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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The end of Risky Business (in Mali)

Lunar Eclipse
There was a lunar eclipse on the night of June 15th (sorry, those in America didn’t get to see it since it was still daylight) and I think it will be one of my most memorable nights in village. I heard about the eclipse several weeks ago but totally forgot until about 5PM that day at which point I got up and told my host father “kalo be datugu shuena” (tonight the moon will be covered since I didn’t know the word for eclipse). Accustomed to my primary school (or maybe at least 6th grade now) bambara, he understood. There is no word for eclipse in bambara but they refer to it as “jakuma ye kalo mine” or the cat took the moon.
They were in awe that I could predict such an event and sure enough we watched the moon closely that night. At first we didn’t think the moon had come out but realized it had already been eclipsed (the eclipse started at 5PM and the sun sets at 7PM). We were probably the only family to know there was an eclipse in my village but later the rest found out. Since they think the cat took the moon (cats are sort of regarded as “shubaka” or sorcerers here) the children in the village gather together and must make lots of noise or risk the cat never returning the moon. At least 50 children toured the village and sung a song about the cat stealing the moon while I explained how an eclipse “really” happens to an avid audience though I think I prefer their explanation.

Third Year

So it is finally official with my medical clearance, I will be staying another year in Mali. I will be changing sites from my village to the capital, Bamako and working with a women’s water and sanitation cooperative and serving as the PC Volunteer Leader (PCVL) for the Koulikoro region. In these last months in village I find myself really excited for the change and nostalgic. I know I am going to really miss my village however much Bamako is appealing for electricity, running water, and the food. The most challenging things for me in PC have not been related to lack of amenities which have become second nature after two years so while it is a comfort it isn’t a necessity. But at least I will have internet more to update my blog though I need to think of a way to reengage my previous audience…I think writing more often will be part of that.

Things I will miss about Zeala:

-Runs in the early mornings just around or to other villages to greet people
-Market days with my site mate eating bruchettes for lunch (my only meat for the week) and frozen juices (probably not that sanitary)
-Living with my host family that have been so easy going and gave me space during my service at the same time supporting me especially in those early stages with basically no language skills
-Drinking tea and chatting for hours with my homologue. He has really become a close friend.
-My language tutor and the director of my school. We also have long conversations about Mali, politics, education, etc.
-Rainy days in my mudd hut reading or just watching the storm from my window
-Nights during cold season spent by the “camp” fire
-Cutting okra, shelling peanuts or beans, etc. for hours

COS Conference
June 22-24 what was left of the Risky Business training stage met at Hotel Residence Bouna for our Close of Service Conference. Though the hotel didn’t have a pool, very warm food, or water pressure it still felt like luxury with air conditioned rooms, meat at every meal, and two pause café’s a day (tea and pain du chocolat!). The hotel aside, I really enjoyed the time to spend with people from my training class whether I spent a lot of time with in my service or not still had a deep connection because of our two years of service together. It was a little sad that it was our last time to probably all be together in a group. We had sessions on resume writing, interviewing, applying to grad school, life after Peace Corps, etc. Though these sessions didn’t necessarily apply to me since I will officially be spending a third year in Bamako and I have at least two years ahead of me in grad school when I return to the states to get my doctorate it still was an excuse to update my resume and get motivated for my future. We heard from an impressive panel of RPCVs (Returned PCVs) who have basically never stopped working abroad since then. I asked them how they made the decision to continue to work internationally since I still haven’t really decided on that one but I guess it is not such a black and white decision.
It is hard to believe that my two years of service is over so I am glad to be pursuing another year here since I’m just not quite ready to leave.
At the end of the conference we had a prom which included a flash dance and the announcement of prom king and queens (there was a tie for queen at which point we did a dance off but decided since we were in Mali it was appropriate for the prom king to be polygamist). Though I do have an extra year left it is going to be difficult without my fellow Risky Businessers to share it with.

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