I'm Jim Cave, I'm in Mali and these are my notes

I'm Jim Cave, I'm in Mali and these are my notes

Sunday, October 24, 2010

That’s a lot of nuts!

I’m in San and just finished regional language IST. Three teachers from the Peace Corps came here for a week to help us get a better handle on our language, and it certainly helped. Spending an entire week with my friends here has been real refreshing, but I can’t wait to get back to site.

Last week was spent picking peanuts. Every day my routine was wake up, ride my bike and then harvest. Wagon after of wagon of peanut plants appeared at the house and my family and I spent hour after hour harvesting these nasty treats. I don’t know how many of you have had fresh peanuts, but it is a entirely different experience from the dry roasted nuts we get in the states. I never thought a peanut could be juicy, but it certainly can.

Site is going well and I’m making quite a few friends. In fact, I’ve earned myself a nick name. Every night a few people come over to chat, drink tea and hang out with Esai, the family and myself. The evening starts with me being exited to chat and practice Bambara. My enthusiasm is usually matched and a conversation that I can engage in begins. However, eventually people begin to talk amongst themselves, I can’t understand what they say and I begin the nightly ritual of watching stars. Watching stars is something that just isn’t done here, and having tried and failed to engaged my new friends in my fresh passion for the celestial giants I sit in quiet contemplation. One day my concentration in one such moment was broken by my friend Madu “Adama, Adama, you are now Nos.” At first I was very confused, am I still Adama (yes), is Nos a common nickname for Adama (no) then why the hell are you guys going to call me Nos. It is then that they explained that Nos is short for Nostradamus the French astrologist. I haven’t been Nostradamus’s biggest fan for some time, but my having a nick name among some of my better friends is pretty neat. Me being named after an astronomer should give you a fair indication as to just how time time I spend watching stars.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Megapost (last three posts I did not get to post)

Where No Cars Go!

I have officially moved into the site that I’ll live in for the next two years, and let me tell it will be an interesting few years. Though the life flows at a fairly slow pace there are things that certainly ad spice to everyday. For instance, the “road” that I go on to get to site. When I leave San to head out to my village I ride my bike about 25 k on the “gidron” or the main paved road. Since the country is very flat the ride of the gidron is pleasant and rather easy. However, immediately upon leaving site I have 8k on a bush road. This pathway is filled with miniature ravines, deepest and darkest mud and most of all water. The rainy season in Mali is like nothing I never saw in Montana. All of a sudden the rain come “Sanji be na” and stuff starts to get real. The pressure drops, the wind begins to blow with all the fury of a lion, a torrent of water begins to fall from the sky and for the first time in my the roll of thunder. It is very common hear to have hear thunder, and have the sound continue to rumble for a good minute (seriously). Additionally, it rains so hard, often lasts for hours, that the road gets absolutely destroyed. The end result is me fording though a feet and a half of water with my bike in tow. On the way I take a wrong turn that cost me 2 k, met a hunter with shotgun in tow and had a run in a horde of biting ants.

After I make my way down the road to my village I meet the first of four neighborhoods/villages. It is a much more spread out than the rest of village, it’s very relaxing. It’s the home of a few of my good friends, and I usually stop to talk of them for about half an hour. Tea is drunk and I leave for my house.

Once I get “into town” I go right to my compound and am greeted by my host brothers and sister. They all like me and are awesome, except for the little girl that loathes me. Jennifer, the girl I replaced, was endless spectacular and loved by everyone. Her number one fan was my little host sister Christine, Tinni or poopy for short. My coming is associated with the departure of her favorite person in the world. She was not aware of this till she saw me, asked who I was, asked if I was with Jennifer, changed facial expressions to one of incredible loss and began crying. Since them she crys and runs away every time she sees me.

My house is pretty awesome and so are my cats. Caya and her two kittens are freaking awesome and kill a legion of bugs a day.

My host dad and his wife are amazing, soft spoken and make me feel at home. Everything is going well and I like my site very much.

Birds, Bikes and Baseball Sized spiders

I’ve been living in Zana for a month now and the time has flown by. My role is still the same as it has been. Every day I pick one of the four neighborhoods in my town and explore it more deeply. Two of the neighborhoods are build like mazes with branches I’ve yet to explore. The other two are a few K a way and a lot more spread out.

I’ve taken to riding by bike a few K every day into the bush, and it really lifts my spirits every day. There are quite a few trails to explore and despite the utter lack of wildlife there are quite a number of very interesting birds. Far more interesting than the birds to more of you is the largest spider I’ve ever seen. This fellow lives in my house on the ceiling and as far as I have seen only eats other spiders (Pictures will come). He is about the size of a baseball, and I’ve made peace with him.

Anyways I’m doing well

Death (Yup this is going to be a fun post)

So I’ve been living at site for a while now and a few things have begun to change. Rainy season is going to end soon and I catch myself thinking wit every rain “will this be the last”. The thought of getting no precipitation, everything turning brown and leaves falling is a somewhat depressing one. Especially since I am spending a good deal of my time in the bush. However, things have to change and I got a few big reminders of that this week.

Every day my morning routine in the same. I wake up, work out, take a bucket bath and meet my family for breakfast. Thursday seemed pretty normal as I ate my porridge chatting with my homologue about peanuts. Suddenly Esai’s face brightens up as he recalls he has news to tell me. The chief of one of the neighborhoods had DIED this morning! My immediate thought has sorrow, I know the acting chief quite well and often tell him he beans. I thought I had lost a friend and a partner, but Esai seemed to read my mind and told me that it was not the chief I was thinking of. You see when a chief gets old they kind of just stop doing most of their duties, this guy was 90 so his son (my friend) had become the de facto chief. Needing some time to process this and to finish my book I took the morning and enjoyed the company of my cat and a easy read.

Before cooking lunch I decided to take a stroll, do some greeting and maybe have myself some tea. Fate had other plans. Before I explain the gravity of the next event I have to relay a little bit of prior information. Baobob trees are the coolest thing in Mali, in my opinion there is no arguing this point. Sure they have some great blues musicians and the cloths are pretty fantastic but these trees are something else. First the look of the trees if almost magical and the large ones are incredibly old. Baobob look like normal trees, more or less, for the first century of their lives. Then they start to put on the pounds and get fat/amazing. Additionally, the fruit they bear is delicious, their leaves are a essential sauce ingredient and are said to have magic powers. Yup they are awesome. Directly outside my compound was a very old one of these sages that had African Cranes nesting in it during the summer. When volunteers the first thing I relay is information of this tree. When I first arrived the tree was my point of reference for where home was, it was the most well known land mark in town and it provided a lot of shade.

Upon leaving my compounds I found my friend the tree dead, lying on the ground, limbs scattered in every direction for yards. I was shocked somehow this giant had fallen (age and a big wind storm had taken their toll) and I was unaware of it. People were looting the corpse of dead birds, eggs and leaves. Punk kids jumping on the old sages back shouting at the top of their lungs. I go grab my camera take a few pictures of the scene and retire to my house. Upon further contemplation I feel a lot better about the dead tree. If I had the chance of becoming a jungle gym upon my death I’d take it. After all what else are you doing.

It might sound odd to hear but the funeral for the chief was a ruckus affair. A lot of people breaking it down, a lot of drums, people running about town carrying flags screaming. Everyone that I know in town was there and everyone was having a ball. When someone has lived a long life they celebrate the live the person lived here. Mourning is done, but though livelihood. Jokes and stories about the person were shared, and many blessings given. That was a hell of a day.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Good news|Bad News

Good News- I'm O.K. Site is going great and I'm meeting a lot of great people that are going to be a huge part of my work in the next two years. I've gotten the lay of the land somewhat and enjoy myself daily. Long bike rides into the African bush and nights pondering the clearest sky you've ever seen are not to bad ones to say the least.

Bad News- These internet cafes suck and I can't get my laptop to get the internet/they won't let me put my zip drive into one of their computers. As a result for two weeks in the a row the long blog posts I type out at the San house (complete with pictures) cannot be posted. I'll work to remedy the situation more next week. Right now I only have time to deal with emails, but you should have three blog posts next soon!

Jim Cave