Continental Drift

February 23, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — unaleona @ 9:57 pm

Mama is my new host-mother, and “ne togo ma” (homonym), as her real name is Maimouna. In fact, she is the one who gave me my name before I even arrived in Mali, so it is fitting that I am now her honorary daughter. I moved into Mama’s house in late January, when Devon, the volunteer who was living there for the last year, went back to the states. It has been really great forging my own relationship with this family, instead always having several other American volunteers around at Hawa Gaku’s. In the same vein, I really appreciate having a separation now between work life and home life, since before I was living with the same people I spent all day working with. I promise I’ll put up some pictures soon of my room and the courtyard here.

Besides being about a 10 minutes longer walk up the hill from the office, the big difference between this house and my last is that here we have a well. Whereas Hawa Gaku’s family can afford to purchase all the water they use for daily cooking, cleaning and drinking from the public tap, Mama’s family wouldn’t be able to afford that. Instead, they use well water for work, and just buy tap water to drink. That means that I too get the pleasure of drawing water from our terrifyingly deep well, while I scan the rest of the courtyard to make sure that baby Batouma isn’t in danger of toddling her way over to the edge.

The other big difference is that I feel much more like a member of the family here. Mama likes me to eat with the family, so I often bring home extra veggies to add a salad to the meal. If I go jogging up at the soccer field on the hill, I walk down at dusk with the older boys who practice up there in the evenings. Tonight, I became the resident English tutor. Mama always wants to know where I’m going, and how things went when I get back, and likes to remind me that toubabous “bougent trop”, or move around too much. We ought to relax a bit more, and take more breaks. I try to take her advice and move a bit slower on Mali time.

I may have no choice but to take her advice, because the heat is coming. And with the arrival of the heat, I can feel my brain slowing down to molasses. As much as I try to avoid checking the weather (who really wants to know if its 97, 99 or 104? However you look at it, all of them are hot), it’s impossible to avoid facing reality. Whereas during December and January, showering outdoors in the morning and after dark left me shivering and teeth-chattering with cold, showers under the stars are now truly pleasant. Listening to the radio yesterday while jogging around the soccer field at dusk, a soothing female voice spent ten minutes giving me advice on how to protect myself from the heat. According to her, one should particularly avoid expending any physical effort, which gives me pause about my new attempt at developing a jogging regimen. When I arrived home Thursday afternoon Mama couldn’t resist pointing out to me that toubabous can’t stand the heat. According to her, white people just love the freezing temperatures and the blizzards currently slamming the North Eastern US, and detest the sun. This morning at breakfast, Diallo told me he has to buy a fan, even though it costs 15,000 CFA ($30). It’s just too hot in his room to sleep without one anymore.

So it is coming. But am I ready? In discussions of the heat here, it takes on supernatural dimensions. As far as I understand, this isn’t heat to be ignored, heat where you continue on with your normal daily life. Especially not without an airconditioned office to hide in, and an air-conditioned car to get around in. This heat doesn’t respect your schedule, you plan your day so it fits around the heat. Unfortunately, this year it has come early, which doesn’t bode well for a pleasant hot season experience. But I’m sure I’ll make it through, and by the end, maybe the sun will have beaten me down into a nice slow, calm Malian demeanor.


1 Comment »

  1. So happy to hear about your new home and family. Please give Mama a hug from me. EF

    Comment by Eileen Fitzgerald — February 28, 2010 @ 5:37 pm | Reply

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