Bonjour and I ni sogoma! Things in Mali are going really well; I find it hard to believe that October is already upon us.
This week has been as wonderful as any, though these past few days have been hot. After I returned home from school on Friday, I walked into the living room to find all the little ones sprawled out on the carpet, just laying there watching the fan’s lazy rotations. I said to them in French, “It’s a beautiful day, you guys! Go outside and play!” They all just gave me this look that said, you are a fool if you think people can actually function in this nonsense heat. However, they wriggled around to make a spot for me on the carpet, and I admittedly didn’t move for a good couple hours.
Lately, I’ve been taking walks around the neighborhood during my down time. I find that it’s a great way to see the area and interact with people. Most everyone I come across is just so friendly– the typical greeting here is to start with a “hello” and a few “how-are-yous?” and then move on to “how is your family?” and sometimes even go through asking about all the individual family members. The whole thing is a very sweet, good-humored exchange. When people on the streets find out that I have a little bit of Bambara knowledge, you would’ve thought they just won the lottery, they’re so excited. It’s not uncommon for me to have women laughing and shouting with glee after I say I togo Aleema (My name is Aleema, which is my Malian nickname).
Which brings me to another topic: the communication here. I remember before leaving the US, I was told to be conscious of indirect communication while I studied abroad, and that oftentimes my host-family or friends would not tell me that they’re unhappy with me. However, I have found the communication here to be quite the opposite- it is very direct. The people like to voice their opinions, and they want to make sure everybody is hearing them. Pretty much everyday at school there is some type of yelling-match between teacher and student about a difference of opinions, though it seems to me that for most of these disputes neither of the arguers really cares much about the subject at hand. For example, just on Friday, one of my teachers was talking to us about how the girls must always wear skirts going past their knees at school. One girl, Nana, started full-on screaming about how unfair this was, and it quickly turned into a battle-royale between student and teacher for a good fifteen minutes. However, I figure that neither really had much at stake in this argument, because no one conforms to the dress code, and the teachers don’t ever seem to care (except for the sake of arguing, in this case).
The amount of yelling that goes on here, however, is surpassed by the abundant laughter and shouts of delight. People here laugh loudly and honestly, and I can never help but join in, even if I have no idea what I’m laughing at. This kind of infectious, genuine joy that so many of the people here possess has made me quickly fall in love with this country and its’ citizens.