Monday, January 24, 2005

ahhhh! snow!

hiding out at home in boston. trying to dig out my car. just put in 1 hour, and i've done one side of the car. damn. too much snow and nowhere to put it. welcome back to the usa. no fun.
and just when i felt i was almost back here. getting things going again. stuffing up my schedule with too much stuff as usual. calabash, producing a couple shows, afropop, dance, the usual.
drifts up to 6 feet or more, about a solid 4 feet all around my car. insane. no one in mali would believe this stuff.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

thanks for this

"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."

-jesus, from the gnostic gospels of thomas

long time no post

hello out there. so this has been a very interesting week. trying to adjust to being back in the usa (still), having people (mis)read sections of this blog and go on to high drama, etc.
i think one of the biggest things that is strange is living in a house basically all alone. my 3 roommates are rarely around, and if we overlap in the house, it is for a couple minutes. so strange. i had to go to the coffeehouse yesterday to just be around other people. this life we lead in the us is so isolating in so many ways.
i had a great dinner and discussion last night with mf (names shortened to protect the innocent). anway he and i talked about this project that we're wanting to do, which would be really great if it happens. it should be exciting to watch this whole thing happen. then we picked up his girlfriend and went to see "huckabees"
interesting movie. funny stuff. i had more to say about it, but i'm going to run off now. see ya!

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

culture lag

i'm not sure if it's jet lag or culture shock or both or what. anyway, it's a tough little re-entry process. went to the supermarket tonight for essentials and of course that just totally bugs me out. i also think all the quiet is really freaking me out. bamako was never silent like it is here. not in a house with 30 people moving around, not with people playing radios and stereos all over, not with animals running around at all hours making noises. chickens crowing, donkeys doing their sick ass (ha ha) noise thing, dogs fighting/mating, etc.

remember africa . . .

Romilly Greenhill, policy officer for ActionAid, said deaths as a result of poverty and preventable diseases in Africa amounted to the equivalent of the tsunami death toll every week.

Africa is the only continent to have grown poorer in the past 25 years.

It is the continent with the largest number of people living on less than a dollar a day - 49% of the total population. [in Mali, that number is somewhere around 70% of the population living on less than $1 a day!]

One African in three is undernourished.

Twenty-eight million people in Africa are now affected by HIV/Aids.

There are 11 million orphans in Africa as a result of Aids.

Africa also accounts for 90% of global deaths from malaria, and a woman in Africa is over 100 times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than a woman in a developed country.

(from the BBC)

the minister of sound

listening to "edou" last night, i was taken back to fiji for a sec. edou was one of the groups that was headlining the festival in fiji in november. they are a traditional/reggae/pop group from new caledonia. good stuff. lots of fun to listen to and to dance to. anyway, listening to the cd i was reminded that their guitar player is the minister of culture. that's right, the guitar player is a minister! nice. kind of like brazil in that they've made gilberto gil the minister of culture there as well. get some people who actually know music in positions to help other musicians. edou's guitar player is a great guitar player and a great guy as well. fun thoughts and remembrances . . .

Monday, January 10, 2005

my favorite photo from fiji so far. i figured since i got this thing sorted out to post pictures, i'd put this up as well. this girl grabbed the ukulele that had been used in this village by their string band and was happily 'playing' away. so cute. even better when she grabbed the guitar (as big as her) and tried to play and then carry that. too much.
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one more post

one more post for today. got lots to get off my mind and lots of writing to do here and in my journal to get back to the states mentally. leaving mali was tough. i had never really known what the phrase "parting is such sweet sorrow" meant until now, really. before after big trips, leaving places i had always either finished what i came to do, wanting to get the heck out, or just wanted to get home or get wherever i was going. however, this trip i really wanted to stay but really wanted to get home. i had some wonderful trips and was with some wonderful people, but was really ready to get home, get back to my wonderful friends here and get back to work. hence the sweet and the sorrow. (kind of like sweet and sour food, but different)
sidy, ba and kadi all took me to the airport in a cab. now that the air france flights arrive and leave at night, getting to and leaving mali is a different story. now you drive through town both ways in the dark and when arriving, don't really realize where you are until morning.
at the airport, check in was easy and my bags fit the weight limit. i even had the same porter as in 2001. he recognized me from the music videos i was in last trip and started up the conversation again from 2001. crazy stuff.
i left the airport to hang a bit with ba, sidy and kadi and then they left and i went through customs, security etc. managed to spend a little bit of cash on some last minute souvenirs. and spent some time talking with the aforementioned nurses from utah. they were really great, and it was nice having that conversation.
on the airplane, i finally got a chance to see some photos of the tsunami disaster and read a bit about that. shocking. i feel like each trip i take to mali, some huge disaster unfolds. i hope that is really not true cause i want to go back. the first trip was sept 11 and this trip the tsunami. it is really interesting how i rely on photos to give me a sense of what is happening and what is real. i had of course been listening to the bbc and rfi and knew kind of what was going on with the tsunami and that hundreds of thousands had died. but it didn't really sink in what was happening until i saw the photos in the magazines. wow.
france. cdg airport is a bad place to spend lots of time. alone. not well organized, so lots of lines, lots of confusion, expensive expensive food, fairly dirty, etc. but i made it out and made it home to be greeted by karen and lucy. and i've spent the past 36 hours kind of unpacking, but really just adjusting mentally to being home. my room is a disaster since i had 8 hours to drop unpack and repack between fiji and mali. so it'll take some time to sort out. and of course post africa, i have this urge to just throw all my stuff out. or rather find a way to get it to those with less.
just a reminder that i am extremely lucky and priviledged. trips like these are always humbling and grounding and centering. if i haven't called yet, don't take it personally, i'll be easing back into life here. thanks again to all of you for your support of me in these journeys. stay tuned. . . . . . .

one more photo for today. this is m'ba couliblay, one of the kids at the coulibaly house. ami, another 'kid' at the house, took this photo after i showed her how to use the camera. good stuff.
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a bunch of these photos, including this, were taken chilling just outside the coulibaly's house. the white/pink building on the left with the ambulance in front of it is Asacado, the local health clinic for the neighborhood. i didn't check it out this time, but last time when i went in and found one patient room with 3 beds and 1 IV stand, one birthing room with metal table, one stirrup, one set surgical pans, one pair rubber kitchen gloves. and in talking to some nurses i met at the airport on my way out of bamako these are good conditions for mali. they had just spent 2 weeks in a village outside bamako as an ob/gyn surgical team helping with births, doing a c section and putting women back together after their many births coupled with hard labor right after.
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ba (aka jiffy), the 2nd youngest child at the coulibaly house. last trip he was petrified of me and his cousins had great fun putting him in my lap and watching him scream. this time he was always around wanting to play or hang out or snuggle. a terror and a sweet kid at the same time. he was always wanting to see my photos and look at my family and friends (and see what else he could get his hands on in our room or see what other trouble he could find). here he is practicing his karate.
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a woman at the compound where the woman who did all of my bazin dying lives. bazin is the white cotton which is dyed by collectives of women in the markets or in neighborhoods. it is then made into all of the really fancy clothes in mali. djeneba, a friend of sidy's, did some nice work for me to help create some clothes for me, calabash and my folks (merry christmas mom and dad).
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pickup soccer, malian style. the kid in the blue shirt is adama, one of seydou's nephews and one of the 20 or so kids that live in the compound i stayed in. despite repeated requests to jump into a game, i stayed on the sidelines . . .
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a sotrama (from society du transportation mali or something like that. these are the private public transportation vehicles for most bamakois. these are owned and run by private individuals who hire drivers and prantigis (apprentices - the guys who hang out the side door and holler out where the sotrama is going and collect your cash). but they run on set routes and have set fares and i think are regulated by some aspect of malian government. anyway, for 100 cfa you can go to the market or for 125 cfa you can go all the way downtown from where i lived.
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more kids, these guys were some of the 50-150 in attendance at each of the dance classes i took. always a fun thing to have 100 or so onlookers watching you dance. anyway, they were obviously excited by my great dancing ;) or maybe it was just that they could see themselves on the screen of my video camera. great invention that, allowing the screen to flip so the photo subject can see themselves. always sets off a great scream of joy from the kids. it is really funny to watch the video when i flip the screen and the kids realize what's going on.
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some kids in kolokani, rokia traore's village, watching the filming of the 1 giant leap sequel.
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culture shocking

so i've been back in the states now for 36 hours or so. and i'm still in culture shock. i think it is unavoidable, and not sure exactly what triggers it; the cold, the snow on the ground, driving, the amount of food on the plates at restaurants, the prices of everything, the supermarket, the number of white people, the lack of kids running around everywhere, the tv in the house, the fact that i can actually drink the water from the tap (not that i have yet - some things are just habit and harder to break), seeing pictures of the tsunami, seeing the amount of crap i have in my room, . . . . . . .
the list goes on.
needless to say, mali and boston are 2 completely different worlds.
and the transition between those worlds is not an easy thing. i think i was fooled a little bit on the trip over and my transition into mali, as it went pretty smoothly this time. no major disease episodes, no major problems with food or language. my stomach was able to better handle some things (watching animals being slaughtered or prepared for eating, open toilets, open sewers, etc) and i was just less shocked by things and my senses were not as on high alert as they had been last trip. the smells and sights and sounds while still there and still noticed were not accompanied by alerts and shock like they might have been before.
i'm trying to download something so i can upload pictures, so i'm going to cut this post short and get that up and then write more. as you can tell from the time post on this blog, my body is still adjusting and i am feeling like i have to write right now.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

back again in the ussa!

i'm back in the states and starting my readjustment process, including relearning how to type on an english qwerty keyboqrd. as you can see, it'll take a bit of time.
i'll be around at 617 776 2857 until i get my cell phone back up and running
more later

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

ahh mali

i can't believe it's time to go. i've confirmed my flight out of here on friday, so am counting down the hours. mali is great. i don't know if that is cause i know i can leave at almost any time, or really cause it is a wonderful country with wonderful people or some combination of the two, but i will miss it when i leave.
taking care of final details, getting in final dance classes, going to a final ceremony, etc etc. although it has been 'cold' here lately, with temps dropping into the 50s at night, and i have been putting on long sleeves, i'm quite scared to come back to the lovely boston winter. just in time for it to really start being nasty. although i am also actually looking forward to being home.
in these last couple of days, i have started carrying my camera and video camera with me. normally i don't carry either cause they are nice expensive targets for theft and it is also culturally quite rude to take photos without asking and video the same. the video is great cause it also takes stills, and i can show people the stills right away. amazing. they love it! and i love it cause i get great photos!
anyway, i am off home to finish up some stuff there, and will probably next post from boston allah so na ma (inshallah/god willing)

Monday, January 03, 2005

bad day to be a chicken . . .

new years eve is a bad day to be a chicken in mali. everyone prepares chicken with onion, carrot and a couple other veggies (peppers and ?) on new years. the coulibaly's went out and bought 10! everywhere there were chickens being killed (cut the throat) and defeathered, either straight away or after being soaked in hot water for a bit. then the women butcher the chickens and start em cookin.
ba and i got the new years started by getting stuffed with this fresh chicken at the coulibaly house. full and in new outfits (ba in new 'american' jeans, shirt, hat and me in a bogolan boubou and hat) we got in our rented taxi and started out. picked up allison and sidy and headed across the river to visit abdoul doumbia and one of sidy's friends, chris. got to abdoul's house, found a bunch of toubabs drinking beer and hanging out. sekou camara was also there, which was nice to see him. we hung out for a while, then i found out abdoul was home, so i found him, also good to see him again. sidy made the mistake of inviting our taxi driver into the house here, and he was part of our party for the rest of the night. not really a bad thing, just kind of wierd. here we are, four friends, with this tag along guy. but who are we to deny him a happy new year party as well?
we then headed over to ramata diakite's house, as she had invited me over earlier in the day. we hung out a bit with her and her husband, and again, got fed lots and lots of chicken. this was also good stuff, but it was farafin chicken, not the toubab chicken we had at the coulibaly's. the difference will be apparent shortly. toubab chicken are like toubabs, well fed (maybe over fed), farafin chickens are like africans (farafin), fed.
this was the awkward part with the taxi man. ramata's husband basically told him to stay with the car, but he came in and sat down and ate with us anyway. too funny. also funny was ramata's guardian (house guardian) trying to take all of our picture. i don't think the guy had ever held a camera, much less a crazy one like mine with parts sticking out all over the place. i explained how to take a picture, he said he understood, then he looked in the viewfinder and pointed the camera at the ceiling. nice. we'll see how the picture turns out, but it was too funny. midnight struck as we were at ramata's house, and firecrackers were going off all over the place. more about them later.
we then headed out to one of the free concerts happening on new years. all the clubs were charging ridiculous prices, fine for a toubab alone, but not happening for a toubab with 2 malians in tow. prices started at 5000 cfa (10 bucks) and went up from there. i actually don't think there was admission under 20 bucks anywhere that night. this in a country where 70 percent of the people live on less than a dollar a day. a well paid functionary can bring home somewhere around 2000 dollars a year, but the artists i hang out with are making about 20 - 40 bucks a month from ceremonies. so how they got away with charging this stuff is beyond me, except that there are lots of toubabs and mali's small middle class must all come out on new years.
so we headed for the tower of africa, where ORTM, the malian tv station was having one of their 3 live shows. big crowd, artists lip synching to recordings which sometimes worked, and lots of firecrackers. (mom stop reading) it was a little unnerving, a little exciting. i think we were the only 2 toubabs in the crowd. anyway, we stuck around for a little bit, but we bailed after a particularly large explosion close by. allison was pretty unnerved, and that's probably good, cause i would have been happy to stick around, which was probably not the best idea. anyway, we headed out, looking for a cabine telepone to call moussa and joh and find out what was up with them. we couldn't get ahold of moussa, but found joh at his mother's house with his toubab crew. we found them, and again were stuffed with tasty chicken. i had enough, my stomach was about to burst. so we just chilled at joh's for a sec, letting our bellies expand for the chicken.
we then headed out to try and find a spot to dance the rest of the night away. oumou sangare had finished her concert, and by the time we got to the paradise club, it was after 4 am. so we bailed, leaving joh and crew to dance it up for us. made it home by 5 and got a good couple hours of sleep before the new year officially started . . .