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juliagladys [userpic]

Maid of Honor Toast

October 7th, 2008 (11:15 pm)

The week before I joined the Peace Corps, Anna called me and told me she had met someone hiking. I knew immediately that this was trouble. Throughout my two years abroad I heard snippets of how Anna and Rob's relationship was getting more and more serious. First they were spending a lot of time together, then they were living together, and then they had developed a new dialect of English that only the two of them understood. It wasn't until I was told by my mother that Anna and Rob were hosting Thanksgiving at their house for both my and Rob's parents that I really freaked out. The shock of Thanksgiving threw me off far more than the announcement of their engagement, which I also received in Africa.

Shortly after the news of Anna and Rob's engagement I went to visit a Peace Corps friend that lived in Dogon country, an area of Mali where the people live up in the cliffs. Her host dad is able to tell the future by reading cowry shells. He offered to read our shells for one dollar each. During my turn he asked me what was on my mind. I asked if I was going to find a job when I returned to America in a month and other mediocre questions. He assured me that everything was going to be ok in America as I adjusted to finding work and my future. He told me I was troubled about something else and to ask him what was really on my mind.

I told him, in my best Bambara, which was then translated into Dogon, that my little sister was going to get married and I wanted to know if this marriage was going to work, if she was making the right decisions. His answer was a little unclear, maybe because it was translated twice before it got to me, but I did understand that I had now somehow put the success of your marriage on my own shoulders. The old man told me that to insure for a happy marriage, not that it wouldn't have been otherwise, I must go and buy some sogo sogo bon bons (literally cough candy) and give them to kids I was to meet on the street.

I stepped off the airplane with the remaining two sogo sogo bon bons, intending to give them to you right now. I thought it would be so clever, at this moment to pull out this African magic that encompassed all marital bliss in the form a menthol candy. But ten months later, I've had the chance to get to know Rob and Anna as "Rob and Anna" and not just the Anna I knew before, and those little sogo sogo bon bons have lost all their appeal for me. What can an inanimate cough drop do for Rob and Anna that they haven't already done for each other? How can an African cough drop insure commitment, respect, patience, friendship, or love? It doesn't even help with coughs! So forgive me for doubting you. I see now that you don't need the assistance foreign witchcraft in your marriage because you have everything you need in each other.

juliagladys [userpic]

I cry on holidays

November 25th, 2007 (12:06 pm)

I cry on holidays. This is not something I that has started recently. I remember distinctly as a preteen, post Christmas present opening, I would go to my room and bawl, not because I didn't get what I wanted, but because I was that person that was upset because I was upset that I didn't get what I wanted or that I didn't want what I got. I was hard on myself for being self-centered enough to let something like a sweater upset me. Think of all those with out, I'd tell myself. Or why are you acting so spoiled.

But now, I've traveled. I've lived abroad. I know how much I personally need to get by or survive and honestly feel that I want to keep my life simple. So why am I crying today on Thanksgiving? I'm crying because I've realized that my family is not really in tune to what I feel important. Suddenly I’ve been pulled from my world of simplifying life, focusing completely on self improvement, and reintroduced into what America tells American are pressing issues: being the first in line at the post-Thanksgiving day sales, whether all the guests have a “real” wine glass, ridiculous things that (for me) don’t matter at all. How can everyone be caught up in all that hype? Can’t people see that it is just marketing? It is just companies telling individuals that this or that is important just so they can sell it.

I had different expectations for my Thanksgiving. I thought it was going to be more of a family bonding, like those of my childhood, than an extension of consumerism. I thought we could block out all the advertisements and media, but instead a place, with “real” wine glasses, was set at the table for them.

These issues are ones that I have most likely overlooked in the past, but they really bothered me this year because 1) I had just returned from Mali, and 2) I was really sad that I no longer have any grandparents. Maybe in the past, I was focusing on my family more because the hub was there. We would come together for my grandfather. I am disappointed that the bond within that side of my family died with my grandfather. My father did not even call either of his siblings to tell them he was coming to Denver. I don’t understand that.

In Mali there is no term for cousins. Extended family falls under your brother or sister, this even extends to neighbors. Aunts are mothers, uncles are fathers.

I’d like to see more cohesion within my family like that. But I realized that my priorities are different, due to my time in Mali, I am able to label what exactly they are. And because my family doesn’t share these priorities, because my aunt is busy putting pre-made pies in the oven according to her schedule, because I feel estranged, because my grandfather isn’t around to bring us together, I cried on Thanksgiving.

juliagladys [userpic]

On being home

November 12th, 2007 (12:51 pm)

I've been back in the states for two weeks. I keep intending to sit down and right something meaningful and profound to wrap up my Peace Corps experience, but in all honestly, I keep getting distracted by all bells and whistles that are distracting about American life. And I've hardly left my house. The internet, for one, can waste hours of your day and years of your life. Suddenly you come to and wonder where your day went?

I know I have interesting things to say about being back, but they are laying dormant inside until all the frenzy of interstate highways, dvds, iphones, youtube, endless cheese options, hummer limos, microwave buttons, and automatic coffee makers. Then maybe I'll be able to put what I feel to words. I know I want to. I know I should (Dell basically gave me an assignment to do so). Just know things are different here.

juliagladys [userpic]

An article I wrote for the PC Mali newsletter

September 7th, 2007 (10:02 am)

“Somebody Poisoned the Water Hole!”
How PCVs Can Get Involved with Guinea Worm Eradication in Mali

Earlier this year everyone in Peace Corps Mali was a buzz about going to Gao to fight the fearsome guinea worm. PCVs had jumped on the guinea worm boat in a big way and were just waiting for Peace Corps to tell us what the deal was. However, due to lack of clarity regarding what to expect between PCVs from the bureau, Peace Corps from the Carter Center and vice versa, nothing really happened. If going on a guinea worm trip is something you are interested in, it is still possible, you'll just have to take things into your own hands, which is exactly what Sarah “Juicy” Zuger, Rachel Emmick, and I did.

Back in the day guinea worm was quite widespread, reaching all the way to Europe. Interestingly enough, the snake on a stick symbol that is used today in the medical field originates from healers’ signs depicting place to come for guinea worm extraction. Today, guinea worm cases are decreasing as organizations, such as the Carter Center, fight to stop transmission. Mali is one of the few remaining countries in the world with guinea worm cases, mostly in the Douentza, Gao, and Kidal areas.

For those of you who have not yet read Where There is No Doctor from cover to cover, guinea worm is transmitted by ingesting drinking water contaminated by guinea worm eggs. When an infected person enters the water source, the worm pokes out of the wound it creates and sprays its eggs into the water. Water fleas, acting as the primary host, pick up the eggs. The eggs cause the fleas to become lethargic and float to the surface of the water hole. That way, when someone new comes to drink from that water source, they scoop the surface water, including the tiny fleas, and ingest the worm eggs. The worm takes around 9-12 months to develop. A painful sore or blister forms, usually on the lower part of the body, and the worm will poke out when it senses water to continue the lifecycle.

The Carter Center doctors and staff are working to eradicate guinea worm in Mali in three main ways: distributing cloth water filters that catch the infected flea, chemical treatment of contaminated water sources, and isolating current cases to ensure they do not contaminate water sources. Guinea worm can be easily avoided if everyone in the area follows one or more of the above guidelines. If infected people stay out of the water, or if everyone agrees to filter their water it will break the guinea worm lifecycle. But as an extra measure of safety, the Carter Center also puts a chemical called “Abate” in the water holes to kill the water fleas.

Treatment for someone hosting guinea worm is simple, yet painful and slow. Once the worm sticks out of the wound it should be tied to a string or a small stick and slowly pulled out. This process may happen quickly or over a week. The worm can be more than a meter long! It is important that this process happens slowly and thoroughly because serious infection may result if the worm is broken. Also, it is very painful for the patient if the worm is forced out more than it is willing to yield.

PCV roles on guinea worm trip is mostly observation, assistance handing out filters, and making calculations on the quantity of chemical to be put in any given water hole in order to make sure the local Malians aren’t putting to much in, which they usually are. Marcus also suggests that if Peace Corps wants to get involved in a big way we can set up “guinea worm week” in more permanent communities, especially around the Douentza area. Ideally PCVs would go house to house handing out filters and teaching about the importance of avoiding or filtering contaminated water and conversely, not contaminating water if you have the worm.

If you do want to go on a guinea worm mission, you can expect, judging from our trip, to have an awesome experience. Though the days were long, it was the highlight of my Peace Corps career. I felt like I finally made it to that romanticized Africa you always see on TV. Expect to get up early to a huge breakfast of greasy spaghetti and a tabaski amount of “bush meat,” drive, en brusse, to the most remote villages (not even huts, just stick support structures with leather hide tarp) you’ve ever been in your life, see camels, hand out filters, poison water holes, hunt antelope and utards (giant birds) from a land rover, drink cow, goat, and camel milk, meet the most hard core and rustic people in the world, extract some guinea worm (if your lucky), see incredible sunsets, eat a dinner of greasy zamé and another tabaski amount of meat, and do some awesome star gazing. Just remember to bring what you need for bedding, maybe a mattress if you have one, something for rain, wind, and chill. And don’t worry if you don’t speak French. The three of us got along fine without it (the doctors all speak Bambara as a first language). I highly recommend you all take advantage of this opportunity as, Inshallah, guinea worm will soon be extinct. It really is an opportunity of a lifetime.

juliagladys [userpic]

Bonya Binna (Respect Fell/Failed)

August 5th, 2007 (07:32 pm)

It is hard for me to accept the fact that the Malians I repect are promiscous, men and women alike. I want to believe that those I look up to have the same standards as I do. This causes me to reevaluate what I consider to be my standards. Does this bother me because Mali supposedly has a conservative muslim culture. I don’t think it would be so bad if they were unmarried, but these Malian men, even with their two plus wives are still hanging around with younger girls and I want to believe thay are just good friends with these young ladies, but I know there is no such thing as “just food friends” between men and women in Mali. Or there is, but it usually involves sex.

Yesterday my homologue took me to see his new house. I like and repect my homologue, I’ll admit I even had a crush on him. He never really treated me sleazy like a lot of Malian men would and have. I respected him all the more for that. He just got married a couple weeks ago. I went to meet his wife, see his house, and gossip about work counterparts. It was a nice time and all, even though his wife wasn’t super friendly toward me or said anything or even smiled at me.

After that we stopped by the hospital to pick up something and Daffe (my homologue) walks up to this girl he obviously knows and starts chatting away. The girl stands up and takes his hand and they stand there talking hand in hand. I was very uncomfortable. I wanted to say: please, be professional! I don’t want to think less of you because of what I’m seeing right now. When we left the hospital to take me home we saw the same girl again and stopped to talk to her again, erasing all doubt in my mind that something was going on between them.

A similar fall from grace happened to me before in Diabaly when my friend Abba came back from a month in Bamako, the capital. We were talking about all the clubs we like to go to when he comes out with how great it is to be at the club with three hot girls sitting around him. Then he tells me think thinks me teammate Sarah is hot (a ka kalan deh!).

Abba is a father figure to me; hearing about his promenades in Bamako was bad enough. It was so much worse seeing him in action, in Diabaly, in his own house, in front of his wife and kids. It made me sick. Anyway, there was definately something going on between him and a neighbor girl. We would all be at this house watching TV and his conversation/explaination was targeted just for her. Any time a team scored a goal or anything noteworthy happened in the latin soap opera, he would use it as an excuse to touch her. I was uncomfortable for his wife, but she just sort of pretended like she was being the family friend she was. What else could she do?

Even my supervisor, when she came to visit me, flirted shamelessly with my male co-workers. Is it too much to ask for a so called professional to act that way? Do they think that Americans have looser standards, judging by what they’ve seen on TV, and as a result feel they can be more open with me? Or is that just the way Mali is and I’m overly sensitive about it?

Whatever the situation may turn out to be, I still don’t want to believe that these professionals, father figures, mentors, and supervisors aren’t any different from the common Malian sleaze balls I have to deal with on a daily basis.

juliagladys [userpic]

ps

July 14th, 2007 (04:02 pm)

We just got our COS (Close of Service) dates. Looks as though I'll be here until November 2.

juliagladys [userpic]

Return trip to Diabaly (June 29)

July 14th, 2007 (03:45 pm)

I am remembering all the things I love, and left because of about Diabaly. I arrived last night after waiting for a mobili from 3pm to 7pm. Once we finally left, I tried to think of an explitave to express the frustrations i felt from being jerked around by prantigis and then remembering my fear of the muddy Diabaly road. I decided on strong enough had not yet been invented. I was trying to fight back the waves of nausea just long enough to vomit outside the bashe while convincing myself that the trip was going to be worth it.

This morning I woke upto the giddy giggling of disbelief and excited whispers of "Kumba Nana!" by my favorite kids. It is only 10am but we have already had a great time together. Some things are just like when I left. Papa still follows me around like a puppy, which I love, and have to admit is probably the main reason I went back, Dada still knows our secrethandshake and Le Vieux stills knows "Flea-Fly-Flo."

Some things have changed too. Abba lost a tooth (the front one) and his electricity, and Papa has some weird eye boil infection. Other people live in my house and there is a cell phone tower one block away from it.

Although the flies here are bad, not to mention the mosquitoes, and the sewage mud is well on its way to taking over the roads, the connections I have made there are the most genuine. I am Diabaly Ka yere yere yere yere. Here I'm seen as a daughter and friend, not a status symbol. They ask me how Markala is and it is fine. I've realized working in Mali is not like working in America (duh!) no matter how structured the organization, and that perhaps I lack the iniative to "do projects" with so much flexibility.

Anyway, Diabaly people are the ones that have given me the highlights of a cliche rrewarding Peace Corps experience and I love them for that.

June 30

I just went to market with Papa. His mom gave him 25 CFA to spend however he wanted. He decided to buy a single teabag. it is so cute how very excited he is about his solitary teabag.

juliagladys [userpic]

June 20 meditations

July 14th, 2007 (03:22 pm)

The Niger is my peace. It is where I can be myself again. No longer am I "Toubaboo" or "Kumba Bah," just Julia-who-sits-in-nature.

From my perch I can watch my daily hassles drive by with only the quietest whisper of diesel engine. I can see the gendarme points, but don't have to think about how they all want to marry me, or at least get a poke. Instead I can focus on the fishing pirogues that silently drift back and forth as if they were merely the shadow of a large bird on the water. I can focus on the small flock of goats ( 5 white, 3 brown, 3 black) sweep the area for edible treasures. The Fulani shepard pops from shade tto spot of shade, keeping a careful watch, although non-chalant in manner.

I wonder about this bench I'm sitting on. Every time I come to this spot I see it, but never anyone else. It seems forgotten. Like me, it is out of place here. The roughness of the sawmarks makes the cruelty of cutting a living tree down, mutilating it until it is reshaped into a bench, all the more realisitic.

Why is this useful bench going unused? Especially after the transformation of its "real" figure into utilitarian form?I could start listing our various similarities, me an the bench: rough around the edges, scarred up by Mali, simple, yet useful. But really we are misfits. We are misfits in Mali, however in this spot we are in harmony with what we should be: Julia-who-sits-in-nature on a bench-that-should-be-a-tree.

The periodic breeze sends us five different bird songs, Allah in the distance, and the refreshing cool of riverside peace. I wish I could spend the rest of Mali in this moment, at this spot, on the bench.

juliagladys [userpic]

Amerika

May 29th, 2007 (11:23 am)

I feel that it is time for me to make a little update here, although I have not prepared anything profound or moving. Turns out that life isn't always profound or moving, so there you go.

I'm writing this from the comfort of my sister's bedroom in Mapleton, Utah, with my good old friend from the college days, "PowerBook G4" and the convience of wireless internet. In short I'm happy not to be sweating while paying for the priveledge of internet time.

I'm home in Utah for a little vacation. Mali got hot and I had some vacation days to use up. Plus I needed this. I have been equally enjoying the luxeries America has to offer, warm showers, cool weather, sandwiches, drinking fountains, and coffee, while being disgusted by how fat the cows and horses are, and how much mountain side the city of Springville is allowing to be cut down in order to build HUGE houses. I'm realizing things are going to contiune to change here and that I'm just going to have to let go of the idea that "home" will stay as pristine as my childhood memory of home is.

As my father likes to say, "Life is hard and then you die." (I'm not sure why I've just included that...)

As far as Mali goes, I'm in the home stretch. I was playing with the idea of extending for a few months to a year, but that is slowly slipping from my mind. I realize that even if I put off making life desicions for another year, they will still be waiting for me. Procrastination and/or guilt are not good enough reasons to stay. Besides, something is telling me it is time to move on.

All the wonderful things I said about my new life in Markala were maybe a little premature. Not that things are bad, but as they say, "not all that glitters is gold." I say this becuase my new people are not used to treating me the way I want to be treated. I'll call it forceful pampering. And I won't say there wasn't a lot of tension between myself and my host family over issues such as the quantity and quality of my meals (they were upset that I wasn't eating enough, apparently enough is a family size bowl of rice or macaroni or any speciality dinner swimming in oil just for me), my lengthy bike rides (a three hour bike ride is just excessive), and me handwashing my own clothes. But things are slowly straightening out. They think it strange that I want them to treat me "disrespectfully" but really I'm trying to hold onto to a little bit of independence.

As far as work goes, I'm discovering the tension between the NGO and the testing center. It is interesting to learn the dynamics of each organization and see how, when push comes to shove, and it does often, who can behave professionally and who can afford to sulk like an eight year old. Nevertheless, I'm pleased to be part of something that is actually working and that is important, like AIDS prevention. I've had many casual conversations on this topic and it amazes me the range of what people understand compared with some of the myths others believe: you get AIDS from eating rice, using condoms, or AIDS is a lie the white people created to control Africans. But still I'm happy to be working with educated professionals on important issues.

And finally, I just have to say, to all my wonderful friends, that I'm so proud of you. It is amazing all things you are doing. You may not think so, but that is because you are too zoomed in. When I come back, and I haven't heard about all your going ons, and we catch up, I am floored by all the impressive things you are working on, and I'll admit a little jealous too. So here's to all my atheletes, musicians, PHD students, movers and shakers. You guys are making a profound difference in the world just through doing what you love to do. I honestly believe that this is the most important thing. Effective change in the world comes from self-improvement. As cliche as it is, this is what I've learned in Mali. So you all, don't underestimate yourselves or downplay what you are doing, because I'm amazed by you.

juliagladys [userpic]

New Contact Info

April 2nd, 2007 (10:41 am)

This is my new contact information:

Julia Day
Corps de la Paix
BP 33 Markala
Segou, Mali
West Africa

223-547-5491

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