So, part of my service is working with IEP which is the Institute for Popular Education and it teaches teachers how to teach in the national languages such as Bomu, Bambara, Fulani, and about 6 others. So depending on the area they have IEPs with different languages. So schools that have IEP trained teachers begin teaching students how to read in the local language before getting into French using the theory that if you can read in one language, reading in another language should come more easily (their results show this is the case. Also, I'm living proof that it's possible because I can easily read in Bomu and Bambara... I just don't understand it). The argument against it is that in the end the students don't actually learn one language and fully as they could have if they had started only in French. Regardless, one of the things they do is they write short little books in the local language and then give them to as many students as possible. This is where I come in, I have written a small story on nutrition that I hope presents it in a fun way. As you're reading, think of it as a children's book with lots of pretty illustrations.
Les Petits Poussins
One day there was a hen, a very proud hen who could lay 3 eggs at a time. One day, this hen laid 4 eggs and 4 very different chicks were born. The chicks played all day and night and followed their mother everywhere she went. But each chick was very picky.
The first chick found that he was afraid of being sick, so he went to the wise rabbit flying in the sky and asked him, “Wise rabbit, I have seen you flying around and never getting sick, how do you avoid becoming sick and live so long?” To which the rabbit replied, “Well, I never get sick because of what I eat. I only eat fruits and vegetables because fruit fights diseases.” So the little chick decided that for the rest of his life, he would only eat fruits and vegetables.
The second chick wandered off one day and saw a lion. The chick was terrified but was amazed at the strength of the lion. So, overcoming his fear, he approached him and very cautiously asked, “Mr. Lion, you are so strong and so big, one day I want to be as big and as strong as you, how can I do that?” To which the lion replied, “Well, as a lion, I only eat meat, and this makes me very strong and has allowed me to grow. If you want to be big and strong like me, you need to eat lots of meat, peanuts, beans and drink only milk, this way you will grow big muscles.” So the second little chick decided that for the rest of his life, he would only eat meat and drink milk.
The third chick was happily running around the concession when he saw a goat race past at an incredible speed, jumping very high and full of energy. The chick watched in amazement as the goat raced through the fields and nobody could catch it, even the fastest dogs. So one day the little chick went to the goat’s house and asked him, “Goat, how is it that you can run so fast? It’s amazing, if only I could run that fast I would be the champion of all chickens and nobody could stop me.” To which Goat replied, “Well, I only eat millet, corn, and rice and nothing else. These foods give me lots of energy which make me go really fast.” So the chick decided that he would only eat millet, corn, and rice for the rest of his life.
The fourth chick was not picky, and ate anything he found.
As they grew up, the four chicks became famous in the community. The first chick became a doctor who was famous for he himself never becoming sick, but often took naps and was not very strong. The second chick grew huge and strong and always won the wrestling competitions, but he often took naps and had to go see his brother the doctor often. The third chick won all the races and was never tired. There wasn’t a single animal in the community that could catch him or outrun him in a race, but he was not as strong as his brother and went to see his brother the doctor very often. The fourth chick was known for being good at everything. He was only second fastest to his third brother, he was only second strongest to his second brother, and the only animal that got sick less than he did was his oldest brother. But the fourth chick rarely ate at home. On one day he would go to his oldest brother and only eat fruits and vegetables, on the next day he would visit his second brother and eat only meat, and on the third day he would go visit his third brother and eat only millet or corn or rice. He always ate a balanced diet that allowed him to be strong, fast, intelligent, and to never become sick.
One day during planting season, the four brothers were out working hard in the field. But after a time, the first chick and the second chick began to get tired and had to stop often. The fourth chick and the third chick however, did not seem to get tired, but kept working. The first and second chick could not believe it so they asked the fourth chick, “How is it that you can keep working so hard without getting tired?” To which the fourth chick replied, “Come eat with us when I go visit out brother the third chick and you will see why.” So the next day they went to visit the third chick and ate only millet and corn and rice. The next time they went to the fields, the first and second chicks were able to work all day from sun-up to sun-down without getting tired. So the first and second chicks decided that they would include rice and millet and corn in their meals so that they would not get tired.
One day during cold season, the fourth chick went to eat at his second brother’s house. It was cold at night and the second chick had fallen ill. The second brother asked his fourth brother, “Brother, how are you not sick when it is so cold outside, I am always sick and cannot perform in competitions anymore.” The fourth brother told him, that next time he should come eat at the first brother’s house. Then the fourth brother went to see the third chick. The third chick was also sick and exclaimed, “Brother, how are you not sick when it is so cold outside, I am always sick and therefore I cannot race or work anymore.” To which the fourth brother replied, “Come eat with me at our first brother’s house and you will see why.” So the next day, the four brothers met at the first brother’s house to eat, and they only ate fruits and vegetables. The next day, the second and third brother’s were not sick and they were amazed that their muscles and bodies did not ache as they had before. So they decided to include fruits and vegetables in the meals.
One day during hot season, the four brothers were helping build a new house for their mother. But the first and third chick could no not lift the big bricks while the second and fourth brother lifted even the largest bricks easily. So they asked the fourth brother, “How can you be so strong and lift such big bricks? We are full of energy and are not tired, but we can only lift the small bricks.” To which the fourth brother said, “Come eat at our second brother’s house tomorrow and you will see.” So the next day the four chicks went to eat at the second brother’s house and ate only meat and drank only milk. The next day, all the brothers were able to lift the big bricks and build the house together.
And so the four little chicks learned that to stay healthy, strong, and energetic they must each all kinds of foods.
Other updates, I played with a monkey on market day. He was trying to sell it to me, but not only is it against Peace Corps policy, but monkey trafficking is bad! If you buy a monkey or ape you are encouraging people to catch more monkeys and apes in order to sell them, endangering the already dangerously low population of monkeys and especially apes. Also, I started working in the fields. I was helping one of my friends start his fonio fields. The first morning we didn't do very much, but the second morning we did half a hectare in a 2.5 hours just the two of us. It's a great work out but it tears your hands apart. Almost all farming here is done by hand and only wealthy people have the opportunity to buy a plow. Once the big rains come and I'm back in village they'll be planting peanuts I'll take pictures to post.
If you have the opportunity to see the second episode of Human Planet, it's basically half about Mali. They show images of Dogon country and Hombri (where there are elephants). Also, when he pronounces the work Diallo, it's pronounce Jallo and it's a typical Fulani name, the same ethnic group as the child herding the cows. When they are showing images of the children in Dogon country all happy about the rain, it's true, rain is good because it means that it's finally cooling down and planting season will start, we have to remember a couple things. 1) Heavy rains are often terrifying for Malians. Their houses are primarily made of mud and especially near the end of rainy season it's not uncommon for houses to collapse and that becomes very bad if it's at night and people are in these houses. 2) Particularly in Dogon country where this footage was shot, latrines are in poor condition and most children and all animals defecate outside, so all the water washing down through the villages, especially during the first rains are full of bacteria and fun stuff. The images of the people fishing (also in Dogon) is done in many parts of Mali including San. I went to a festival called Sangue Mo (also known as Bobe), and although I missed the beginning, I saw thousands and thousands of people doing exactly that. Apparently they begin not with a gun shot, but an elder goes to the middle of the river, puts his basket in, and as soon as he pulls out a fish, everybody rushes in. It was really an awesome festival, I'll post pictures.
Currently on my way to Manantali to celebrate the 4th of July and my 1 year in country mark!