I apologize (sort of) for the lack of recent blog posts, however here is a brief synopsis of what life in Mali-la has been like as of late. For beginners, the holiday season arrived in Mali about a week before Thanksgiving. Tabaski (sp?) is the biggest celebration of the Muslim calendar and everyone who is anyone (except pork eating, beer drinking Christians) bought numerous sheep to slaughter and eat.
The celebration itself was pretty fun. After a large community prayer session in the market, everyone returned to their respective households and began three days of sacrificing and then grilling goats and sheep. I spent the time with my homologue's family, where I helped off the sheep, grill the meat, and drink gallons of tea. Overall the three days was a lot of fun; extended family members from across the country came in, there was lots of music being played, and everyone more or less just enjoyed each others company.
The most amusing part of this time, however, was that Malians are very much like Americans when it comes time to party down. For one, everyone is pissed off the day before the event actually begins as they run around frantically cleaning, cooking, and preparing for all their guests. Then, during the actual event, everyone splits their time either showing off all the new things they bought for the holiday (fabric, boom box, sheep) or secretly confiding in the toubab (me) about how they spent to much money, blah blah blah etc… Just like America. And by the end of the event, everyone is just ready for the guests to leave and for life to return to normal. The whole ordeal was essentially a three day thanksgiving.
Following this, the holiday season ended for Malian Muslims, but not for the Americans living in Mali. Those of us that are San Kaw came together and had a big thanksgiving dinner at our regional house. We had to cook commies instead of turkey, but other than that all the food was more or less how you would expect it to be in America. Everyone ate too much, got merry, and generally had a good time. For those of us in my stage who are still relatively new to Mali (and to post college life) it was a great way to spend the first major holiday away from home.
In early December the entire stage returned to our training center at Toubaniso for two weeks of “intensive” in service training. When a large group of Americans who haven’t seen one another for three months are suddenly brought together, the best and worst come out of everyone. Highlights of the two weeks included trips into Bamako, a good friend of mine falling 20 feet off a bridge onto solid ground and somehow being ok (he is now known as Bridge Kid), and not hitchhiking dump trucks late at night on our way back from “The Trashpile”, the drinking establishment closest to our training center.
Low lights, however, included actually attending sessions, dealing with the Toubaniso negens (one of which collapsed) and fighting for food when all our counterparts arrived for the second week of training. Malians do not understand portion control if they’re not all eating together out of a communal bowl.
I spent an extra day after training exploring Bamako with some friends, then bused back to San with a fellow San Kaw to spend Christmas at our house. It was 95 degrees outside, so it felt a bit more like July than Christmas.
After Christmas a few of us went down to Sikasso to go hiking and sleeping at some waterfalls. Sleeping on top of the falls with no civilization for miles was very, very rad. And we made an inappropriately large fire with some trees the river had washed down for us.
Lastly a large group of us met up in Segou for new years. I managed to redeem myself from swear-in night, and instead of being the first to bed, I was the last. At 5am I was, somehow, on the physical roof of our hotel, looking out over Segou and listening to the morning call to prayer. It was a great way to bring in the new year/be tired enough to actually sleep on transport the next day.
Now it’s back to site for the month. My radio show will be in full swing, the baby weighing program is finally starting to document some growth (and loss) with the babies involved, and we’ll be gearing up to start some soak pit and latrine projects during hot season. All in all it was a great month of traveling around the country, and while I’m sorry I don’t provide more posts on a regular basis, Mali doesn’t exactly have wireless everywhere you go. Also, this post wasn't very funny because my ability to grasp the English language is declining at an alarming rate. Cheers.