It’s been a little over a month since I’ve been here! Village time is pretty slow – I wake up at 6am and go to bed around 8pm – so it feels like I’ve been here for YEARS!! Here’s a little glimpse of my daily schedule:
· Wake up around 6:30 am, and take a bucket bath – with warm water – unless it’s too cold outside, then I skip it :)
· Eat breakfast – usually bread and eggs or bread and peanut butter and a cup of nescafe
· Go to school – which should be a 3 minute walk but turns into a 15 minute walk because of all the greeting involved
· Learn Bambara, the local language, until noon
· Go home for lunch – which is usually rice and some sort of sauce, usually peanut type sauce
· Then I relax until 2:30 – by relax I mean stay out of the way of the sun and usually fan myself in my room
· At 2:30 I start class again and we go until 5
· After class I try to rush home so that I can get back to my house before dark and take my bucket bath (because the bathrooms are enclosed, but no roofs, and they’re outside – so I get terrified that I’ll find bugs/toads or something at night)
· After my bath, I eat my dinner – which varies – sometimes it’s spaghetti/macaroni, sometimes rice, sometimes fried plantains, sometimes containing meat, sometimes fried potatoes
· After dinner, I chill with the family and chat
· I usually get tired pretty early, around 8 or so, and retire to my room to read and fall asleep!
There usually aren’t too many variations in that schedule. The bulk of the day is spent in class, studying either Bambara, Peace Corps policies, or stuff related to my work of small enterprise development. A couple of times I’ve been to the market, or the tailor, but not very frequently.
The greeting I was mentioning earlier is a pretty interesting part of Malian culture. Every time you enter a social situation, or are walking down the street, you have to greet EVERYONE! Old people, little kids, adults, etc. There are different greetings for each part of the day – morning, noon, evening, and night. You essentially say good (whatever part of the day it is) and ask how they are, their family, was the day/night peaceful, etc. No matter what the situation is like in reality, you respond with “no problems at all.” It’s not the same way as it is in America – you have to stop and talk to people, be friendly, and can’t just say “how are you?” and walk by. This is why it takes me so long to walk to school! Or anywhere for that matter! The people in my village seem to be always quizzing me to see if I know what they’re saying or to see if I remember my host parents’ names. In general, the people seem to be really social and welcoming. You don’t need invitations to stop by peoples’ houses, and it’s perfectly normal for you to be walking down the street and have people inviting you over to eat with them!
The market was also a pretty interesting experience. Some towns have markets every day at certain times, others have a big one on a certain day of the week. Our village doesn’t have a market, but the neighboring village has one every day. I’ve also been to another village’s market which is held only once a week. The markets are outdoors, and the vendors are usually set up under some sort of roofs or covers above their heads. At the markets, you can find anything from fabric, shoes, hair products, clothes to fruits, vegetables, seasonings, live animals, etc… In Mali, you bargain for anything that’s not food. The bargaining has been fun so far, but when I get more confident in my language I’ll be able to bargain better.
All of the trainees at our site (seven of us) and our two teachers make dinner for ourselves once every two weeks. For the first week we made chickens, fried plantains, salad, and fries. We had to buy the chickens live and kill them then we paid someone to pluck them for us and we fried them. This dinner happened two weeks after we’ve been staying at our homestay sites, eating Malian food. We FEASTED! Every one of us got so full that it took us a while to get back up and moving! For our second time making dinner, we had guinea fowls, fried rice, salad, and fries. Again, we had to buy the guinea fowls alive and cook them ourselves. By the way, that was my first time eating guinea fowls and they are DELICIOUS!!!
All in all I am having a great time trying to learn more about this culture and integrate into this community! This upcoming Monday I will visit the site where I will be living for the next two years. So far, what I know about it, is that it’s about 125km from the capital, and it will be a semi-urban setting. I won’t be that far away from my banking town and will have my own house with two rooms, my own well, and hopefully my own little concession. I will be working with a cereal cooperative, working to increase their production, and also a savings association. When I get done with my visit and have internet I will write an update about the experience!
Thanks for reading!