27 March 2012

leaving the bubble

precoup16in your new village, you live in your own house. as well as your own bubble.

precoup01you’ve settled in. you’ve got your routine. it always begins the morning, scanning the sand for what critters visited your home during the night.

precoup02then you check on your little nursery

precoup04aand water it, of course, so it can continue to grow.

precoup03every morning something new happens.

precoup04you can’t wait for the day you transplant them.

precoup05then one of your host mom brings you some seri. porridge. it could be corn, millet, or rice – you never know they’ll bring.

precoup06but it will always taste sour. so you add some of your own ingredients to make you enjoy your breakfast.

precoup07banana. sugar. powdered milk. cinnamon. that is your morning combination.

precoup08sometimes you have visitors. who are kindly escorted out by your helpful neighborhood kids.

Back Camerabut no matter what routine you have, no matter how happy you are in your bubble, something always happens to pull you away. away from village. away from your house. away from goats that climb on walls. this time it was a military coup.

precoup19no government? no constitution? no president?

your stomach churns as the possibilities begin to form in your head.

the worst, of course, being that you might have to leave mali.

but not so quickly.

not without doing at least one thing.

precoup19aplaying with your sewing machine. lugging it to village was not easy.  and a military coup wasn’t going to keep you from learning how to sew.

Back Camerayou take scraps from one of your swear-in outfits that you had made back in december. 

precoup09and you turn it into a pouch. the first one.

precoup10sloppy. uneven. stitches in all directions. awkward. but it’s still something you made.

precoup11then you bring yourself to cut up some nicer fabric for your second try.

precoup12and you improve. why sacks, though? the most important reason: they’re easy. but also because you notice all the women use rice or plastic bags to carry their notebooks and pens when they go to their literacy classes. so you want to make the bag a gift for your host mom.

faces109but, there

faces051 are


that’s right. polygamy. your host dad has three wives. so you have three host moms. is it right? is it wrong? you can’t – and don’t – judge. at least not yet, not until you understand it a bit more.

precoup13what it does mean, however, is three sacks. you don’t want to start up any feelings of jealousy. so anything you do will always be in threes.

precoup15then peace corps tells you what you knew was coming but hoped you could avoid. that you need to leave village. to go into town.

precoup17just in case it gets worse. just in case democracy doesn’t come back. just in case you have to go back to america.

you hate this feeling of not knowing.

precoup14the night is sleepless. but a camera helps you pass time.

since you aren’t so sure that you’ll see your new home again.

precoup18hopefully political stability will return and you’ll do another routine bike ride back to your bubble.

but for now, it is city time.

25 March 2012

hakili bora

[a post written march 9th, a day you were in town but the internet was down. long before the coup and the leaving of a friend.]

march01hakili bora. the mind went out. that’s the bambara phrase to use when you forget something.

march01a like when you went back to village but left your cell phone in town.

you can go weeks without the internet – but your phone? cutting off all outside social contact doesn’t work for you.

you need your malaria medication reminders as well as the random village moments your friends text you.

so back to town you go for a day.

Back Camerabut lets go back to village.

march07coutside is where you sleep now. you tried to sleep indoors, but woke up every two hours because it’s just too hot. and this is just the beginning of hot season. 

march02what’s this heavy thing you lugged back to your house a few days ago?

march03hint: it’s going to keep you occupied in village.

march04it’s your sewing machine.

march05along with some fabric, of course.

[though, you are curious if 1) singer makes these machines 2) a company bought singer’s old factory and produces them, but singer isn’t involved 3) a company is purposely making fake singers. the only thing sure is that while the machine may look old, it is indeed new and from china.]

march06every morning and every afternoon you look forward to watering and peeking into these old water bottles.

march07because you’ve got a small moringa tree nursery started.

march07balong with some basil with seeds sent to you from your mother.

march08you also have a not so small stack of photos that you like to show to your host family every now and then. 

march10one day you were invited to a malian wedding. so you thought it’d be nice to show them some photos of your old college roommate’s wedding in america.

however, marriage was far from the minds of the malians.

march11instead they focused on the grandfather. who is he? how old is he? he is so old! how is he living?

it dawns on you.

they’re not used to seeing old men. the life expectancy in mali is lower than america’s, especially for men.

you knew that the villagers had never seen paris, had never tasted good chocolate, had never felt snow – but never seen a man live beyond 80? that you didn’t expect.

march12you continue to show them wedding photos, and they continue to notice other things. here, you focus on the bride and groom.

but not the malians.

march13their eyes are drawn to the lawn.

march09you wonder, what’s so captivating about grass? in any photo that you show them with green, they ignore the subjects completely and focus on the ground.

but then it dawns on you again.

Back Camerared is the color of the ground here.  powdery, dusty, and dry is the only type of ground your malian villagers know.

Back Cameragreen and red. is it any coincidence that those are complementary colors? it fits perfectly with peace corps. america and mali. complements to one another – each side continues to learn and share with the other.

06 March 2012

the dancer with the message

Back Camerayou came into the capital to a surprise in your mailbox. a ballerina who danced from london to bamako with a message on a postcard. all week we have been plotting to come see you. so watch out! is the note she delivers from your favorite londoner and new yorker.

your heart does a little dance. because you know your friends don’t joke around when it comes to dancing across countries. 

fruit02you’ve taken a small break from the faces project. instead you’ve been looking up at all the trees hovering above you.

fruit01each time you look up, there new fruits growing and waiting to be discovered. they’re small now and far from ripe. you don’t know their names or their tastes – but soon enough, these new flavors are going to meet your taste buds.

fruit03there is, however, one fruit that you do recognize. it’s the one that makes you the most eager. the mango. the silver lining to hot season.

sɔɔni. soon.