seek and find

Sunday, September 28, 2008

mali time

27 september 2008

once every 10 - 14 days i leave my village, ride a bike 3 miles to my friend Liza's house, and we make for the hills the following mornings on whats
called locally a bachee - a bush taxi. these are 15 passanger vans that become 34 passanger boxes of death. as we ride the bumpy, divited, rain-ruined
roads (more dirt paths than actual roadway), squished together with babies on our laps, vomitous teenagers surrounding and
sleeping men to the left and right, we ride. slowly. bumpily. we travel through multiple villages, often stopping to load, unload, reload and sweat.
this last trip i was vomited on, projectile vomit, by not one but two people. one was a small teenage girl who couldn't help it, the other was a man who
none of us even knew was sitting, probably strapped down, atop the bus, along with two goats, two bicycles and 34 people's luggage. it came pouring, sloshing
down but luckilyl i was wearing my travel scarf with my head propped against the window and was only slightly soaked by the time it was all said and done.

i'm thinking that the 6 hour bike ride might be worth it. next time, i'm coming on my own feet and wheels and time.
kita, the town in which Peace Corps rents us a Stage House for use to group, regroup and maintain sanity, is quite disgusting. not unlike a college house, Whitis
and Walling come to mind everytime i enter the gate, which of course brings happy, homey feelings but also sticky, filthy memories... no offense fellas.
anywho, thats where i am now. sitting, typing, thinking too much.

i'm ready to go back to site. weird, right?

as a reminder, there are photos up on (big thanks to Cass Engle and Ryan O'brien), my book wishlist is on and i am always looking
forward to friend, family and foe updates!
funny stories are innumerous and in the works.

more updates will come, in (pathetic) timely west african fashion.

did the little engine make it

23 septmeber 2008

although its been rocky, the days 100 years too long and the weeks flying by, its been ok. do-able. possible.
tough. hungry. HOT. humid. hilarious.

i think i can i think i can i think i can...


21 september 2008

i speak to myself now. maybe just so that i can hear english. maybe so that i don't loose my mind. and maybe to keep people at bay, just a little.
todays conversations included a slew of list making, thoughts on how to rid my concession of guinea fowl and their creaky, crackly offspring - who
strangely resemble the skepsis characters from Jim Henson's the Dark Crystal, discussion of the immense resource of love, strength and mental
stability (although questionable at this moment) that meere thoughts of Ryan O'brien bring me. the conversations can get a bit out of hand, as most
can, but i tend to keep it quiet, at least until i get home.
20 september 2008

foreign doesn't begin to explain it. i'm white, they are jet, horse, coal black. i speak a language that doesn't even have a title, they speak a
language that doesn't have the vocabulary for love and where the word for field is the same as penis and unless you clarify, can be easily
misunderstood. i am not muslim. neither are they, but they say they are. animists are pretty people with funny sayings and strange skins insullating
their walls. curiosity killed the cat. cat be not me.

crazy... not yet. but i feel it coming.


17 september 2008

happy 60th mama. i hope you know that thoughts of you, your birthday, the earrings, the dinner daddy surely took you too and the greatness of your
long life made things better and better. i love you so. happy birthday.

citizen sane

17 september 2008

today is my first as a citizen of mali. i'm sworn in both to the United States and Malian governments as a committed
citizen of the world and to be frank - its not all its cracked up to be. i was moved into my huts yesterday with the
help of some very kind Peace Corps drivers and as nice as they could be they still had to rip off the proverbial
bandaid and drive off. as the white toyota land cruiser pulled off, so did that top layer of tough skin. tears and
sweat poured off my face and as it was, the community did not know what to do. so what they did was awkwardly work.

my concession or courtyard is set up as such: i live smack dab in the middle of town. the town is layed out so that
the "main road", which is made of red red dirt, is the main focus of this tiny little town. so when you drive in from
the north, Kita lies just around 40 miles, your first encounter is with the Dugutigi, village chief, his horizontal
counterparts and his nearly 60 children and childwives running out to greet you. just past his 10 huts lies my Djatigi's
huts, wives and children, who are all titled from here on out as my family. another 50 yards and you're at the BigMotherTree
which does infact, with its ginormity and life pulses, lead one to the conclusion that life may just have been born of this
very tree. anyhow, the road bends and just past that bend and huts and huts and huts housing neighbors and their
slew of children, you find the shiny metal t piece that brings me fresh water from very far below this surface. at the pump,
you look to the left and there is my trio of huts.

my huts make up a triangle, each about 18feet in diameter and the biggest being my living quarters. the three teeny doors face
each other and the area between is shaded by a gua, which is essentially a natural tarp made of local grasses and bamboo poles.
this triangle of shade is enclosed by a bamboo fence thats about 5 feet tall and is carrying a magnificient assortment of
vined plants and thus green loving animals - birds, lizards and the bugs they eat. we'll return to those facts later... in grave
and great detail.

two of my huts are inhabitable, the third has residents that even a pinkslip can't get rid of. nor, however, can bug spray, baby
goats or human use. there, up in the "rafters" made of all natural fibers and branches, lies the nests of the teeniest tinyist
angriest little red birds. vibrant in color and aggression, they dive bomb me and anyone above 3feet and leave no prisoners. its
terrifying and i'm easily 3 hours from emergency medical care, so i leave that hut to them. on their thatch roof grows another
magnificient vine, this one producing melons that could be hollowed to make a baby's carriage. huge, tasteless, beautiful mellons.

the two that are human-inhabitable, my huts as you will, are lovely, little, dirty messes. mud bricks cemented with mud and grass
topped with thatch grass and, you guessed it, mud. needless to say, the inside is innately dirty. alas, i am not, so there are some
changes under way that i'm very excited for. for one, after having a day where i swept dirt from my dirt floor 13 times, i made the
executive decision to cement the walls. and although its going to cost me a month's living allowance, it'll make for 24 sweet months
and thats enough for me.

each hut has a screen door, metal door and one window. darkness equals coolness, so i'm going to remain indecently indebted to Brett
Buchanan for the tap lights and just let the cool come in and the light get lost in the black hole that it is. my posture, which has
never been famous for its erectness, has suffered great heights due to traveling into and out of these hobit holes. the doors are, maybe,
5feet 6inches and the gua reaches a meere 5feet 10inches. when standing at normal attention, i span a nice 5feet 8inches, in chacos that
goes to about 5feet 10inches, thus causing obvious neck and lowerback muscles to be used... consistantly. the height is further
compounded by the insects and their webs that live amongst the gua's innerworkings. its creepy how many cobwebs i've pulled from my hair
each morning while making coffee and oatmeal. gross. really, truly - gross.

(any great memorable pictures (in ziplock baggies to protect against humidity and termites) can be sent to my Kita address and wil be promptly
hung from the walls, both brightening my walls and spirits daily.)

so, as luck would have it, my first day here in village is spent whacking down the 4foot grasses that hide the snakes and goats living peacefully
in my concession. the awkward work that the villagers did upon sight of my first tears included weeding, yelling at kids, sweeping the weeded,
sweeping the dirt floors, yelling at the kids, talking about me, yelling at the kids, and then sitting. for hours. they just sat. stared. and
looked completely content with not only their work but their innerworkings. whatever was going on in their minds, which seemed to me to have
turned off, were whirring, eyes drooping, and before i knew it - everyone was asleep. easily 10 adult bodies were strewn about my concession,
leaning on doors, on grass piles, on each other.

awkward to say the least.


16 september 2008

2/13ths. thats the way Ryan tried to butter up my time here, by slicing each set of two months into a deliciously
odd 13th. and here we are. in the ooey, gooey, surely its still too hot to eat it, where's my scoop of ice cream
2nd slice of african life.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


tshirt slogans in this country, and probably most poor countries, are amazing.

at one point i saw a man, young, probably in his early 20's, walking down a major highway with a plain white tshirt imprinted with red letters and arrows pointed at his biceps, it read: always use protection.

some others of notability include: souled out for jesus, University of Texas Aggies in blues and yellow and, my personal favorite was plastered, pleasant pictures of Saddam Hussein and at the button down collar and weaving its way around the waist was: Peace, Love, Justice, Harmony - Hussein, he's our man.

a new day, a new do

11 Sept 2008

like i said - cyclical. up this morning, same gasps for breath sans humidity, same reassurance of humanity, same cup of instant coffee with powdered milk and rock infused sugar. one thing that is sure - i'm the changing factor in this equation. not africa. not the air or the heat or the food or the instant coffee. me.

on that note, with huge, terrifying, scary, motivating and triumphant (once attempted and not failed) life changes coming my way - i'm going to stay as positive as possible. i'm going to laugh at the things that would other wise scare the shit out of me. i'm going to cry when i deem it necessary.

its ok. its going to be ok.

ps, if you didn't notice, i would love for some good soul to send me actual real amazing coffee... instant is instantaneously terrible.

Monday, September 8, 2008

pending doom... nay, butterfly boom

There is a cyclical persuasion in my African *or African’t persona. Some days, waking early to calls of foreign languages, transmitted either in bird chirps or children’s cries, brings some solidity to my mess of a mind. I’ll wake, sweat soaked sheets sprawled about my mat, crawling for water, begging the air to enter and exit without stress, mind running, body in slow motion… but then also, I wake. I wake up and realize that I’m up. At’em. Alive. In Africa.

The bouts of depression, which have become a normality in my Malian life, though scarce in number are grave in severity, have become a bit more spiked. They come and go, busting down my gates of sensible security and self, with ease and creativity. Today’s came after a short night of sleep, lessened by small amounts of bad food, thus energy, in my body, calculated with a looming test and the upcoming, seemingly infinite loneliness of site.

Come and go. Come. Stay a while. Have a seat. Take my stomach, tie it into knots, and then throw out the remains in a fury. Then go, with what little self I have left, and remind me of the keyless entry it has upon me.
Taking control of these moments of helplessness, though moment might be the wrong wordage, is a very tough thing to do. Facing, boldly, the one thing that may bring my own destruction, is terrifying. Scarier than the rains. Scarier than the bugs. Scarier than the darkness.

Scary and terribly necessary.

Hold my hand, won’t you? Tell me it’s going to be ok.
Deep down I know its ok. That I'll survive this just as I have always survived these. But then, since when am I just surviving? Since when am I not striving to thrive? Soon, I’ll padlock my door, install a doorbell and chime and only answer when I know I can overpower it with wit and charm and cookies.

Until then, however, I could use some of that good old, American comraderie, state of the art, friendly, fondly delivered reassurance. (Thanks.)