Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Bana!!


So, I will be leaving Mali on Saturday, but we are all moving out of our host families' houses and into a hotel tomorrow morning, and I probably won't make it back to a cyber until I am back in the US. I will be spending another week in Paris, arriving in NC on May 25, and then heading back to Kenyon on June 2, where I will be spending my summer doing research. I will probably do a real final post when I am back in the US and better able to reflect/when it hits me that it is really over, but, for now, I just want to say thank you to everyone! The emails, facebook messages and phone calls are really what helped me to survive a really hard (though, I think, also incredibly rewarding) semester. If it weren't for you all, I don't think I could have made it through typhoid, language barriers, the constant barrage of being called "Tubabou" (Bambara for French/white person) and marriage proposals, and living in a host family that consists of 4 children under the age of 12.

So, until I can sort out my thoughts/feelings enough to do a real post/ see and talk to a lot of you in real life, thanks for everything, or, in Bambara


Monday, May 5, 2008

We only have about a week and a half left in Mali! I finished writing up my ISP yesterday (the final topic ended up being the intersections between public health and reproductive rights discourses in the case of Family Planning), and got it bound today. Now, I have to do a presentation on it Weds, and then I am done with work until August! We have our final party with our host families on Saturday (we are supposed to cook American food for them, but I'm not sure how that will work, because I have yet to see a regular stove or oven in Mali), then we move out the following Weds. I will take Thursday to travel to the village, Sanankoroba to say goodbye to my host family there, and to give them my Malian cell phone (they don't have one, and it was the one thing my tiny host father asked for). Then I have a week in Paris before returning to NC for a week, and then to Ohio for the summer. I will take the time to do a more thorough final blog post later next week, it is hard to believe the semester is almost over!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

We are halfway done with our research period, and I will be leaving Mali in just over 3 weeks! In some ways that seems very soon, but, on the other hand, I have so much to do before then! My research topic has changed/expanded a little. I am now looking how local women's organizations can best educate and spread awareness about family planning options. I am still working with the local women's radion station, Radio Guintan, which has a weekly segment devoted specifically to family planning. I will also be returning to Sanankoroba, a local village, on Thursday, and work there for a few days with an organization called PLAN, which utilizes peer education to help spread awareness and acceptance of birth control options, especially amongst young women and maids. And, hopefully, I will also be able to speak with some other women's organizations here in Bamako about what methods of sensibilisation they find most effective. It is not easy to conduct interviews in French, or sometimes stilted Bambara, and I am nervous about getting a 30 page paper out of my research, but, as it is starting to come together it is actually very exciting to be working on a topic that I find very interesting.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

We returned Tuesday from our 10 day Grand Excursion to Segou, Djenne, Mopti and Dogon Country. The highlights of each place are as follows:

Segou: A really nice hotel with air conditioning, hot running water and A SWIMMING POOL!

Djenne: Cool buildings! Djenne is the site of the world's largest standing mud building, the Grand Mosque of Djenne. Everything in Djenne has to be built out of mud, seeing all the houses and buildings together was incredible. On the downside, Djenne is infested with demon children. They look cute at first, but really they are just waiting to attack. Another student, Amanda, and I were nearly killed by them. It started nice enough, we decided to go exploring and ended up in a small alley between houses. About a dozen young boys, all under the age of 10, started asking us for our water bottles or a cadeau (gift. This is common practice, to ask all tourists for presents, so we just laughed and told them to give us gifts instead. Little did we know that these children were actually evil geniuses. They stealthily moved between us, and swiftly identified me as the weaker target. Before I know what hit me, they pounced, and quickly immobolized me. I was too shocked to cry out, but, fortunately, Amanda turned back to see what was holding me up, and she was quickly able to asses the situation. She heroically ran back to save me, and we finally managed to escape by running away, pursued by rocks thrown by these evil little boys. Needless to say, I am not anxious to return to Djenne.

Mopti: A boatride on the Niger-beautiful! Plus we later got to see how the boats are made, which was awesome.

Dogon Country: By far my favorite part of the trip, and, if I weren't from Western NC, I would maybe say les Pays Dogons are the most beautiful place I have ever seen. We went on a long hike one morning, and it was amazing! You could look around and see nothing but stark rock cliffs. But then, if you look a little closer, you realize that they are mud houses built into the cliff walls, and the Dogon people still live in them. Plus, as we huffed and struggled up nearly ninety degree angles to climb the cliffs (and my life flashed before my eyes when I accidently glanced down the 100s of feet that I could fall, we would get passed by lines of women, in flip flops, with babies on their backs and logs of wood on their heads. It was so cool!!

So, now I am only a little sad to be back in Bamako. The traveling was awesome, but I missed my host family, plus, the heat, cramped quarters and excess of group time made a break from other students a good idea (esp. when one of our vans broke down on the second to last day, and we had to fit 18 students plus our academic director and the driver in one, unairconditioned van. We are now beginning our month long research period, expect more frequent updates because I will probably have an excess of free time.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I know that I promised an entry on Weds, but it is really hard to find the time/motivation to write these things out on a French keyboard, so, I am going to keep this short. We finished our last exams Friday, and leave tomorrow morning for our Grande Excursion. We will be traveling to Segou, Mopti, Dogon Country and Djenne. I am super excited, esp. about Dogon! After we return on April 9 we start our individual research time. I have decided to explore how feminist and political messages are spread through the media, so I will be working with a local radio station, Radio Guintan, who claims to be "The Voice of Women" in Mali. Time is flying by now, just during the past week I have gone to a traditional wedding, dancing with Rastafarians at a club, hiking in the mountains, hunting for peanut butter in the huge outdoor market and to a traditional artisan market. I promise that I will write more after the excursion!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Doing some laundry with my host dad (not really, it was posed)
Me and the ugly baby in Sanankoroba

Claire and I with our tiny host father from the village stay in Sanankoroba