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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Happy New Year!

I hope 2006 is a great year for everyone. I'm pretty sure it will be for me--there are lots of exciting things coming up!

Thank you all for the warm birthday wishes I received. It was a great birthday that did, in fact, include celebrating with ice cream and rainbow sprinkles.

But just in case you thought the celebrations were over...
Happy Tabaski! Tabaski is the largest celebration in the Muslim calendar, and we'll be celebrating it next week. Tabaski is the commemoration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son in order for God's will to be done. You'll probably remember that Abraham ends up sacrificing a ram after all is said and done. So have you guessed what I'll be having for lunch on Tuesday?

All is well here. I'm wrapping up my work in Balanzan, Kangaba, and Bamako. And I am beginning my job hunt. I am planning to begin work on a teaching credential when I get back to L.A., and to begin teaching math in the fall. In the meantime, I'll be looking for a teaching or tutoring gig that does not require a credential, and which doesn't conflict with my line dance schedule (!).

I can't wait to see you all in March!

Love,
Leslie

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Merry Christmas from Mali!

I'm spending the holiday in Kangaba. Tonight there will be Mass at the Catholic Church. Tomorrow the 7th Day Adventist missionaries will have a service. Then all of the English-speaking folks in Kangaba are planning to head right here to the computer lab for Christmas Skyping and IMing and e-mailing. What did we do before there was ther Internet??

So, a lot of you have been asking when it is that I'm coming back to the US. I finally can answer this question! My last day as a Peace Corps Volunteer will be February 24. hen I'll be taking a week to do some travelling around Mali. I'll fly out of Mali late on March 3. I'll spend 2 days in Paris with another Mali volunteer who's finishing up, then we'll be on the same plane to LAX on Monday, March 6. Look for me on the linedance floor soon thereafter!

If you're online tonight or tomorrow, drop me an IM. Or if you're in Southern California around March 6, let me know when I can see you! (I mean, if I'm not already going to see you on the dance floor...)

Merry, merry Christmas to everyone!
Love,
Leslie

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Happy Malian Independence day!

OK, I'm a little late. Independence Day was Sept. 22. There were big dance parties the night before, and then lots of drumming and dancing and speeches and karate demonstrations in the morning. I biked down to Teguecoura for the festivities. A good time (and rice with peanut butter sauce) was had by all!

The next day our new trainees arrived into Bamako! Welcome! I haven't had an opportunity to meet them yet, but I understand they are all healthy and enjoying their new Malian clothes. One of them will be my new teammate, assigned to a village named Teguekoro (not to be confused with Teguecoura where I was last week).

We had a whole week without rain, but now 5 days in a row with lots of rain. Still getting those radio broadcasts in when we can. Our current favorite topic is the importance of sending your children to school.

Latest reading has included Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods. Made me miss the ol Foothills and my favorite hiking partners. But March is coming up soon (she keeps telling herself), so look for me back on the trails then.

Lots of love and sunshine and peanut butter sauce from Mali!

Love,
Leslie

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Hello from Kangaba!

It's still raining, but we did get our radio shows broadcast on Monday and Thursday, with a bonus broadcast last night when one of my teammates came to visit.

It was a busy week. We had a training for representatives from each of the local villages on the new Drs; Without Borders program. The representatives got to hear all about the new meds and the new quick blood test. And they got lots of good ideas on how to present that information to the people in their villages when they arrived home. That was Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday we treated all of the wells in Balanzan (with bleach solution) and had our weekly market. One of my teammates biked to Balanzan, and then together we biked to our third teammate's village to visit. We were back in Balanzan Saturday. I made pizza for dinner (my cheese is getting better and better) and we had our special edition radio show.

Today we've had a good day in the internet center. I got to go to church in the morning. I'm still singing in the choir and loving it! We had a quick downpour, but fortunately it didn't interfere zith either our lunch or our internet connection!

Love to everyone! It's a good day for love.

Leslie

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Hello Friends and Family!

I never can figure out where all the time goes between posts...but here I am. Don't worry, you haven't missed much this past month! I'm mostly holed up inside against the rain.

You've been hearing a lot about the famine conditions in Niger. Last year was a very difficult one for farmers--there just wasn't enough rain. And then the locusts moved in and wreaked havoc on the crops that were able to grow. The problem in Mali is not quite as severe, especially not in the souther part of the country where I am. It has still been a very difficult year. Families who did not grow enough last growing season now have to buy rice, corn, or millet at an increased proce beacuse of the way the locust problem decreased the overall supply. Families are depleting their savings, but here in the south I really know of no one going hungry, praise be to God! Good news is we have had good rains this year and it looks like we will have a good crop. And other, non-staple foods like manioc, sweet potatoes, bananas, onions, and shea nuts (you put shea in your lotions, we put it on our rice) are already showing up in good numbers, so there is food available while we wait anxiously for the crop to come in (corn in September, peanuts, rice, and millet in October). Thank you for your prayers for continued good rains and a good harvest!


Other (possibly not-so-) exciting news around here:
I learned how to make cheese. Not any really good cheese, but cheese nonetheless.
Have you heard that new Weezer song, Beverly Hills? Very catchy. I've been singing it to myself ever since I downloaded it from iTunes 2 weeks ago.
I did finish reading The first Harry Potter book, in French, my biggest French accomplishment so far. I've actually been spending quite a lot of time studying French while it rains. If anyone wants to write to me in French to help me practice, I 1) will probably understand and 2) promise to write you back in French (uh, if that's what you want, that is.)
And speaking of Harry, how is that new book? If anybody has a used copy they would like to donate to Peace Corps Volunteers in Mali, I can promise you it will be well-used.
The Balanzan radio has had some bad luck these past few weeks. We can't broadcast during a storm, and it has stormed
the last 4 broadcast nights in a row (two Thursdays and two Mondays). Fingers are crossed for tomorrow. Last weeks Monday storm almost caught me and my teammate as we biked back toward Balanzan from Kangaba. Kangaba to Balanzan by bike takes about and hour and 45 minutes. And needless to say we were right in the middle of the trip when the sky darkened. But we poured it on and made it to Balanzan with just enough time to get a bucket of water from the pump before the sky broke open and soaked the land. it's the little victories...


Thank you all again for all of your support and good wishes. I promise if you write, I'll write back. Your letters and e-mails really lift me up!

'Til next time...
Love,
Leslie

Monday, July 18, 2005

Hello Friends and Family!

All is well but very wet and muddy here in Kangaba. Last time I wrote I was on my way to the US Marines’ House in Bamako for a 4th of July party. It was a nice afternoon, with hot dogs and Diet Coke and a special appearance by Lady Liberty. Plus some fun music from what seems like a lifetime ago. When was the last time you heard “She Thinks my Tractor’s Sexy?” I frightened a lot of my younger Peace Corps Volunteer friends by (first admitting that I’d even even heard of this song and then) singing along.
So, as I said, allis well here. The road to Balanzan is quite bad, so I’m hoping to spend the next 6 weeks in Balanazan and Kangaba. That doesn’t mean I won’t have means of communication--I still hope to get to kangaba once or twice a week (usually Sundays and Wednesdays, for you instant messengers--e-mail me for my IM handle) and I still get my mail in Kangaba:
My Name
Corps de la Paix
BP 74
Kangaba, Mali

There’s some great stuff going on here now. Doctors Without Borders have opened a new project in Kangaba with the intent of fighting malaria in the area. They’ve already finished training for the local doctors and are about to distribute their equipment to the local hospitals. They are providing free testing for malaria, which is cooler than it sounds. A lot of Malians will assume that they have malaria when it might be something different that’s the trouble, like the flu or a cold or just exhaustion. Sometimes they take the malaria meds when they don’t have malaria, and this can lead to the quinine not working later, or to resitant strains of malaria. Nows people will know if it really is malaria before they try to take the meds. AND, get this: Doctors w/o Borders is offering free malaria meds to kids 5 and under, and seriouly subsidized meds to everyone else (like, less that 20 cents instead of $20). Also included in the program are free mosquito nets for pregnant women and for any children who have been diagnosed with malaria. This is huge! My teammates and I are hoping to help out with trainings and with followups for the people who use the services.
The project in Kangaba is the pilot, with hopes to expand the program to all of Mali in the next few years. Good work, Doctors Without Borders!
We’re continuing to cover up the remaining soak pits and trying to get rid of all of the standing water in Balanzan. I am hoping to start working more with Kangaba, and perhaps other neighboring villages to dig soak pits. There’s still lots of work to do!
That said, there is also lots of time for reading and studying and reflecting and line dancing while it’s raining. So let me know your favorite books (or step sheets!). I just finished reading Mating, by Norman Rush, which has the best literary use I’ve ever seen of the melange of languages that one learns to speak in and to think in while living abroad. My next endeavor is the French version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Quite an introduction to French literature, n’est-ce pas?
Yosemite Gang, know that I thought of you every day that you were there, and I’m looking forward to joining you there next year. Half Dome, anyone? Or shall we just head straight for Whitney?
I miss you all and hope you’re well. I’lltalk to you soon!
Love,
Leslie

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Hello Friends and Family!

All is well here in Mali. How did I get so far behind in the blog updates? You must have thought I'd fallen off the end of the Sahara Desert. But here I am back at my blog and there's lots of news to catch you up on.

Of course I am back in Mali after a great three week vacation to the United States. That was quite possibly the busiest three weeks of my entire life! But it was a great trip nonetheless. In fact, I would call it magnificent.

Let me catch you up on what's happened here in Mali, both before I left for my vacation and since. And then soon I promise I'll have another 'day in the life of' entry for you.

April and May were hot, hot, hot! But we were lucky to have a few early rains which made it bearable for us and which made the Malian farmers very happy. Despite the heat we thought it would be a very excellent idea to ride our bikes all through the southern part of the Koulikoro region of Mali, visiting most of the volunteer sites there and working on whatever projects we could get our hands on.

Before I left to meet our team of Peace Corps Volunteer bikers in our starting town of Siby I explained to the people in Balanzan the project we would be working on when we (all 6 or 8 of us bicycling volunteers) arrived ensemble in Balanzan. Any family that had dug the hole for their soak pit and found the logs to cover it over would be treated to the spectacle of the lot of us volunteers finishing up the rest of the work for them. I was hoping maybe we'd arrive to find 5 or 6 holes.

There were 59.

Needless to say we were thrilled to find ourselves with more work than we could finish in one day, but we finished what we could and I have been working with the Balanzan families to finish up the soak pits that are left. If we can eliminate standing waste water in Balanzan, mosquitoes won't have a chance, which means no more malaria. Good work, Balanzan!

On the bike tour we also had exciting visits in Siby, Konkani, Djoliba, Kangaba and Sombo. We gave some training sessions on nutrition, some on infant care, some on income generation, and some on girls'education. We had a great time and all of the villages we went to loved having us--we were shown great hopsitality everywhere! We're already planning a tour for November.

We have had continued success with computer trainings in Kangaba and I continue to talk on the radio twice a week in Balanzan. During my first radio show after coming back from vacation I got some great news. Live on air the DJ told me about a meeting that had been held in Kangaba the day I was flying back into Mali. Representatives from 89 local village met, agreed that they want to stop excision in the area, and had a symbolic burning of the excising knives. Wow!

Thursday and Friday of this week all of the water and sanitation volunteers in country met at our training center to get cuaght up with each other and exchange project ideas. It was a nice relaxing time with lots of good suggestions made. The volunteers who swore in in March are excited to get started on heping their communities with trash collection, gray water management, and other water/san kinda of work. Du Courage!

I hope you're all planning a fun weekend for the 4th. My friends and I will go to the Bamako Marne House today for their 4th of July party, as we've been promised there will be real hot dogs with real buns. I hope your celebrating is jsut as special!

Love,
Leslie

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