I’m back at Tubaniso for a few days before venturing out for a short visit to the town I will be living in for the next two years!  For security reasons, I won’t be posting my exact location on this blog, but I can provide general info that will enable you to better understand the type of environment in which I’ll be living, as well as the kind of work I’ll be completing during the coming years.

Upon arriving at Tubaniso on Thursday, we had a site announcement ceremony where I, and all of the other PCTs, found out our sites.  Understandably, we were all anxious about learning where we would be posted for the next two years, so it was great to “get the news” surrounded by our support system here and see which of our friends would be close to us or posted in a cool place to visit during our service.

My site is in the Koulikoro region and is about 140 km from Bamako, the capital of Mali.  What I know about the town thus far I have gathered from the report of a former volunteer that served in my community several years ago.  Although she served in a different capacity than I will be, her general comments about daily life in the town seem very positive.  One of the most interesting pieces of information she provided was that there is one day per year reserved for weddings in the town, and hundreds of people get married on that day.  I’m sure I will be able to dedicate an entire blog post to this event after I experience it in Spring 2011!  More to come…

In addition to learning our sites, we were also introduced to our “homologues” or counterparts.  These individuals will serve as our language, culture and adjustment partners at our sites and will facilitate our integration into the community throughout our service.  My counterpart seems really fantastic and knows a bit of English (he’s fluent in Bambara and French).  I’m looking forward to working with him throughout my service to ensure I’m able to accomplish as much as possible, while also being sensitive about the cultures and norms of my site.

Throughout the next few (3-6) months I’ll be learning more about my role as a volunteer while settling into the town, meeting the influential members of the community, and assessing the community needs and where my skills can best be put to use.  At this point, it seems that my main project will be assisting a women’s association in the town with the production, marketing and selling of shea butter.  I’m really excited to learn more about shea and the role it plays in the lives of the women in my community.  It will also be interesting to see how shea butter production fits into the economy of Mali, and discover in what ways the improvement of production and selling of the product can improve the lives of the people of Mali.

I head to my town tomorrow (Sunday) – I’m sure that my week-long stay there will provide plenty of blog material to share with you when I return to Tubaniso next Sunday!

Until then – Ka tile here caya (in Bambara, may the rest of your day be blessed)