It's been a while since my last post, and a lot has happened in the last couple of months. PST ended and I've finally moved out to my site for good. As of right now I only have limited internet time, so this will be a bit short. We're having it installed at our transit house in Bandiagara, where as before I've had to go to a NGO office and share with a bunch of different people which doesn't do much to boost the connection speed. Anyway, site's going really well. It took me a few weeks to develop a routine that I really like, and I've been meeting a ton of people. Being a volunteer in a big city like Bankass is a much different experience than living in a small village. Another volunteer that moved to a small village just outside Bankass, about a km away has a completely different lifestyle than I do, and I could walk to his house in 10 minutes.
My routine is fairly stable now. I wake up about 6am and go running. I have two different routes I take depending on how long I want to go for. One goes way out into the bush on a sandy path for about 3k, the other follows one of the two roads out of Bankass and heads towards the Falaise. I usually go about 5k to the next village off the main road and then head back. After that I bathe and make breakfast for myself- eggs and bread I bought the night before and some tea with powdered milk and sugar. Then I clean up and get ready to go to the CSCOM at about 9am. I ride my bike through the sandy streets for about a mile to get there. It's not far, but the thick sand makes it a good workout. I could take the main road, which is out of the way a bit, but that would involve stopping to greet a hundred people on my way and Malians get really offended if you don't greet them, so if I'm in a hurry, I take the least populated paths. I'm at the CSCOM until 1230, where I just sit and talk to people. I'm not allowed to do any medical procedures, and even if I could they wouldn't need me to. There are a bunch of employees and they keep things locked down. So I just greet people and talk to them, drink tea and eat peanuts. I'm just starting to trust my language enough to begin doing presentations. I've been going around the city with my homologue doing a baseline survey of different families in each of the 8 neighborhoods. It just consists of a list of basic health questions I came up with to get an idea of what the community would benefit from. I've noticed that people don't understand anything about nutrition here, which is probably why there are so many cases of malnutrition. Family planning, water sanitation, and malaria are widely understood. Unfortunately people don't always practice these things or take measures to prevent malaria, mostly for monetary reasons, but at least they know that they should. Another huge issue is hand washing with soap. That is going to be a major issue that people don't take seriously, although if you asked they would say that they do. As you've probably guessed, people don't use tp here, so there's really only one other option. If there's no soap involved, it can cause huge problems. The popular Malian belief is that you can't see it, it's not there, so water is good enough. I plan on teaching the women's group here how to make shea soap so that they can sell it at the market. But since there's really no problem with availability of soap, it's all a matter of getting people to understand why it's so important.
The remainder of my day is spent trying not to die of the ungodly heat. I go chill with my homologue and his family for lunch and take a nap in a hammock under their shade tree. It's impossible to keep from sweating constantly. My one solace is the overpriced ice that's shipped in every day from Bandiagara. I've never been more in love with ice than when I came to Bankass. I go hang out with other random groups of people after it cools off a bit, and drink more tea. My tutor moved his family into my compound this week, and they speak passable english so I end the day with them. We just had electricity installed and so every 2 days for 2 days, from 7pm- 12am, I get to watch french dubbed brazilian soap operas, soccer, and whatever pirated movies we have available. My tutor, Damango, has over 100 pirated dvds that are sold everywhere here. each dvd has at least 10 movies on it. The other night we watched the Dark Knight in french.
Internet times up so I have to go. There's so much more crazy stuff I'll post later, along with some pics. Thanks for reading. Love you guys,