So guess what!!
I just found out where I'll be spending the next 2 years of my life! And it turns out, that it's in one of the hottest, if not, IS, the hottest place on earth! I'm off to the Kaye region of Mali! Unfortunately, I can't blog about where I'm actually going to be due to Peace Corps regulations, but I am willing to tell people individually, actually, many of you will probably already know by the time you read this, but I don't have everyone's e-mail groups, so please request it from me if you are really curious. The crazy thing, is by public transportation, the closest other volunteer will be about a 6 hour bus ride. It's not that I'm out in the middle of nowhere, it's just that I am that far removed from other sites. I have been told that there will be 2 health volunteers somewhere on the way from Bamako to my site, but probably not any closer to 3 hours away. Pictures of me riding a camel cannot be too far in the future, also, I need good camel names just in case the opportunity arises where I either need to name a camel or buy one, so feel free to let me know. Another thing, I spoke to my homologue today (this is the guy that is assigned to be my initial contact when I get to site, so he's basically like a host dad but he doesn't take care of me, just make sure I know someone there), and he speaks English which is nice, but I really want to speak to him in French or Bambara so that I can practice. But he told me that I will most likely have to learn Sonninke or Fulani... which means that the past 5 weeks of Bambara lessons were almost useless in the sense that I will have to restart. I mean, they weren't useless because for the most part people will have a working comprehension of Bambara and I'll be able to use my Bambara when I'm in other parts of Mali, but I'm still not too happy about having to start all over again.
Also, I'm kind of stealing this idea from another trainee. But, just a challenge to those who are reading this. Throughout your day, try to focus on and remember the number of different things you read. This could literally be anything from this post, a newspaper article, your phone settings, the ingredients on the back of a cereal box, street signs, books, etc... I had mentioned in my previous post that the education system in Mali is pretty bad and that the number of literate/educated people is very low. To give you an idea, in the village I live in called Soundougouba, on average, I read about 3 things that are not either my book, my notes/Peace Corps papers. One of these, is the name of my host dad which is written upside down on the inside of my screen door for when it was delivered to the family, another is a sign that says "Attention!" to warn about the speed bump as you come into the village from the north (I read this on on my way back to school, so it should count as 2), and the name of my host dad again written on the donkey cart which is in my concession. Occasionally I pass or notice the faded lettering indicating the name of the road where my host family lives. Other than this, I read my bambara notes, my phone every once in a while, my book(s), the names of the artists on my ipod, and Peace Corps notes on NGOs in Mali. Oh! and when I had a bout of diahrrea, I read the package of the pepto bismal pills they gave us from our medical kit, that was very exciting.
Rain is probably my favorite thing ever right now. Whenever it rains, I can finally cool down, and it feels good. I did find a great spot on the rocks overlooking Soundougouba, that is well shaded. On my way to this spot, I startled an owl from it's tree. Very big white spotted owl, not sure what species but it was gorgeous and seeing it fly was pretty awesome. For the most part Mali is very flat. The terrain is very rough, with almost no grass and mostly rocks and sand. Shrubs and certain trees have no problem growing, but it's just a tough place. I don't mean this in a negative way, I was just asked about the terrain and there isn't any other way to describe it. Near Soundougouba, and apparently in other areas near Bamako, there are there rock outcroppings formed by large boulders. Not sure how to describe these because they aren't gradual slopes, but rock suddenly jutting upwards. The rock is been shaped into boulders by the rain, so it makes for good for climbing.
Starting a short story/graphic novel with an artist from the UofM that will be titled "Negen Man".
Off to bed, I'll post more tomorrow.