18 December 2011

the wrong question

Back Cameralast week was site announcement for all the trainees.

Back Camera then everybody split up for a week to preview their new home.

Back Cameraa preview where you felt welcomed and wanted. and where you can’t wait to move to.

Back Camerabut also, you had two moments of realization.

something obvious that you saw but never really did see until you came to your new village in mali.

let’s jump back in time to where you were nothing but happy.

in no particular order…

riv19 the seine in normandy.

riv20the rhine in strasbourg.

riv03the saône in lyon.

Back Camerathe garonne in the gironde.

riv05 the thames in london.

riv06the somme in amiens.

Back Camerathe brazos in texas.

riv08the leie in ghent.

riv09the iton in evreux.

riv10the scheldt in antwerp.

riv11the loire in nantes.

Back Camera the liwu in taiwan.

riv13the lez next to montpellier.

riv14the ljubljanica in ljubljana.

Back Camerathe trinity in texas.

riv15the red river in shreveport.

riv16the loire (again) in tours.

riv17the nameless stream in the alpes-maritimes.

riv18the douro in porto.

riv21the rhine in basel.

riv22 the neckar in heidelberg.

riv23the saint lawrence in quebec.

riv01the niger in mali.

riv02here is realization number one: rivers connect the mountains to the sea.

so while you were playing your mountain vs. ocean game last year, it’s only a few days ago that you realized you overlooked perhaps the most important (and obvious) part.

the question of mountain vs. ocean, the question of staying vs. leaving, the question of sleeping vs. dancing – it was the wrong question. because these two things you thought were opposites are in fact connected.

by rivers. there’s not a mountain that isn’t linked somehow to the sea by a river.

the second realization – the one where suddenly everything made sense - a trip to the niger river is needed first before it can be explained in this journal.

10 December 2011

sinking in

niger01when at the peace corps training center, the day officially begins at eight.

niger03but you like to start the day a bit earlier.

niger02you follow the footsteps of your feathered friends.

niger04then you find a place to sit.

on the bank.

the bank of the niger river.

it still hasn’t sunk in yet that the niger river is what your life will revolve around for the next two years.

09 December 2011

non-related instants

icr00life for the past week has been full of scattered instants in between classes and meetings and trips.

icr02one of your many jobs in mali is to be a liaison.

icr01there are organizations. ngos. in cities with nice offices.

one, in particular, is ICRISAT – the international crops research institute for the semi-arid tropics.

icr06there are people. in areas that only a bicycle can reach.

icr03how are they to interact with each other?

simple: you.

with english, french, and bambara, you’ll connect the groups that need each other.

you’ll get to know your community and its needs as well as the many organizations that can help it but don’t have access – except for you.

you’ve always loved combinations. and now, you will soon begin to explore a combination that will empower people to help themselves.

icr04soon. not yet, as you’re still culturally adjusting for these first few months.

mentally. emotionally. physically. the stomach is not quite a happy story, but the hair is – kunsigi digi, or hair braiding, is.

icr05dinners here are never around a table. instead they are around a fire with flashlights pinched between the neck and shoulder.

but they are still around. and that is most important.

the story of this photo – the day your malian family discovered jaba rings – will be told another day.

icr05alots of yeleing, or laughing, happens with your host family. mostly at you as you do many things they can’t understand.

icr07such as how you like to make photos of millet.

icr08because what they really want are photos of them. of people. of faces.

maybe – just maybe – gradually you do too.

icr09your photography is changing. maybe.

you haven’t decided yet. normally you don’t care to make photos of people you aren’t close to. it doesn’t mean you don’t admire photographers who make portraits of strangers – it just wasn’t your style.

but the enthusiasm you see when your camera is out – you can’t resist it. you can’t say no. you can’t not make a photo when someone really wants to be photographed.

an bena ye. we’ll see. on verra.

icr10your favorite. surprising, it is not receiving mail and packages. seeing familiar handwriting was the instant that made you happiest.