I'm writing this in my hut at almost midnight. I'll post it tomorrow, but we're playing a wicked game of assassins, and I think I might get taken out if I walk alone to our training center where there's internet.
I am currently residing in a hut with a thatched roof. Furniture includes three beds (all taken) and one small card table. But it has a fan (yay electricity), and screens on the door and windows for malaria prevention, which I'm all about (I took my pills, mom). It's been too hot to sleep many nights, but I've managed to get a few hours - I think the body takes what it needs to function. It feels humid enough that it might rain tonight, which would be really nice because that cools things down, so I can sleep. Oh yeah, it's rainy season... we got a storm the other night that blew our metal doors and windows open and shut all through the night. Family and former roommates will not be surprised to hear that I slept much better through the noise than through the heat.
All of our training has been centered around getting us ready for homestay. Basically, for the next nine weeks I'll be staying with a family within a hundred km of Bamako. These brave hosts have been trained to treat us with kid gloves, and not to expect much of our Bambara - or of our manners (yes, there are manners even when you eat with your hands). There will be a handful of Trainees in my village, and one trainer, who will meet us every day for eight hours of language and cultural training.
I'll come back to the training center about every ten days for a quick check-in, and then back out again. Expect some good stories then.
A couple bits for news and notes:
First, I spent a ton of time before departure practicing French - mostly because I was annoyed that I could hear my American accent (living in France trained me well). My french accent came back, but the African accent rolls "r"s like "d"s. In some sentences, it sounds exactly like Spanish, which is quite confusing since I'm becoming quadrilingual now (I may have just made that word up). There went some weeks of my life I'll never get back.
Second, I wanted to write yesterday, but the power went out. No power, no internet. Tonight, I wanted to do my laundry (yes, by hand), but the water stopped running. No water, no laundry. Welcome to Africa.
rapid fire, 3 - Flying over the Sahara was incredible. Might as well have been Mars.
4 - I ate rice with my hands today. Easier said than done.
*bridge*: I've never washed my hands so much in my life.
5 - The infamous "wiping situation" is not nearly as difficult once you understand the mechanics. Squatting over a hole is still no fun.
Finally, an interesting morsel: We're doing cultural sensitivity training. The Trainees were asked to list some stereotypes of Africans. Our Malian trainers were asked to do the same for Americans. Then we swapped. Near the top of both lists: "dirty". I'm sure I don't have to explain to my dear readers why it made our list, but I was interested to hear that they thought the same. See, they wash for prayer five times a day. We wash decidedly less - at least so far. We each think each others' "wiping situation" is less effective. The verdict's still out for me.
There is so much to tell, but I don't want to go too long. For now, we've been kept inside the Peace Corps compound so as to not get overwhelmed or overrun by what lies beyond the walls. My first venture out begins Tuesday, and I'll be back in twelve days or so. Expect to hear from me again around then (hopefully I'll figure out how to post photos then too).