Saturday, July 23, 2011


I was really nervous leading up to the days of homestay announcements. Everyone in my stage is really cool but I was hoping to be grouped with 7 other people that I had befriended in my first week in Mali. I was very happy when they announced my name to be with Michelle, my roommate in DC, Lauren, who I knew was as equally obsessed with cheese as me, Jasmine, a basketball player, Hannah, hilarious, Claire, my hut roomy, DeLissa, really sweet, and Andrew, my quite running partner. They told us we were all heading to Mountougoula but didn’t give us any of our family’s information so the worry hadn’t dissolved completely. I was also really annoyed because I was told I’d be studying Bambara instead of French.  The ride to homestay was our first exertion out of Tubaniso and was really intimidating. I got to see houses made of mud and straw, markets made of some fruits, veggies, and dried fish all covered in flies, and Malian roads made of dirt and a whole lot of trash. One of my first pictures…

As soon as we got to Mountougoula a bunch a kids grabbed our bags and we were shoved into a small mud built room with about 15 old men and one woman, who turned out to be my host sister. We were given to our new families and told our corresponding names. I was named Kanja Sacko. My father was one of the oldest guys in the room, Zumana Sacko, probably somewhere around 80. Our compound was small but nice and I was thrilled to meet my host brother who spoke a little English. There were tons of cute little kids in the compound but Tenen(Monday) was my favorite little girl. She had the toughest life in the compound; being the daughter of the unmarried house keeper meant she always ate last and was hardly ever clean. Her single mother worked all day everyday so she learned to hold her own at a very young age so much that even though she was the smallest child she controlled the group by smacking any boy with a stick if he was out of line. One of my favorite pics so far…

The day after moving into our new homes and meeting all the villagers we had our first full day of Bambara lessons. Homestay has been the most difficult part of Peace Corps and its all the local language’s fault. Eight full hours of training was overwhelmingly difficult and my day never ended there. I had to go back to my Bambara speaking family with an overloaded brain and try to communicate with my very limited vocabulary. My family served dinner around 7 every night and the food was really interesting. Breakfast was eggs and bread, lunch was rice and gross red fish sauce and dinner was usually macaroni and smashed tomatoes, barley any protein.  Even though I was completely exhausted I still managed to save an hour after dinner for games and dancing with the kids. Our compound didn’t have electricity so it was easy to turn in around 8:30. Here is a pic of some our nightly shenanigans…
Day to day life was really hard and really slow. We all had different mechanisms to make the time go by a little faster; cookies, running, soccer, and the neighboring town’s bar. Jerakarabugu was a half hour bike ride but worth the cold beer, grilled meat, and English time with friends. Sometimes we jump on a back of truck and headed to other neighboring town, B-Camp, where there was a restaurant and electricity. They also had an awesome toubab(white person) store with better cookies and ice cold diet coke. Doesn’t sound like a big deal but I was practically in tears after the DC discovery.

On the third week at homestay I came home to wonderful surprise….an adorable tiny little puppy!!! I named him Legend and we were instantly inseparable. Two reasons: One, he was the size of my hand and two, Malians aren’t really nice to dogs and there was no way I was going to let anything bad happen to the little guy. The first thing I did was give him a bath. I had no idea how big of a deal that was going to be and the villagers talked about it for days. That and the fact that I was walking him on a rope(leash), and took him to class with me. The villagers didn’t understand why I cared about him so much but you will…look down….

Homestay was not easy but I’m grateful for what I learned and the time I was able to spend with my host family <3

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