My First Days in Mali!
Travel: We spent the first two days traveling. Overall, the flights were pretty good. They had surprisingly good food and I lucked out in that I had an extra seat to stretch out on during the flight to France and the flight to Bamako. The only minor problems we had were trying to find our way through the maze of the Charles de Gaul airport in France, and then we did end up losing our luggage once we arrived in Bamako. So, we were stuck wearing the same dirty clothes for the first couple of days, but that wasn’t a big issue.
Food: From the airport, our program coordinator and guide, Sounkalo, picked us up from the airport and took us out to our first meal in Mali. The food has been so delicious here! We eat with our hands, which was a little weird at first, but it is actually much easier and more efficient than using a fork and knife! Most of the meals that I have had so far consist of meat or fish, with rice or some type of cereal (like fonio, which is sort of a mix between rice and couscous) and then an assortment of veggies (onions, peppers, tomatoes, etc.). My favorite Malian drink so far is probably Jinjinbere, which is a spicy ginger and lemon drink. For breakfast, we have had nescafe (coffee made from a powder mixed with milk and water) with croissants and bread with butter.
Sites: We have seen so many new places! Yesterday (our first full day in Mali), we spent a lot of time in the classroom learning some bamanan phrases and learning about culture in Mali. We ate TONS of food, and later in the evening we visited a large family. This was my first experience visiting with a polygamous family (the husband had two wives), and it was really interesting because the upstairs and the downstairs were exactly the same. The man explained that he wanted to show equal dedication to both of his wives, thus if he bought one wife a rug he had to buy the other wife the exact same rug. We went upstairs, and then because the rooms looked exactly the same on the first and second floor, we had thought that somehow the staircase had lead us back to the same room from which we had started. We ate a “light” meal with the family before departing to have a second dinner at a restaurant. They kept urging us to eat more and more, and when we told them that we were full they laughed and still offered us more. I need to better learn how to express “I’m full” in Bambara…
Today, we visited Le Point du Vue, a small mountain overlooking all of Bamako. It was really beautiful, and I didn’t realize how big of a city Bamako is until I saw the view today. After the small hike, we walked through the village that sits on top of the cliff. The children followed us around saying “toubabou” which means “white person” in bambara. It was pretty funny, because at first we had no idea what they were saying, we thought they were saying “hello”. We then visited a medical center, and Dr. Aziz (I’m not sure if I am spelling that correctly…) gave us a tour of the presidential area. He spoke completely in French to give us language practice as he showed us around. We then visited the Museum where we saw beautiful cloth textiles, ancient African artifacts, African art, and many other beautiful items. Sadly, we weren’t allowed to take pictures though.
Tomorrow is the first day that I will go to live with my host family. I am very excited, but also extremely nervous! I can barely speak French or Bambara, so that is probably my biggest concern. But, there’s only one way to learn!
The internet is extremely slow here, and I am having a hard time uploading pictures and videos, but hopefully I will be able to post some soon.