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.