These past three weeks have been quite busy for me and the time is going by insanely fast, only two more weeks left in Mali for me (Ahh!). I hope that everyone’s had a good holiday season- I’ve had an enjoyable but unconventional one. I’ll start two weekends ago:

The director of the Mali branch of the program, a sunny guy named Sounkalo, got married! Though we didn’t know it until it was happening, the four YES girls and I were the bridesmaids for the wedding. The night before, as is typical in America, there was a big dinner for all the family and close friends. For this occasion Sounkalo and his wife decided to wear the traditional Malian wedding attire, and on the actual wedding day wore the western-style tux and wedding gown. Being the bridesmaids, we were dressed up in beautiful hand-made shell jewelry and traditional Malian celebration clothes. There’s a process that involves mud and a lot of work to make the clothes, but I’m not sure how it’s actually done. The dinner was a lot of fun, especially getting dressed up like African princesses, and the wedding the next day was a blast.

Sounkalo and his wife at the wedding dinner

Traditional Malian festive clothes

The next weekend was Christmas! The YES girls and I all went to Ambassador Leonard’s house for Christmas lunch and festivities. We were in great company- the director of PeaceCorps Mali attended, along with some embassy workers close to the Ambassador. It was pleasant to eat American food again, and I’ve gained a considerable appreciation for the American cuisine. After lunch we sang Christmas carols, watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and exchanged stories.

Ambassador Leonard and the fab five YES girls

The week following Christmas was le composition, cue screams of terror. It’s the same as mid-terms in the US, except the whole week is super hyped up and all around stressful. But I got through it, and hopefully passed all of the exams, excepting physics, which I definitely failed.

This past week was the congé, which means I’ve been off of school. It’s been a nice and relaxing week, though I haven’t gotten as much work done as I had wanted to. It’s tricky staying on task in a house with so much activity! On Tuesday, I took a bunch of the kids to a local park called Cité des Enfants, which they were all very excited about. Before going, they told me about all the lions and giraffes that lived at the park, so I thought it was some kind of zoo, but it turned out that scattered throughout the park were hundreds of small statues of animals. Basically the same thing. On Wednesday morning, my favorite aunt here had her first baby. Everyone was rushing around in excitement, and I got to hold her- she’s really beautiful and very tiny!

So that brings us to this weekend. On Friday afternoon the YES crew and I headed out of Bamako about 2 hours, and camped overnight in a rural village. It was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.  We danced late into the night with the village girls, and fell asleep under an incredible starry night sky. It was a relief to be out of the city for a little bit; the fresh air and empty land that seemed to go on forever cleared my head. Last night, while I was walking through the village, I asked a man who had been educated in Bamako but moved back out to the village, “Isn’t it lonely out here?” And he replied with, “Yes, sometimes. But in the aloneness, you get lost, and then you find yourself again.” I thought that was pretty profound, and I sort of wanted to camp out in the village for a couple weeks after he said that. But alas, we turned back to Bamako on Saturday, and waved goodbye to the giant baobab tree and friendly villagers.

The village of Kella, about 3 hours outside of Bamako

Packing it up!

I thought this was a really cute picture of Moussa. He learned how to clap! So precious!