »


I also made this chart in my journal about some similarities and contrasts between here and the US:
Like the U.S.                                                              Not like the U.S.
  • Boys playing soccer all day ……………………… On dirt fields with a torn up ball.
  • Children playing in streams ……………………… Along with goats and trash
floating by.
  • Women carrying groceries ……………………….. Balanced on their heads.
  • Women carrying babies ………………………….. On their backs in cloth sacks tied
around their waists and chests.
  • Women cooking ………………………………….. On coal stoves beside the road.
  • Women doing laundry ……………………………. In washtubs by hand.
  • A guy performing at a concert rocking
out on a guitar with probe lights………………….. Wearing the traditional clothing, a
                                                                                  basin, with flute sounding
                                                                                  instruments in the background.
  • Women sweeping ………………………………… Using handmade, 1 foot high,
 handleless brooms.

« The way you buy water here is in small plastic sacks and you bite the corner off and suck the water out of the bag. It’s weird at first, but easier than a bottle! » 

« On the streets when you’re stopped in traffic people along the streets come up to your car window asking for money or trying to sell things like phone credits, tissues, sunglasses and flyzappers. I have to start feeling less uncomfortable when ignoring people. »

« Because of my limited french vocabulary I have to be creative sometimes, saying things like « it’s good for my mouth » instead of « it tastes good. »

« It rained today so I went and stood in it and got wet and everyone laughed at me thinking I was crazy. »

« I’m in the salon right now with my hostdad. I’m watching MTV in french and he’s on the floor praying. »

« I want to walk around the entire continent of Africa right now because I eat so much rice and bread and have yet to excercise! »

« I got malaria according to my family and doctor, so that was interesting. I pretty much had the worst headache of my life for 3 days straight, so bad I couldn’t sleep, had bad stomachaches and vomited, but that was all. It was no picnic, but I pictured malaria being much worse. It is worse for people who live here I think, who are constantly exposed and keep getting it again and again. »

« Today when my host sister and I were going on a walk we got caught in a rain storm. And when it rains in Africa, it RAINS. You can tell its coming because about 3 minutes before the downpour starts, the wind picks up a lot. When my sister and I were running back home all the streets flooded, so I was wading through water almost up to my knees (though thats not saying much because my knees are pretty close to the ground anyway.) »

« Yesterday me, my host sister and a friend went to a marriage ceremony across the street. I put on one of my host sister’s basins , we went, sat crowded uncomfortably on mats on the ground for a half hour with a bunch of other women there, people  asked me to give them money, we took a group picture, then left. What ? I didn’t see any marriage process. » (This is because we didn’t know the family very well, so we only made an appearance then left, as I later learned.)

« My hostmom was on the Afrobasket Women’s national team when she was younger, so for about a week my family was going to basketball games every night, to support the current team in the Afrobasket Women’s tournament à Bamako. Each game, the whole time there are blaring horns and pounding drums and a group of people dancing really energetically. They sing this cheer a lot that goes like « Aaay sorasiwalay, ja ja ja sorasiwalay. Zimbo, zimbo zimbo… » (approximate spelling)… I love the basketball games. I feel like a Malian when I’m cheering, singing, chanting, dancing, jumping, clapping and doing the wave with everybody. »

« Last night my host sister and I went on a run around the soccer field, and whenever I would run by the kids playing in one corner they would grab my hands, run with me and shout, « Bon soir! Bon soir! » while laughing and giggling because, oh my goodness they were touching a toubabou!! It made it really hard to run with three or four children hanging onto each arm, haha. » (Bon soir, Bon jour and ça va are the only words most kids know in french, because commonly kids are raised speaking Bambara and start learning french in school because Mali uses the French school system.)

« Last night it was really cloudy and windy, so I sat on the porch listening to my iPod, eating sweet potatoe fries and drinking pinapple juice, it was perfect. My 3 favorite things; food, music and wind. Oh, and Africa. Ideal! »

« Last night I met a guy who asked me out, and I had to explain, I don’t know you, I barely speak french, I just got here, no I don’t want to be your girlfriend. He didn’t seem to understand my reasoning. »         (This has happened a couple times haha.)

« So many people here love Obama. They wear Obama shirts or America shirts, and there are « Obama Coiffure » shops, advertising Obama haircuts… »

« There’s lightening in the sky here almost every other day. J’aime l’éclaire! Also the clouds are so beautiful, and so are all sunrises and sunsets. And the moon. I pretty much just love the African sky as a whole all day every day. »

« I can now officially eat ½ a loaf of bread for breakfast! »

« At the concert, « Ministar », a sort of American Idol-type of talent show for kids that I’ve seen on the TV here a lot, we watched a bunch of really talented children sing and dance. We were supposed to go on stage and learn a Malian dance in front of everyone, but they ran out of time. We danced from our seats though. »

Memorable Journal Quotes from 9.8.11 - 9.10.11

Well, its official, I’m the worst blogger ever. I’ve been in Mali for more than two months and not written one entry! Fortunately, though, I’m an excellent journal keeper, so the plan is to copy down my journal entries, adding on any extra thoughts along the way. I’ve got 2 months of Mali to describe, so lets get down to business.

Note : quotation marks on the french keyboard look like this «… »

Memorable Journal Quotes and Entries :

9.8.11 – 9.10.11 :
My first 3 days in Bamako, which I spent staying at a hotel with the other 4 girls, exploring the city every day with Sounkalo our coordinator and Sidney, our connection back in America who accompanied us for the first couple days.

« Bamako, Bamako, having fun with Sounkalo. »


« At lunch I ordered pigeon, but sadly, and honestly a little to my relief, they were all out. Apparently pigeon is a popular choice on the streets of Bamako… who would have guessed? »

« I’ve decided that the Coke in Bamako is much better than Coke back home, which may be due to the old fashion bottle that it comes in. »

« After lunch, while Sounkalo, Hope and I waited for the driver to arrive, we walked up and down an ordinary, or in my opinion extraordinary, but in reality ordinary Bamako street. People were outside shucking corn, playing with rocks, building, balancing huge tubs of bananas on their heads… everything I would picture for a stereotypical African street. Oh, and have I mentioned how friendly everyone is? Especially the children, they stare at us and smile really big which makes me smile like a foreign weird! »

« Tonight we visited a polygamous family, a man, his two wives, and their many children and extended family. They were so welcoming, even though all of us could only barely communicate in our broken french… the tour of their house was very cool because, if the first story was not beautiful enough, there was an identical second story for the second wife! As the man of the house, Danttouma, said, if you have two wives, you buy two of everything, three wives, three, and so on… After the tour we all ate dinner together in a circle on the floor. First, one of the young men came around with a bowl and a pot and poured water on our hands as we each washed up. Then, we each got a chunk of bread and scooped up beans from the big center bowl. After, we ate small pancake-looking creations with honey, then an orange for dessert which I could absolutely not figure out how to peel. It was different than in America… I won’t even try to explain. A young man had to peel it for me... lets move on.
            After saying goodbye to this very hospitible family who kept repeating « I am so, so happy. », and inviting us to come again, we went to dinner. What? I know. Apparently Sounkalo told the family we would only need drinks, and we already had reservations for this restaurant, so off we went... At dinner we drilled Sounkalo with questions, a common occurance so far. Then, we left and walked down the stone streets where a live band was playing instruments that sounded somewhat familiar, but looked like something I’d never seen before, like a sphere on the ground with a long peice sticking up with strings, played like a harp.»

« Even though polygamous families are somewhat common here, it’s not like every family is polygamous. Its also perfectly common for a man to be in a monogomous relationship with a wife of his choosing. That is also something I learned tonight, a lot of Malians do not choose their spouse and/ or, when they marry they do not move out of their parents house, especially with the eldest son who is seen as a leader of the family. Of course, this is not always the case. »

« There is a lot of litter in the places I’ve visited. This is something I was not necessarily expecting. Also, flies swarm a lot when we eat outside, how much do you wanna bet I’ll accidentally eat one sometime soon. Also, driving here is crazy. Many people drive motorcycles, speeding along, swerving between cars… and I have yet to see a helmet! Men, women, even babies ride on these things, 1, 2 or 3 at a time. Also, in cars, I don’t really see much seatbelt usage. »

« Today we met a man named Aziz who works for Le Falculté du Medicin, a university for medicine… he gave us a tour of some important monuments, like sculptures of previous Malian dictators and presidents, and french governers, and the Malian National Park. All of his explanations were in french, and I did my best to follow, but got lost every now and then. School in October is going to be very interesting! At lunch Aziz asked if any of us were married and kept saying « vite marraige ! » (get married quickly.) » (Ive heard this a lot since then, too.)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Why Mali is Right For Me

When I first applied for the YES abroad program, I knew it was perfect for me. I have always, ALWAYS wanted to go to Africa. Living in Africa has been my dream since I can remember. I would constantly annoy my family when I repeated phrases like "I wish I was in Africa right now" or frequently going about singing "Africa" by Toto. I was searching for a program offering a summer or semester trip to a third-world country in Africa. I wasn't looking to stay in a place that was anywhere like my home in America.
For my stay I will be living in the capital city of Mali, Bamako, where I will live with a family that can provide indoor plumbing and my own bedroom. I'm so excited! When I applied for the scholarship, it was not guaranteed that I would stay in Mali, or even Africa for that matter, as they are also sending students to countries such as Oman, Turkey, India, etc. In fact, I had no choice in the matter of where I would be sent if I was accepted, I was only able to request. Fortunately, I was chosen for the Mali program. Thank you, YES Abroad!