Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ariving In Mali!!

I ni tile!!

I have arrived in Mali after a long flight and even longer days. It seems like everything is far drawn out in Mali, like it seems I have been here for weeks zhen it has only been a couple of days. But anyway....

I left Vermont after a tearful farewell and went to Montreal. My flight took off without any qualms and I headed to Paris. In Paris I met up with half of the students on the trip. It was really cool to know some of them before the program officially started. And after that the Paris airport had to evacuate our terminal. We left and had to go back through security with only forty minutes till our flight. Gross. Needless to say we were late for my first night in Mali!! What a bummer.

When we arrived in the airport I instantly felt the heat and sweat start emminating from my body. Again gross, but I saw the SIT sign held in Lamine's hand and felt instantly at home. All of our teachers greeted us with big smiles and even dealt with our very poor french.

The first day of class. First we learned the sturcture of the school; what we will learn when and where and how intense the course are. This was mildly unsettling because many of the people in our program have lived in a french school or Haiti. I took the requirement of three semesters to heart and was not worried, Needless to say now I am worried.

So after learning about the structure, we were dropped off in the middle Bamako and told to get some random information and return by taxi after bargaining for a price of something from the market. I learned Malians are very nice but really want my tubabu (white person) money. But I held my ground and moved on. Two men helped us through the market and then asked to take our taxi with us, my partner was far too honest and kind and that seemed to hinder us in the market but we still made out with a thirty cent toothbrush that I will not be brushing my teeth with.

Then I lost my passwords in the deep depths of my brain, sucky I know. So then I couldn't tell my parents I was safe; or the Malian embassy I had made it... I was freaking out, so for all the people who I told I could text you... not the case, you can text me but I cannot respond. But today I figured out the keyboard, practiced my password, and have made it back to the world of technology, who knew I was so saavy?

But today we met members of our host family. I met my two sisters and they are very nice. It was hard to speak french with them, normally women do not learn french and they never spoke up so I felt rude to continue saying 'quoi quoi' all the time but I learned nothing except I have five sisters and two brothers and my dad works hard.

Tomorrow we leave for Siby and stay there for two nights, It will be fun but we hqve our french placement test and I am certain that my no years in any french institution will not help me. But I feel I can speak relatively well.

One parting note: It is not a joke about the left hand.... they really use it to wipe. I will keep you posted on any new info on this front but I don't know if I can actually do that.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Get Packing....

I am going to Mali!! After a summer of uncertainty, Mali is just four days away. Africa is so very close, and I am getting more and more nervous by the day. However my academics have been struggling, so things I have to do before I leave:

  • finish the assigned books for the summer
  • practice my french
  • read more about Mali

But apart for my growing nerves I cannot wait to board the plane and take off. It will be incredibly life changing and probably one of the most important trips of my life. It will most likely shape what I will and will not do for my career and it will be awesome. I just want Thursday to be here.... but at the same time not really.

Today was the start of preparation for the trip. My family and I went out to collect all the necessities for Mali. The cart was full and I still feel completely under prepared. But instead of waiting until the last minute, I am packing it all today and tomorrow so that I know what I don't have and what needs to be where etc... Also I have to think of ideas for gifts, like homemade CDs, Vermont goods, and other objects that package America. Needless to say a lot is on my mind.

Yesterday, my boyfriend's dad invite me to a work picnic; he works for a company in Burlington the has many offices overseas and a very substantial one in Mali. At the picnic I spoke to a few people that have stayed at the company's location in Bamako and they could not stop talking about it. One said, "If you don't like Bamako, you don't like Africa." Another, "It was the best time of my life," and for my own personal measure, "Your french is good enough to survive in Mali." (this while not entirely positive, is refreshing) So I brought this news back to my mom and she has calmed down a bit. She also read "Men of Salt" by Michael Benanav, about a journey across the Sahara (where Mali is) in a caravan to find salt in Taoudenni, Mali. Although I will not be traveling that far north, it is nice to know that my mom has taken the time to do that. Thanks Ma!

Malian news.... Everyday I type "Mali News" into google. It has had mediocre results but still I am keeping up to date with what is going on. This past week the Malian government has tried to pass a new law giving women the right to receive inheritance and have more standing and choice within a marriage. Oddly enough it is being protested against not only by men but also by women. It has rubbed the shoulders of Muslim traditions and therefore the Sharia, the way Muslims live their lives. Therefore, not having a country ruled by Sharia, but instead an established political power separate of religion has hindered this country in an Islamic point of view. However there are still women, Muslim and not, who agree with this change in power within a lawful relationship. It will be interesting to see how it panes out while I am there. Being a woman I will not be given the same respect as a man, and I will have to make respectful changes while I am there.

A bientot (see I know my francais)