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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Almost there!

My apologies but this post is sort of random on some last sessions we had before swear-in.

WATSAN in Mali
On Wednesday the WATSAN volunteers had a field trip in Bamako to: the Direction Nationale de L'Hydraulique (DNH), CREPA (Centre Regional Pour L'eau Potable et L'assainissement/ Regional center for portable water and sanitation), and Deptartment of water and sanitation (DNACPN). This was an extremely informative trip and we learned more about how the government of Mali enforces and promotes water and sanitation. I was impressed at the level of organization and legislation that DNH and DNACPN have.

CREPA is seperate from the government and is a non-profit WATSAN organization in 17 West African countries. They provide training and funding for wash areas, latrines, hand washing stations, sewers, etc. We get to visit their site where they have ECOSAN latrines during In Service Training (IST) at the end of November. I am really excited!! ECOSAN latrines have seperate urine collection, compost in the pit, and the wash water runs into a garden.

One of our last sessions as PCTs really stuck out to me that I thought I would share. It was referring to a book on development called Two Ears of Corn. One of our cultural trainers was sharing what he learned from the book through his PC service. The book talks about approaching any development by: starting simple, starting small, and nuturing enthusiasm. These seem obvious but many NGOs, development organizations, and PCVs fail to do this again and again. I plan to read the book in my first two months of site. I think a lot of these steps are what I am going to have trouble with since I like to be productive and get things done. Our first 2 months at site we are not allowed to do any funded projects since we are supposed to integrate into the community and learn the language more. Also, here is a significant quote from the novel that resonnates with PCVs:

"It is only when we have spent all day stooped over while transplanting rice in flooded paddies, [or] when we have raced into the familiy courtyard to rescue drying millet from a sudden rain...that we can come to speak the villager's vocabularly, understand their priorities, and fathom their wants. And it is only then they will truely come to trust us."

Our cultural trainer told an interesting anecdote that I thought I would share:
A man fell down a well/pit and he can't get out so a missionary walks by, hears the man's cries and drops a bible down the well. Next, a NGO (non-govt. organization) worker walks by and throws some money down the hole to the man. Lastly, a PC volunteer walks by and then runs away...only to come back an hour later with his/her backpack and mosquito net tent. The PCV jumps in the hole with the man and says "I'm here to live with you."

Over the last couple days I had the pleasure of meeting some fullbright scholars in Mali. Fulbright is a grant you can get to do research in a developing country for a year during your doctorate. The two students we met seemed really impressive. One was studying the history of art in Mali and the other was studying political activism in Mali. The girl researching political activism also had done research on feminism. I took down her contact information and may meet with her soon.

On Wednesday we also got to meet with Ambassador to the US in Mali which was cool. She talked a little bit about the foreign service and her background. It felt a bit like Model UN meeting her and asking her questions related to her position/duties. I, ofcourse, was in dork heaven! (Thanks Chisnell...) However, I don't think the foreign service is something I am going to consider but it is a facinating career.

I don't know if any of you have heard but there has been a big political debate and rallies going on in Mali (all peaceful). The president was trying to pass a law amending the family code to give women more rights where they would no longer be required to obey their husbands and the marriage age would be moved up to 18. This has met significant resistence and their have been massive demonstrations in Mali against it so it has come under reconsideration in their parliment. If you are interested about reading more here is a link to the article on BBC.

Lastly, on Wednesday our stage (PCT class) had a talent show. I played America the Beautiful on my clarinet to open and I was in "Soudouguba Stomp". The people in my homestay village put together a little percussion ensemble and "performed" a two minute piece starting with the call to prayer and me pretending to run to the Negen and use the sallie daga (tea pot with water=Malian toilet paper) then banging out quarter notes while others joined in on nalgene bottles, buckets, and plates. We also did a little beat box that included some bambara phrases. It was really fun and WE WON the talent show. I really miss band sometimes and was glad to practice and perform even if just for a joke. Other performances included a circus act with hoola hoops made of WATSAN tubing and juggling oranges, bango playing, guitars, and acapella Toto "I missed the rains down in Africa..." Altogether a great evening. Everyone paid some money before hand and we got cokes, popcorn, and pringles.

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