Friday, February 29, 2008

Mali: Episode VI - Return of the PCV´s



When we last left, we had spent a chilly night on the top of a roof in Timbuktoo. Well, lets us be on our way now to Essakane, about 60 miles norht of Timbuktoo, it is on the very last outskirts of scrub land before the vastness of the Sahara desert takes over. Regardless, most of the driving is through desert sands, which are extremely silky soft sand that makes drving fast and reckless, based on how our driver drove.

Anyway, we spent two nights three days sleeping in a traditional animal skin open tent on the sand. There were a few thousand people there, alot of international people, but moslty Malians and venders selling alot of art stuff. Amazingly, no matter who you went up to, they all had a good price, and sometimes there name was Mr Good Price. I met alot of Mr Good Prices in my travels. Anywho, there was music only at night, abd during the day with the sun blazing, people either slept or wandered around the festival sands, either looking at wares to buy, seeing the random music and dancing, or talking to a guy who is mkaing efficent stoves for refugess using recycling packaginig material.

We left the festival early on the third day so we could be on our way back to Mopti. We covered all the same bumpy, dusty, silky smooth terrain we had on the way there, and again it took us about 12 hours this time to return. In Timbuktoo we got a flat and waited 30 minutes to fix it, at one of the checkpoints where the army checks papers, we waited 30 minutes. All in all, we got back to Mopti, crashed on the dingy floor we had slept on last time in town, and planned to be on our way to Dogon Country, or Pays Dogon in french, in the morning.

And so it happened. We left Mopti and made our way to Bandgira, which is the captical of the area. From there, we took a different car into the Dogon area and then started hiking. I dont have my notes in front of me, but we hiked to four different towns. The first was on the top of the escarpment. Oh, the Dogon country is bascially a huge escarpment with the majority of villages at the bottom of the escarpment. If you dont know what an escarpment is, i suggest a google search. Anywho, form the first village we hiked down, at first through a nice green tree area, and then on the bottom it opens out as the area had once been forested with wild animals and water, but when the Dogon came to the area, they forced the natives, the Tellem, into the upper areas, cut down the trees, killed the animals, and lo, now there are no animals, limited trees, and no major running water. There is some irrigation going on and therefore there are awesome islands of waving green onion tops, as the Dogon love there onion. Anywho...

We went to the next village, simlar in some aspects as the houses are all mud with wooden supports. There are graneries for men and women for each household. Some Dogon are still Animist while others are Muslim. The women make millet beer, sell it to the men, and make some money. Not many people drink. The millter beer wasnt bad, but wasnt a Brooklyn Dark if you know what i mean.

From this town we took an ox driven cart to the next. An ox driven cart sounds all nice and safe, but at times we almost fell off, and the driver kept whipping the ox as he liked to walk at this pace, which the driver did not seem to like. Regardless, we got to our last village, ate some rice wiht tomato sauce, i really like the tomatao sauce, and slept inside for once in a nice mud room. For a little while, i stayed on the roof as it was warm and the stars are bright and nice.

The enxt day, it was back to Mopti and then on to Seqou, where we spent two kinda lazy days, in this kinda lazy quiet town. Much different than Mopti, no major water ports, people arent trying to sell you lots of things, just a ncie quiet little place. We saw amazing music at night in a bar, it was all traditional with three types of Malian drums and a large wooden xylophone, with calabashes underneath to make the sound. The guy playing was phenominal, he played so fast you couldnt see his hands, then he picked up the djemebe and played super fast too. It was great, people were up and dancing all over the place, and i had a few of the queens of beers in the prcoess.

We finally made our way back to Bamako, and back to the Mission Catholque where i slept outside on the couch, once without mosiquite net which was a mistake and the second night with. Bamako is a bustling capital, mcuh different from Praia, and from what i am told much different from other afrikan captials. It was safe, croweded all over the palce with cars and people and vendors and people cooking and people selling dried monkey heads and peanuts and all types of stuff. never ending movement, it was greta and a bit overwhelming at the same time. We spent alot of time at our faviroit hangout across form the Mission, Mohameds vegetarian resturant. good food, good guy, and good kitten.

And so, we headed back to Cape Verde, spent five days in Praia thanks to the wonderfulness of TACV, and eventually i settled back in Sao Nicolau and got my creole back.

I ruchsed this a bit as i wanted to finish up this Mali adventure. Watch out for the next installment on this blog entitled `Why are peanuts so funny?

Friday, February 15, 2008

An R comes to Afrika

Gonna take a quick break from Mali and give a quick update about whats going on here in chilly Cachaço. For effect, i have choosen to use an ancient system of summarizing important compenets of a docuement or conversation first perfected by the Tellem, an ancient race of pygmy red skinned people reported to have been one of the lost tribes of Israel, but i digress. And so:

  • Recycling comes to Sao Nicolau!!!! kinda of. For the past few weeks, a formacao has been going on teaching about 10 studetns the art of making new paper form old paper (aka: recycling). They have mastered this skill are are pumping out some awesome hamdmade crafts. In the upcoming month, we will be senidng out samples to various locals around cape verde to see what the interest is in carrying these goods, and also look to setup a house in Cachaço for them to come and create. Not only does this create sustainable development in communties (in line wiht Peace Corp and the Park goals), but means that they need a whole lot fo scrap paper. Sooooooooooo..... paper collection will begin in the main towns and hopefulyl spread island wide. Eco Clubs in these towns will help montior and collect and somehow bring the paper up to Cachaço, but those are only details. Once we have products up I expect, nay, demand that everyone buy some.
  • English classes come to the masses!!!!! On Tuesday we began giving englihs classes (or our best effort at them) to peoples of Cachaço, Lompelado, and Cabacilino, our neighboring communties. Classes are two hours with a little break in the middle, people are liking them so far. Its fun to have lots of people repeat everything you say, its fun to learn the names of people you should ahve already known thier names of, its fun to get covered in chalk, its fun to get the keys to the school from the teacher and forget to give them back untill the next day...all in all, they are so far fun, a bit of work as i already work all day in the park, but is more than worth it.
I planned on more bullet points but im a bit tired of writing about whats going on, sorry to those who follow this blog religously. i´ll update again soon, maybe about Mali too.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Mali Part 3: The search for part two



So, the Japenese. They helped us get inot Djenne, and we eventually made our way to a freezing cold roof. Seems alot of toher people had the idea of coming to Djenne the night before a really big market day. Huh. Anywho, instead of sleeping on the roof, we went and slept on the floor of the kitchen area where it was much warmer.

We had sorta arranged a guide, Guru, supposedly the son of the cheif, and he took us on a two hour walking tour of Djenne. All the strucutres are made of mud with wooden planks as support. There a three different styles, depending on the time and momey you have. Also, on the top of house, they put these little bumps to indicate the number of children they have. not sure why. But the reason we came to Djenne was for the market, which was colorful, flavorfuly, noiseful, and wonderful, and for the largest mud strcutre in the world, the grand mosque. And the mosque is huge. it crakcs from the sun and drynes each year, and everyone from the village helps each year to put more mud on it for repairs. children take Quran classes where they leanr verses in arabic one at a time, on these wooden little planks, and when they learn it, they wash off the writting and move on to the enxt one. these schools are free i think for all kids. Anywho, we walked around the entire day, ate spagetti out of plastic bags, had mushy red bread which rocked, mushy fried rice cakes which rocked, balled up peanut butter, etc etc. It was a really nice place, and while everything was brown, it still seemed colorful and alive.

The enxt day we were off with some frech canadians and our new guiide, Phillip, to Mopti. It was aonly about a three hour ride in a station wagon, and when we got to Mopti, they even had an atm that didnt work. Twas sweet. Mopti was our staging area for our drive to Timbuktoo the enxt day. In Mopti, we walked around the very busy, colroful, smelly port, where traders in boats bring, sell, buy, transport, etc all types of goods, food, calabashes, and other thigns. They also make the boats here. Across the river form the buys city are the sleepy fishing bozo vollages who dont want to take part in the city at all, and hence are traditinal villages. They might come once a week to trade some goods, but they live thier life.

Had dinner on the street in Mopti, potatoes, spagettie, and unfortunalty rice with what seemed to be only fish bones. I threw some very wierd green, thick, woody sauce on it all, and well, not the ebst dinner i had in Mali. Anywho, we were up and out early the next day as the drive to Timbuktoo was estimated to be about 10 hours.

And it took that long. First, you drive to the town on the amin road, Douenza, and we swtiched to a hardcore 4x4 car. And ate the ebst spegettie wiht tomatato suace in the world there. Anywho, then it wa sa bumby, dusty, bumby long drive on dirt, broken roads, sometimes just sand, to get to the river crossing. This normally takes 8 hours to get too, but our driver drove on the fast side, and we hit it, and our heads many times, in four hours. of course, since we were heading here to make our way to the Festival in the Desert and so was everyone else, when we got ot the ferry, there were over a 100 4x4´s waiting. and one of the ferries had broken down. so there was one ferry taking about 10 cars, and each trip took two hours. so we waited, and waited, and waited another 4-5 hours. finally made our way into Timbuktoo about 12 hours after leaving Mopti. And we slpet on the cold roof in Timbuktoo. and the bathroom was the goat house. which was kinda cool, till all the cockroached came crawling out.