Monday, October 31, 2011

A few hours in ...

Mali is almost exactly as I remember it, except considerably less enjoyable with less severe culture shock! I recognize so much from five years ago with buildOn, and I recognize so many brands, rituals, and cultural similarities from my experience in Senegal with Lewis & Clark College. I'm definitely on the high that I get upon first arriving in country - adrenaline going, constant energy and excitment, highly intellectually stimulating environments. I'm grateful to have my experience in Senegal under my belt so that I know more or less what to expect (I'm an expert in technique in the pit latrine, for example) and I am free to make the most out of this experience. I am DETERMINED to learn as much Bambara as I can before the end of PST, and to be fluent in it by the time I leave.

In my placement interview today (which is FAR from being the final word on where I end up) the head trainer for my sector (Small Enterprise Development, or SED, pronounced "said," as it is affectionately yet rather clumsily called here) suggested a possible site for me involving giving business classes to a group of women seamstresses, or something along those lines. The trainer, Mackey, was blown away by my French level (Shout Out of the Day goes to all of my amazing French professors over the years!) and pleased with my efforts in Bambara, so we got along great. This is important because try as I might I couldn't come up with strong opinions about where I wanted to be placed - I like rural, I like small cities, I like large cities, I like dry and hot, I like humid and cooler, and I like pretty much any job where I get to use my French and learn Bambara. So in other words, Mackey was happy to hear that I was flexible and ready to go where he needed! It's unlikely that I'll be placed too far away from internet given my sector and the fact that I speak French. The general rule is the more rural one gets, the less French one finds. As Mackey put it, he wants to take advantage of my language skills! Interestingly the site he suggested also was one that was worked on by a volunteer before me. He was unable to give me a clue as to what region I might be in, which is fine by me - I trust 100% that they'll put me somewhere safe, and beyond that I don't have a strong preference. All the regions and jobs sound so fascinating!

Pre-service training (PST) is a bit of a whirlwind, but I like the pace and we get breaks. I broke out the old frisbee this evening before dinner and played a good 45 minutes before it got dark. Bambara lessons are a joy - learning new languages is great!

Kan be (see you later, pronounced "kahn bay"),