Since I’ve last made a blog post a lot has happened, but the days have flown by. It hardly feels like I’ll have been in Mali for three weeks tomorrow, but that’s the case.
I’ve moved in the second part of my Pre Service Training (PST) “homestay” where I’m living in a village learning Bambara. Joining me in the village of Niamana are seven other trainees in the environment sector, and two teachers that are native speakers(called LCFs). The days flow in a routine where I wake up at around 6:00 (most days to the noise of donkeys), take a bucket bath and eat breakfast before heading to school. After a few hours of language training I return home for lunch and another bucket bath. Another three hours of school, and I’m done for a day after which I return home to practice by Bambara. All of this has become pretty routine, but school is not the most important part of homestay. The actual experience of living in a family in Mali is the main attraction for these two months.
I have moved in the Diarra family, and they are about friendliest people that I’ve ever met. There is no a person could show up in the United States, knowing no English, and feel as welcome as I do in Mali. Every person you meet on the street greets, wants to know how you are doing and what the hell you are doing in Mali. The interest only increases once you greet them in Bambara, and tell them you are American. The people here assume that every white person here is French, and are pretty interested upon finding otherwise. My language skill is still pretty lacking and as a result most conversations fall apart after the greetings. However, the people you are greeting remain friendly and interested throughout. My name here is Amada Bakari Diarra, given to me by my host father Bakari Diarra, but people here call “Jim Cave”. I live in a compound with around thirty other people, twenty of them kids, and the result is pretty interesting. People eat together, most of the time out of the same bowl, and with their hands. The ability to eat all sorts of foods with your hands takes quite a bit of practice.
The kids are both a blessing and a curse. Understandably, having a “educated” white person living with you that speaks worse than your three year old sibling yields endless entertainment. It’s pretty common to have 16 kids around me repeating “Jim Cave….Jim Cave…..Adama Bakari Diarra” looks for me to lay down high fives. Most of the time this is pretty cute, but if you are trying to get some homework done the whole thing can get old pretty fast. Two of the teenagers are best friends here and my saviors. My brother Adama and sister Kiatou have taken it upon themselves to turn me from a blubbering idiot into a respectable individual. Additionally, the Diarra matriarch Fatoumatah, is one of the coolest ladies that I’ve ever met. A strong woman that has helped me integrate to a remarkable degree
Lastly, the other Americans that I find myself here with are all pretty awesome. I have some solid friends, and can tell we are going to be a pretty tight group