Disclaimer: This blog does not reflect the opinions and policies of the Peace Corps, the University of South Florida (USF), the U.S. government, or the government of Mali

Friday, July 16, 2010

Joyeux Anniversaire

July 10th was my one year anniversary in Mali which I realized half way through the morning. It's really hard to believe and I'm sure this year will go even faster. Looking back and especially having the 80 new PCTs to compare to, I have come a long way...

-I've become mostly fluent in an African Language, Bambara

-I've mastered eating with my hands

-I'm a lot more comfortable bargaining and get upset if someone cheats me even 50 fcfa (5 cents...)

-Squatting has become normal

-patience, patience, patience (meetings, transport, banking, projects, etc.)

-pants? Wrap skirts all the time

-I really like bucket baths

-Had my first donkey cart ride

-pooped my pants and my bedroom floor…and often swap similar stories with PCVs over dinner

-Totally normal to see a woman breast feeding...actually prefer it to shut up a screaming baby

-head feels naked without a headwrap

-Rocks, old car batteries, logs, etc. all look like chairs

-I love beans...though you're not supposed to admit that here

-Live chickens look good to me

-It is weird to drive in a car with my own seat and, not to mention, a seat belt

-gas stations overwhelm me

-I live in harmony with cockroaches, flies, and spiders

-Things I find delicious: beans, mayonnaise sandwiches, mayo and fries...,MEAT, slim jims, HAMBURGERS, shots of strong, sugared tea

-Things I have eaten and truly enjoyed: jams plain, kool-aid powder plain, mayonnaise plain...

-Deodarant? Washing my hair? Toilet paper? Washing machines?


Most significantly, I believe I have gained a much larger appreciation for America, my family and friends. I know before I came to Mali and even now I can be a pretty big critic of America and our often times wasteful way of life but I really am lucky to have been born in America. A country with not just abundant running water, electricity, and health care but an amazing education system. I still can’t imagine growing up without tons of books to read let alone all the toys, movie, television, and delicious and mostly nutritious food. Yet, often times, I wanted more since others even had more than me. On top of all that I was able to go to college and get a world class education and then go back for more. I’ve had amazing opportunities to travel the world to Costa Rica, China, Guyana, Ghana, France, Germany, Senegal, and now Mali. All this and never being second guessed because I am a woman and I should really get married, have babies, and clean house like so many Malian women.

Ofcourse being away from my family has made me appreciate them more and they have been a constant base and support for me thousands of miles away through phone calls, e-mails, letters, packages, and just knowing they are rooting for me. I’ve also gained at least two other Malian families (my first host family during pre-service training and my village host family) that adopted me as their own despite being from such different cultures and not speaking the same language. Also giving me so much in food or money when they themselves have so much less than me. Yet though they have so much less, you wouldn’t know it since, they are some of the most happy and loving people you will ever meet.


So much has happened in a year, making it difficult for a review.

1. PST: Started with 9 weeks of, as promised, intense language, cultural and technical training and was elected the village chief.

2. SWEAR IN: Swearing in at the American Embassy was followed by less intense/scheduled but still challenging three months at site adjusting more to the language, culture, food, and way of life in a Malian village (drank many cups of tea, ate a lot of To, interviewed each family about WATSAN practices, shelled lots of peanuts, beans, and corn).

3. IST: All of Risky Business came back to Tubaniso in December for In-Service Training (IST) (I was one of three that came on foot in the IST Half-Marathon) which was more technically focused and preparing us for when we could officially start projects.

4. DOGON CHRISTMAS: Before going back to village I spent one of my most memorable Christmases on an amazing three day hike through Dogon country with fellow PCVs.

5. Once back in village immediately formed a WATSAN committee and began participatory hygiene and sanitation education activities and tried to understand more Bambara. Also, under a little too much pressure to start a project, worked with the women’s group to plan a garden project.

6. BODTWD: Brought five of my girls to Kati for Bring Our Daughters to Work Day with girls of three other villages to show them they can do anything they want to do.

7. SENEGAL: In February I traveled over 30 hours on a bus to Senegal to participate in an International Softball Tournament with volunteers across West Africa but mostly to see one of my best friends from high school, Megan! It was so great and inspiring to travel to her village, see where she had served, the difference she had made and how integrated she had become in her community.

8. Back at site I continued to work with the WATSAN committee and women’s group. I received money for the garden project and we began digging our first well. Though we were mostly busy with PHAST activities, I worked to construct a soak pit and latrine in my homestay family’s concession. I visited a fellow PCVs site twice to help with a water system project and headed a topographic survey.

9. I was accepted to pursue my PhD at University of South Florida (USF).

10. Hot season came and went. I developed bad heat rash near the end, but ate countless, delicious mangos. Our well digger for the women’s garden stopped showing up but we put up the fence. Also started planning next years project with the WATSAN committee and finished my first “toilet”/latrine and soak pit in Africa.

11. I put in an application and was selected to be the WATSAN PCV Trainer (PCVT) for the new stage that arrived July 3rd where I got to see the other side of training and help prepare for their arrival by participating in a Training of Trainers (TOT) workshop and revising lesson plans.


So far I would say I am satisfied with my service. It has been extremely challenging and rewarding (“The toughest job you will ever love”) Language has been the most difficult part of my service but that has become much easier. Otherwise it is amazing what you can get used to living without, I enjoy being in my village, and miss when I am away. This is a good place to be and I look forward to this next year which promises to fly by. Though I made New Years Resolutions in January, I think they are appropriate to state here as well:

1. Get More Involved- I have a number of things planed since I feel much more comfortable with my language and integration:

· Life Skills in my commune capital, Torodo

· World Map Project in Torodo

· Continue with World Wise Schools (WWS) including a new match

· Conduct baseline survey in neighboring village, Nci’Bugu, form, and start working with a WATSAN committee there

· Neem Cream (natural mosquito repellent) formations

· Urine fertilizer formations for women’s garden

· English group-Torodo

· Teeth brushing formation at school

· Girls group at Zeala school

· Improved Shea butter formations

· Radio show with new site mate in Faladie

· Finish Women’s Garden Project

· Plan and execute WATSAN project in Zeala

· Budget, plan, and repair water system in other PCV’

· Potential sanitation competition amongst the 16 villages in my commune

2. Improve Language

3. Communicate more back home (letters, skype)

4. Improve Organization (e-mails, paper, money, etc.)

5. Update and continue journaling and blogging (used to keep a daily blog but two months behind now)

6. Focus more on research (Gender, WATSAN)


1. Lap top!!!

Recently I just got a lap top computer to make work, research, and communication easier since there are few computers at the PC office. Unfortunately when the computer arrived and I turned it on…it was only a white screen. After having it fixed w/out my permission I paid $100 and have had my first skype conversations with my Aunts and Nana which have been amazing to see and talk to them FOR FREE. So feel free to skype me at ccnaughton86.

2. Nigeria

As I said me and Justin will be heading to Nigeria for an engineering conference at the University of Illorin. We leave July 24th and come back July 31st. The conference is the 26-28. We are really excited to go and hope that things people say about Lagos aren’t completely true… Otherwise after that I will be basically at the training center (save 2nd week of August for site visit) until Swear-In on September 3rd.

3. Ne bena taa Ameriki ka si min

Literally, “I am going to America to breast feed” has been repeated to me by more than three Malians when I say I am going home for Christmas July 17th!!!!! So excited. Best Christmas present EVER JJ

4. Marathon Training

Ran 17 miles today after a heavy rain last night and it was perfect weather. I think I will be ready for the race but the visa for Burkina just sky rocketed so it looks like we will be flying both ways which is also very expensive…hopefully we can work something out.

5. PST 2010

Otherwise, training is going well and WATSAN and HED will come back from their first stint at homestay tomorrow. I have really enjoyed being a trainer so far and it is hard to believe I was in their exact same position last year at this time but now I can answer most of their questions. Their stage seems to be very motivated and excited and have elected an awesome Dugutigi and Vice Dugutigi. Plus there are about 20 runners and about that many from MI!!!

Wow, well that was really long. Bravo if you made it through! Probably won’t be updating for a while but maybe after the Nigeria conference. Thanks again for all your support this past year. I couldn’t have made it this far without family and friends and I will repeat that again and again.