On September 6th, I put on my 36th bracelet signifying my 36th month in Mali, West Africa. It was common place amongst many female Peace Corps Volunteers in Mali to add a bracelet each month of their service. Though PCVs were evacuated from Mali following the Coup d’Etat in March, I returned to Mali to finish my research and continued the bracelet tradition.
Serving in Mali has taught and reinforced many life lessons for me. I thought it prudent to write at least one down for each month I have spent in Mali. The lessons may not exactly correspond to the month and some lessons were learned over several months or years.
1. Poverty has many levels.
2. Somethings just don’t translate.
3. Patience is a virtue.
4. Doni Doni (Literally small, small in Bambara or little by little. A commonly known proverb is "little by little, the bird builds its nest)
5. Three cups of tea, or more like three thousand…
6. Being full is a wonderful feeling.
7. You can live on very little and still be happy.
8. Small, slow, simple.
9. Development isn’t easy.
10. Practice what you preach.
11. Walk a mile in their shoes.
12. I’m proud and lucky to be an American.
13. It is amazing what you can learn in a year.
14. Mmm…Mayonnaise is delicious.
15. Kalan nafa ka bon (Education is very important).
16. Things can always get worse.
17. Take things one at a time.
18. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingsolver).
19. Bee ani I ka baara ye (Everyone and their own work).
20. We all make mistakes. It is what you learn from them that matters.
21. Kuruni menna ji o ji la, a te ke baama ye. (No matter how long a canoe stays in water, it will not become a crocodile)
22. An bee ye Adama den ye (We all are Adam's children)
23. Baara ye timinaja ye. (Work is/is about/requires courage)
24. Behavior change is hard/ near impossible.
25. Appreciate what you have in life, and stop focusing on what you don’t have.
26. Diyen ye sogomada caman ye (Life has many mornings)
27. Monitoring and evaluation is essential to project continuation and success.
28. Shit happens
29. Learning a new language is a process that you can’t do in a day or even a year.
30. The importance of family
31. Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead.
32. Seli diarra, an kenema y’a ke.(The holiday was good, we were healthy)
33. Bambara proverb version of “you can lead a horse to water”: You can put the chicken in the coop, but you can’t make it turn around.
34. Look up at the sky once in a while, it is pretty amazing.
35. N’shallah (God willing)36. I bora I ka so, I nana I ka so (You left your home, you come to your home)