Friday, March 25, 2011

Donate to a project in Mali!

My region-mate, Ali, is currently raising money for a project to facilitate shea production in her community by providing materials and training. Shea butter, soap, and lotion are all made from the nuts of the shea tree, indigenous to West Africa, and shea products are an important source of income for local women. Consider donating to this worthy project!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hot season work

So the hot season is here-the weather report for Kita today is a low of 75 and a high of 102, and hot season does not even reach its peak until May! Rainy season in Mali, which runs from June to October, tends to be the busiest time of year, when people go out to the fields and farm all of the staples-corn, millet, peanuts, and beans-that will feed them (inshallah) for the coming year. There is also lots of work that is unique to hot season, though-particularly building and and home improvement projects that would be impossible with the constant threat of a torrential downpour.
People make these clay pots to store water in. They are going to let them dry in the sun and then fire them. This is my good friend in my village, Kunba (right), and her sister-in-law, Selu.
My brother replacing his termite-ridden roof
The well in my host-uncle's garden dried up, so he climbed down to deepen it. Here his daughters are hauling up the buckets of mud he dug out.
Deepening the well
Collecting sand to make cement for my school project

Friday, February 18, 2011


For close followers of this blog, I mentioned back in December that I would soon be posting my school construction project online so that people could donate. The community contribution for this project ended up being high enough that it qualified for a different type of funding that does not involve outside donations. The project and funding have been approved, and work is set to start at the end of this month. Thank you to everyone who considered donating!

Also in December, I posted pictures of the baby who was named after me, Jessica Sira Coulibaly. I am happy to report that she is fat and healthy. She continues to pursue such activities as eating, sleeping, and, since babies do not wear diapers here, peeing on people when they least expect it.

Friday, December 31, 2010


Just got back to Mali from a week in Tunisia. Venturing out of West Africa for the first time was an eye-opening experience. Tunisia is very developed: rail system, trash pickup, you buy a SIM card from a cell phone store rather than a guy on the street. Also more of a European influence, judging by the amount of espresso and skinny black jeans. Perhaps what was most shocking was the cold. It was like a Seattle winter but without central heating or a jacket. I put on the three hoodies I had packed and didn't take them off for four days. Fortunately, re-wearing clothes is something I have become a pro at after two and a half years in Peace Corps.

I met up with a friend who had just finished her service in Mali and had already spent a week in Tunisia doing the Star Wars stuff down south. We spent the next week doing a big loop of the north-Tunis, Tabarka, Ain Draham, El Kef, and Mahdia. Absolutely beautiful country. Enjoy!
The public rail system in downtown Tunis. No big deal.

Atop Byrsa Hill, looking into Tunis
Antonine Baths in Carthage
El Kef
The kasbah at El Kef, formerly used to defend Tunisia against Algeria (the dark clouds to the west).
Mahdia was the warmest place we went.
Caucasian+blond hair+glasses=sisters. At least that is what every Tunisian we met thought.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The last few months...

I promised to be better at updating this during my third year, and yet here we are. So what is new? I am doing a third year! This last year in Mali was good, and it felt like a shame to leave after just one year since I put so much work into learning Bambara and getting to know my village. I went back to Seattle in September to visit. It was my first time back in the US in over two years-weird, but wonderful to see people.

Since being back, my biggest project has been putting together a proposal to finish the primary school in my village. Out of the two school buildings, only one has windows, doors, desks, etc, so only three of the six classrooms are usable. The type of funding I am applying for allows people in the US to donate money, so check back in January and I will have all the information posted for this worthy project!

In November my old site-mate from Mauritania, who transferred to Rwanda and just finished her service there, came to visit. We went hiking in Dogon Country, a region in northern Mali. It was so good to see her and reminisce about that first, lost year.

Other than that, my time has just been occupied with village life, which is what most of these pictures are showing. I am growing tomatoes, basil, and garlic chives. Reading a lot. Going to the fields, drinking tea and hanging out. Observe:
I achieved a personal goal this past week-I got a baby named after me! In Muslim culture, a baby is not named until a week after its birth. In the meantime, anyone can suggest a name, although it is most often named after an older relative. Whenever a baby girl is born in my village, I jokingly suggest that it should be named after me. This time, they took that suggestion seriously, so during the week I went out and bought baby clothes, soap, and kola nuts to give as gifts at the baptism. This baby's official name, on its birth certificate, is Jessica Sira Coulibaly.
Harvesting millet
Dressed up and enjoying Tabaski, the biggest Muslim holiday. It is celebrated in particular style in Gumbanko with singing, dancing, and macaroni noodles for breakfast.
Kali (my counterpart), his son, and their family's new calf
Marta and I in Dogon

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Things that make me laugh

I was reading The Economist in my village and everyone was really interested in this ad because there are actually chameleons in Mali.  I told people I had never seen one before besides in pictures, and my counterpart promised that if he came across one he would catch it and show it to me.
Here is what arrived a few days later.  We tied the other end of the string to the tree for a few hours.  The chameleon didn't change colors like I thought it would, but it did develop some darker brown stripes that weren't there before.  I pointed it out to kids passing by, and they consistently responded with "Don't worry. I will find a rock and kill it."
This girl comes by occasionally to chat, and one day while she was looking through my photos she asked if she could have one.  I told her she could choose one, and out of all the photos, which included village favorites like family parties, winter scenes, and pictures of me, she chose this one of my brother, circa 2008, when he was learning to drive.  Why? Because, in her words, "He is better looking than you." 
This was a slow day in my village.  I want to stress that the music was playing at the time, and was not added later.