these posts will serve as a look into Malian culture and some of the different things i have encountered. just so you know i have been in Mali for a week now woohoo!! And i thought today.. 'you know most people go on missions' trips for a week/two weeks and you have the mindset that oh i am going for a very short period of time and then heading back home to 'my normal life'...not that going on short term trips are a waste because i absolutely think it is important to get any sort of experience possible; HOWEVER, i realized today that from the day i arrived i told myself welcome home.' this is not a trip to simply dip your toe in the water.. nope! i'm jumping in.
now that thats said and you have a somewhat understanding of how my brain is working: lets talk about this culture thing.
number one: do not use your left hand, at all. ok, so i am left handed & their is one other girl on the team that is left-handed, as well. she immediately informed me about the actual use of the left hand, which would be your 'bathroom hand'. no one is left handed here. if you start writing with your left hand as a child, your parents will be sure to see that that's changed. anyways, so i was at the wedding on saturday, the reception followed the wedding immediately and guests were everywhere relaxing and conversing. Servers are going around passing out plates and bowls of food to people, which included a dish called 'toe' and also a huge bowl of rice. the lady hands me a bowl of rice and without thinking i start eating (with my hand of course because here in africa that is how you eat everything). yes, yes. it was with my left hand and i soon realize after i look around and see multiple africans' eyes dial in on me, as well as a smile that screams "oh you american!" all to say, they were all very sweet about it and i simply laughed at myself and asked the french lady to the left of me to help me with my technique of eating this rice with my opposite hand. lesson learned & relationships started.
number two: Mali is a very poor country. trash everywhere. it breaks my heart as i stare out of my taxi, window down due to the extreme heat, as well as trying to ignore the stinch coming from the streets, witnessing the lives of the people before me with as little as they have working day after day. taxi drivers get paid the most (around 1500 cfa one way, which equals around $3.00) so you wonder how these street vendors make it... how many people a day really buy a pair of sunglasses, not to mention that there is another sunglass vendor right beside you. sanitization goes out the window and you don't think 'oh could i get dirty from touching this', but 'oh what disease or sickness could i have now possibly acquired.'
number three: my personal living conditions. the apartment is great. well, at least i think so. no air conditioner, but a fan in every room mosquito nets, two bathrooms with running water (well sometimes) and a living room and kitchen. ok, cooking in africa. it is quite the experience. i want all of you out there who have ever told me i don't seem like the domestic type or i can not cook...you're wrong!!!! we all cook dinner once a week, as well as anything that we want during the day. oh yah and everything is from scratch!!! in my one weeks time i have made: stuffed peppers, eggs, a cake with cream cheese icing from scratch, peanut butter cookies, salsa (literally from scratch, africa style) and tortilla chips from pita bread. i have also eaten cheeseburgers, pizza, chili, and a variety of fabulous restaurants. remember, this stuff may sound american, but it all taste different.. believe me.. i am happy to say i have not had the case of diarrhea. (everyone gets it here, it just comes with the territory) lets see how long i can go till the inevitable happens.
number four: the malian people are beautiful.sweet.kind.wonderful. i have only had one bambara class, but i am studying hard and in the next couple days i will hope to be able to have enough phrases learned to go out and speak with the neighbors. interesting. here, you greet and then it is cultural to ask how they are doing first of all (i ka kene?) and then after the responses, ask how their husband (if talking to a woman: i ce ka kene?) and then their children ( denw ka kene?) mother (ba), father (fa) and so forth. the language is very interesting and i am quite thrilled to get the opportunity to be taught three times a week for an hour and a half engaging in the culture.
so much more on my heart. but God is working very creatively in my life & i love it. not only dealing with culture, but in my spiritual walk as a woman of God. please continue to pray for me, the team, the missionaries & the Malians.
i ni se folo. [goodbye]