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

Monday, March 28, 2011

If you can take the heat, don't come here

So it's hot here. Real hot. I'm talking 108 degrees and windy as can be. To those of you reading this in Montana, with snow on the ground from a harsh winter, this might sound appealing. It's not at all. For instance, I'll be checking my email and begin to realize that while I've haven't done any physical activity I'm covered in sweat. As much as I'm conplaining it has become clear that I've acclimated to this climate. The idea of going on a long walk in 100 degree heat would have not been on my list of things to do in Montana, but I do it every day now.

Besides the heat other things are on the rise. My Bambara has been improving quite a bit which has led to some new and interesting conversations at site. For instance, I've learned that the proliferation of wagons has enabled women to gather more wood. As a result women now have a surplus of wood that they sell. From time to time their husbands like to make a fire, and this is where the interesting part comes. Some of the village women are making their husbands pay them for the wood if they wish to use it. A few of the village men are fairly upset about this.

In Mali there is no combination of finances upon marriage. The women get to keep all the money that they make, and this never amounted to much... until now. In Malian society the men are responsible to provide for food, schooling, medicine and other essentials. I'm going to say most men do their best at this, but that does not mean that there are not expensives purchases for themselves from time to time. The men complain because they have to "pay for the family" and they are having to pay for the firewood. This argument would hold more sway if the major of the money that women make here didn't go to buying the kids better clothes and food. This might give to looking into gender and development issues in Mali.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Work and Pleasure

I’ve had a pretty interesting past few weeks. I traveled to Senegal for a softball tournament for West African based ex-pats. My first bit of substantial development work was finished yesterday and another job is already in the pipeline.

WAIST (West African Invitation Softball Tournament) is a annual softball tournament put on by Senegalese based ex pats. Every year people come to Dakar for a weekend of fun and softball. However, the major thing I drew from my time in Senegal is how a “developed” West African country looks. At least in Dakar everyone spoke French fairly well (not the case in Mali). Multistory buildings were commonplace and there was even a mall. I felt like I stepped off a bus and entered some bizarre parallel Africa.

One other major difference was my inability to communicate to the people around me. My Bambara is to the point where I can carry on a decent conversation with pretty much anyone on the streets. Things like asking for directions and trying to figure out how much stuff cost is super simple. In Senegal the native language is Wolof, not Bambara, and whatever French I learned during my one semester of French has atrophied in village. As a result the entire experience felt like amateur hour. Since I was a little kid, I’ve never had to rely on other people as much as I relied on my French speaking friends while I was in Senegal. Before I travel out of Mali again I am defiantly going to brush up on my French.

One last endorsement, Senegal has some amazing beaches. If that is what your looking for and aren’t against going to Africa you won’t be disappointed.

As soon as I got back to village, I had to put the finishing touches to a shea butter formation that I put on in village. There were a few headaches, mostly caused my vacation, but come time for the formation to actually start the entire thing went off without a hitch. The shea tree is only found in Mali and the countries immediately surrounding Mali. The butter obtained from it’s nuts is used in skin care products. The formation that I put on, with considerable help from a shea cooperative in San, showed the how to produce high quality oil.

Now my host dad wants me to work on putting on a formation for the local cereal bank.