Friday, October 23, 2009


Just wanted to share a couple pictures of some of my villagers from the end-of-Ramadan feast.

I mentioned last year that for this feast, all the kids get dressed up in the afternoon, walk around town looking for unsuspecting adults, and then give them a number of blessings. For this dubious service, they expect a financial contribution to their pockets. I gave in a couple times this year. Here's one group...

This little man, Solo, is the youngest of the mayor's sixteen children (that's by my own, unofficial count). He's for sure one of daddy's favorites, and it's easy to see why...

Another of the mayor's family, Burama, often quizzes me about his favorite rappers, Aykon, Snope Dog, and a number of others whose names I can't decipher...

There are a number of children in village who are incredibly afraid of my white skin. This one's mother insists on me taking photos of her anyhow...

And finally, I never got all of them together, but there was a whole family of kids running around with these shirts. I would bet that Barack Obama is the top-selling clothing brand in Mali right now.

A follow-up on "Desertification"

My "Desertification" post described a number of themes common throughout Africa. Natural resources are more valuable than human ones (labor, invention, etc). Resources - in this case, wood - are often extracted with little regard for the environmental impact. The communities are too poor to stop said extraction, leading both to a loss of their natural resources, and to environmental difficulties down the road.

In this case, the specific environmental impacts concerned are significant. At the very least, they lose the wood with no compensation, causing people to have to go farther and farther for firewood (which they require daily for cooking). But potentially worse, the impact expands to include desertification, which can lead to crop failures and food shortages.

And the village ends up dealing with the consequences because they don't have the power to stop it.

Except when they do.

And so it came to pass that, after the election of a new mayor (not the gentleman mentioned in my story), the commune of Narena began seizing charcoal by the truckload. All illegally harvested, all headed for Bamako. It came in to the mayor's office over a series of weeks, and sat there for days - a warning to all other would-be wood-bandits. After discussions with the community, the mayor's office sold it themselves, returning the proceeds to the commune.

It was a rare victory for good governance in a place where victories are hard to come by.

And I thought you'd like to know.

sorry guys...

I've been away from the blog for too long. It's partly because I've been busy; since my last post, I've been to America, trained Peace Corps Mali's new volunteers, and increased the amount of work I'm doing with my mobile bank. It's partly because sometimes I have so much to say that it doesn't fit neatly into a blog entry. It's partly because as my Bambara gets better, my English actually is getting worse, and my writing feels sloppy. And it's partly because this doesn't feel new to me anymore, and there is therefore less to say.

Not to mention, as one dear reader put it, it's partly because I just look so good rocking that Obama shirt, I didn't want to cover it with a new post.

And while those are all halfway decent excuses, I must acknowledge that it's largely because I just haven't done it. So please excuse.

Now, on with the show...