orange roads, green trees, blue skies – these are the colors of your new life.
at first you might go through some culture shock – such as waking up to a ram being slaughtered right outside your bedroom.
you might also think the place is dirty.
but you also think its beautiful.
you’re adjusting – one bucket bath at a time.
the nights are spent tucked in to avoid mosquitos, lizards, roaches, scorpions, spiders, or anything else that might want to crawl into bed with you.
these first few months are being spent in a village so you can become culturally adjusted.
mornings begin with breakfast being heated over hot coals and sunlight sifting through dusty air.
learning bambara is the priority at the moment. all day, every day.
learning about seeds.
collecting them. drying them. saving them. activating them.
of course then planting them.
hopefully, watching them grow.
while also watching yourself and your fellow volunteers grow.
just like seeds – you’re currently living in a malian village to acclimate you to mali and learn the language and culture before being transplanted to your permanent site where you will be for the next two years.
the goal is not to be culturally integrated. to do so would be to abandon your values as well as yourself in order to fit in with your new culture.
to be adjusted means to be aware of the differences between your own culture and of your host culture and to find the balance between them.
every day, you see something new, and every day, you ponder more and more about your own values while living in another.
the days are as rhythmic as the pounding of corn and millet.
the pounding continues with the dancing of feet and arms.
your new life can also be summarized by six items.
insect repellent – avoiding malaria
bucket – so you can go to the pump and get drinking water.
bleach – to kill off anything bad in your water
solar lamp – so you can study at night
headlamp – so you can walk at night
toilet paper – because you aren’t ready to wipe the malian way
essential items to help you adjust.
one item you’ve loved in every place you’ve ever visited or lived: the bicycle.
what other method lets you explore with the wind in your face and your mind free to roam?
eight hours of bambara a day. that leaves just a small precious amount of daylight to be savored before the night settles in.
it could be spent playing uka.
but what you really love to do is yala yala.
the bambara word for walk around.
with your fellow trainees, this is what you do. a direction is picked, a path is followed, and the legs find a nice place to rest.
you can be found sitting at the bank of a small creek.
or enjoying the shade underneath the mango trees.
or exploring the rice/millet/corn fields.
wherever you end up, the discussions are always on.
you’re thankful to have good company.
you’re slightly worried about the isolation you’ll go through later, but for now you don’t waste a moment exchanging thoughts.
here, just a one minute walk from your temporary new home, you can do what you love most.
the tilebin. the sun falling.
the only thing you need.
the only thing you want.
its what calms you and prepares you for the next day.
donni donni. little by little. petit a petit.