So I'm officially more than halfway through training. It's been almost all language training to here, but we're starting to do more project-specific work, which is the exciting part of my job. Then again, if I can't talk to them, all the good ideas in the world end in my head.
I spent the last week at my soon-to-be home in Narena. There's a volunteer there currently, so he showed me around the town. I met all the people he works with, and it was nice to get an inside view of the town from an English-speaker. After a week of talking with him and getting his help in introducing me to the community, I am convinced that I will find friends there, and that the work remaining there is good, important, and utterly doable.
My host family there is small. My dad, Diarra (pr: jar-ruh) has lived a hard fifty-two years, and farmed probably since he was seven. He has had a number of wives, and I can't tell what the story is exactly, but he only has one now. I suspect that she is younger than me, but was too shy to ask. Dad has had ten kids, but only two of them are living - again, it's clear that he's lived a hard life. Drissa, his son, is about fifteen. Nana, his daughter, must be in her early twenties. She has a son, Mamadou, who is a good-hearted four-year-old that shows some classic signs of having been raised by a young mother and no father. Also, Diarra's nephew, Seydou moved in a few years ago when his father died. The bunch of them live in my concession (we share a courtyard, but live in a number of separate houses or huts).
My house has two rooms (about twelve feet square), a cement floor (most Malians just have dirt), mud walls and a high tin roof. It's small, but it will be mine alone, and it's enough that I won't get claustrophobic. Besides, most of life here happens outside, so I won't spend that much non-sleeping time there anyhow. There is a guy in town who runs a generator for a few hours every night, and for about ten bucks a month, I get power between dusk and bedtime to power a light and to charge my phone or ipod.
The town has a number of characters that I am sure will bring me endless amusement. The mayor, barely speaks above a whisper but is always listened to. The janitor is a poorly-informed, but highly opinionated former military man who tells stories that could not possibly be true. The bus-station man is a gregarious man who always sees me coming from hundreds of yards away, and spends the ensuing time thinking of ways to jokingly insult me (luckily, I'm on to the game, and learned very quickly to start firing at him before he can open up on me). The sous-prefet (a political position between mayor and governor, for which I don't really know a good American equivalent), is a tall, gregarious man who always has funny thing to say, but doesn't really inspire confidence in his intellect... reminds me of a number of politicians at home. I definitely look forward to getting to know these characters, and to introducing them to you.
Over the next few weeks, my training will be more focused on Small Enterprise. Already, I've been really impressed by what the volunteers here have accomplished. I am looking forward to getting underway. Obviously still enjoying training, but also looking forward to getting to work.
I'm back to Keleya tomorrow morning for the home-stretch of training. I'll be back to the internet in three weeks for updates. And I promise that I will figure out a way to upload photos (which are beautiful) before I leave for site mid-September.