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.