Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Site Visit

Site announcements were another nerve wrecking time. Finally after 6 weeks of training we were going to be told where we would call home for the next two years. There was a huge daunting map of Mali in the front of the training center and as our names were announced a post it was placed on our location. We had nothing to go on except that when we first got to the training center we had interviews with our Malian Peace Corps bosses asking us questions like would you like to live close to someone else, do you like to bike, and are amenities important to us? I really had no idea what I wanted so just said I’m an active, social person who wouldn't mind living close to another volunteer and that I wanted to by the water. My name was announced to be in the Segou region where a bunch of my friends were also going. I was ecstatic. When they announced my friend Miriam’s name to be Segoukaw as well I actually screamed a little. We took a group photo then I sat down and opened my pink folder. The name of my village is Dioro and I had a site mate Melissa. The other volunteer listed was Matt, he lived 15k away. Soon after I learned that Laura was really close as well. There were a total of four volunteers who all had Dioro as their market town. I was really excited to meet Melissa and was thrilled when Claudine, my Peace Corps Supervisor, gave me her number. My new site mate ended my nervousness by telling me my host family was awesome and that everyone in town couldn't wait to meet me.

Two days after our sites were announced our homologues came to Tubaniso. This was other unnerving moment. We broke up into regions and everyone chatted asking around to find who they belonged to. I was one of the last to meet my homologue. My homologues name is Samalia and I didn’t know it at the time but has turned out to be one of the best. He is the dugutigis grandson and will probably one day be the leader of Dioro. He is a very motivated man who really wants to help his community. I am really lucky to have a motivated village supervisor. We had a few days of training together then left for site. This was other stressful endeavor. The bus station was really crowded with people, stuff to buy, and garbage. My homologue was very nice and did everything he could to make us feel comfortable while we waited to get on the bus. I remember looking a cute little newborn baby and he asked if I wanted to hold it. I of course said yes and instantly became calm and happy as I watched this tiny little baby smile in his sleep. I knew I was going to be fine.

The bus ride to Dioro was uneventful except for the stops to get food. I was still learning the money but with Samalia’s help I got what I needed and we continues on. Once we hit Segou, Melissa, my sitemate joined us for the rest of the trip. It was easy to spot her at the bus stop and she was very welcoming and really sweet. I could tell we were going to get along just fine. When we got to Dioro Samalia helped me carry my bags to Melissa’s house. I stayed with her because they were still working on my house. We had a fun week together. She introduced me to all the important people in village and made sure I was never thirsty or hungry. 

St Patricks Day was during my site visit and one of the first things I asked Melissa was if we could celebrate with other volunteers. We had gotten everything accomplished in Dioro so it wasn't a big deal to make a pit stop on the way back to Segou. I had a great time meeting everyone and being American for one day. 

The week ended with an amazing Welcome to Segou party with all the other current Segoukaw volunteers. We went swimming, went on a boat ride, and ate a nice restaurant where I got delicious cordon blue and red wine. We then went to a bar with a live Malian band, drank a few more beers and danced ourselves to exhaustion.  

We headed back to Tubaniso on Saturday and all had two more weeks left of training before being sworn in. I didn’t want to go back. I was ready to start living in my new village and hated that I wouldn’t see the current volunteers again for another 15 days. I knew, though, I needed to finish my language classes and the time would come soon enough that I'd return to Dioro as an official Peace Corps Volunteer. 

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