Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Year in Review Part 2

My Mali Short Stories

The Mouse
I had just gotten to site and barely knew anyone. My landlord, Ina, was nice but still trying to figure out her strange new neighbor. I was sitting alone in my hut wondering what I had gotten myself into when a mouse ran into my house (This space between my front door and my hut's cement floor has allowed entry for several unwanted visitors) I saw it run into the second room behind the suitcase beauty table I had made for myself using the box from my stove and my largest suitcase. I was in quite the predicament because I was not the skilled assassin that I am now and had just washed all my undies and they were hanging from the handle of my door to the opposite corner of the room.  I knew I needed help so I called for her. INA!!! INA!!!! When she came in all she could see was me pointing to all my skimpy lace underwear. I explained in my broken bambara that something was hiding in the corner. She wearily came with me ducking under the 'clothes line' to look and when she saw it was a mouse laughed and called for her sister (not because she needed back up but I'm pretty sure it was so her sis could to get a look at all the weird things hanging in the new tubab's house). Ina told me to grab the box that was topped with all my cosmetics so nothing would spill while her sister threw her sandal at the mouse. As soon as this happened the mouse ran across my foot, I screamed and jumped a foot in the air while maintaining complete control of the box of cosmetics. The mouse ran out of my house and once I regained composure we all looked at each other and started laughing uncontrollably. I couldn't stop because of the ridiculousness of the situation; me standing in a mud hut in Africa with a box full of cosmetics and a room decorated with lingerie exhausted from screaming bloody murder because mouse grazed my foot while two Malian women stared at me with complete WTF faces. They couldn't stop for all those reasons too but also because this experience solidified that I was the craziest, weirdest person they had ever met. They still tease me about it today. We'll be sitting around doing whatever and I'll hear Ina start "INA....INA....AHHHHHH!!!!!!" and we'll all get a good laugh.

Dogon and Turning 27
My friend and I went on a three day hike through Dogon Country for my 27th birthday. I slept under the stars and woke up to one of the beautiful views I've ever seen. I roasted hot dogs and made smores on the edge of a cliff for my birthday dinner. We passed through several small villages and got to meet a lot of very friendly villagers. The hike was hot, very challenging and on the third day, my actual birthday, we were rained on and had to find shelter for a few hours. This rain was a blessing in disguise though because a few minutes after the rain cleared we discovered a three tier waterfall. I had to crawl through a centipede infested cave but it was worth it. That shower was a perfect birthday present. It was crazy not seeing a waterfall throughout our entire hike then on my birthday thanks to the rain seeing 5! Best. Birthday. Ever.

And I Cried 
I had just gotten back from IST and celebrating the fourth of July in Monitalli. I had been gone from my house for almost a month with the training and the much needed vacation. I was excited to get home and see my host family, play with my dog Legend, and cook a nice meal for myself with the delicious food my mother had sent me. When I opened the door to my hut I was horrified to find over 100 termite nests. They had eaten through several of my things including valuable pictures of my friends and family. I was overwhelmed and needed some water and when I went to my water filter I discovered it had been infiltrated with a million little ants. I almost threw up. I quickly went to the well to clean out the filter when I noticed the bucket of well water was full of worms. It was official. I was under attact by every insect in Mali. I was dealing with the situation as best as I could. I started to take everything out of my house to start the cleaning process. I grabbed the box with all my pots and pans and when I set it down the top came off and inside was a decomposing mouse. I looked inside, saw the mouse and started laughing. My laughing turned into crying and then the crying turned into sobbing so hard I could barely breathe.  I was lucky to have my friend Laura with me. Without I her I may have never stopped. I know it seems silly but I was really upset. I worked hard at making my hut my home and all that hard work had literally been eaten all up. It took about a week for everything to get cleaned up and for it to feel like my house again. My tears turned into vengeance and thousands of insects were murdered that day.


Malaria and Me
Long story short, Malaria kicked my ass. It was the sickest I have ever been and I hope to never have another experience like it.  I was training for my first half marathon and I was experiencing some hindering side effects from the prophylaxis I was taking. My feet were going numb right around mile 3 and my heart rate was out of control. I figured a break of three weeks would be enough to get rid of the side effects and not put me in any danger. I was wrong. A week before I was supposed to leave for Ghana I came down with a fever, horrible body aches, and an upset stomach.  I had experienced similar symptoms before so I assumed it was a viral infection and I didn’t want to tell the doctors that I hadn’t been taking mefloquine. By Wednesday I was so dehydrated I couldn’t swallow and organ failure was quickly approaching. When the doctors finally got my blood work back it showed that I had over 100,000 parasites in my system. I was immediately admitted to the hospital and was put on an IV. The next few days are kind of a blur. I remember waking up in a pool of sweat because the air conditioner broke right around the same time as my fever. I remember doctors coming in and me pleading with them to stop the injections in my hand because the pain was unbearable. I remember several Peace Corps visitors stopping to say hi. I remember calling my mom and wishing she was there. I remember a friend breaking in past visiting hours fearing for my life and kind of stealing my bed. I remember Robyn finally saying that I could still go to Ghana but only if I didn’t race and didn’t drink any alcohol.  I left the hospital thankful for all the love and support I had gotten but mostly thankful for the great doctor that brought me back in time to still make it to Ghana. It was hard being there and not being able to run but I felt really lucky that I was still able to support my friends.  

My Christmas Surprise 
I told my mom that I was traveling to Dogon again with a few friends and that my phone reception would be spotty so we had to have our skype Christmas on December 15th. I told her I wanted everyone there so we could hang ornaments on the tree together and maybe sing a few carols. I also told her my best friend Ashley would be stopping by to say hi since she was already going to be in town for another event. It was 7:15 and Mom was freaking out because she couldn't reach me. Ash knocked on the door and Mom welcomed her in while swearing at skype for not working. When there was a second knock on the door her exact words were "who the hell is it now?" clearly frustrated about not being able to reach her daughter in Africa. I'll never forget the look on her face when she opened the door...I'm tearing up just writing about it...she looked liked she saw a ghost. A blank expression. She reached out and touched my had gotten so long since she last saw me. She couldn't answer when everyone was asking who it was, all she could was cry. My sister was the second one to run over and hug me and my grandma kept shouting "Is she real!?" It was a magical Christmas, one we will talk about for the rest of our lives. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Year In Review Part 1

It’s my one year anniversary in Mali!! It’s amazing to look back at the last twelve months and think of all the things I’ve done and how much my life has changed. Here are a few differences:
  •          Instead of showering I now take bucket baths. This consists of a bucket of well water that I’ve retrieved myself and a large cup that I use to pour the water over myself. I’ve gotten really efficient with water use.  Now during cold season I boil extra water for making my morning tea and use it to warm up the bucket water. This is my “hot shower”
  •          I used to wash my hair daily but because of what was noted above I can now go as long as a week before washing it. Braids are great for hiding unclear hair.
  •          I can eat almost anything now if I’m hungry enough. I’ve gotten really good at picking out the meat around fish bones and sheep heads. I think I once ate a fish eyeball..I try not to think of that too much.
  •          I get urinated on by babies and laugh. In the states I hated to be dirty but here it’s a way of life. Add adding a little something extra to my already sweat stained dirt covered clothes is the least of my worries.
  •          I can drink warm water. In the states I hated to drink water and would only drink it out of a bottle. Now I get excited for pump water and drink it warm out of semi clean glasses. I will never take ice for granted again.
  •          I drink full calorie soda. I hate regular coke in the states and here it’s a cold treat for myself on very hot stressful days.
  •          I can coexist with spiders. I used to be the screamer who could barley muster up the courage to kill a spider. Now I great them in the morning and thank them eating all the other pesky bugs.*Note* The big hairy spiders are not my friends. I kill them as soon as I see them, they still freak me out.
  •          I watch quite a bit of TV now. I’m a huge fan of Modern Family, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory, Glee, Castle, South Park. Don’t judge…I sit in a two room hut with nothing to do most nights.
  •          I ran my first half marathon. Training is fun because between 5-6pm I run along the Niger River with my dog Legend. This is one of my favorite times of day. The sun is a beautiful mix of red, orange, and yellow with an amazing reflection in the water. 
  •          I sleep outside every night. My bedroom is a bughut tent on my cement porch. Thanks to my friend Courtney I now have a *ceiling* fan with a light. Best present ever!!
  •          Hitchhiking is now the best way to get around and is a lot safer. Riding in a stranger’s car is a quicker, more comfortable, and safer way to travel. Don’t worry its usually in a very safe NGO vehicle.

Ways I’ve stayed the same:
  •         I still get ready every morning. Makeup is a treat to myself and it adds some normalcy to my life. I also still love clothes. One of my best friends in village is a tailor and we have a lot of fun together. He teaches me to sew while we listen to American Rap music. It’s a win win.
  •         I’m still really social. I love holidays because we all get together have a few drinks and catch up. This may or may not include lots of dancing. I've met a lot great people in and outside of Peace Corps while living in Mali. It’s fun to be American, get dressed up, and go out every once and awhile.