This blog represents my views, and not those of the Peace Corps, the government of Mali, or anyone else.

Looking Forward to a Wedding

In March of 2014 I visited Mali again.  Any second now, I may post photos from last year's trip.  Don't hold your breath, though.

Next month I'm going back again to Mali to celebrate something I've been looking forward to for five or more years.  My Malian best friend is getting married!

Between my 2014 visit and now, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.  The main symptoms I experience are pain, 'brain fog', and fatigue.  I've gone from running half-marathons to being in debilitating pain for days after only a half-mile run.  Now I stick to aquatic exercise and walking.  Cold weather increases my pain, so I am looking forward to getting out of late fall in upstate New York and into early "cold" season in Mali with an average low of 58F and an average high of 91F.  I am not, however, looking forward at all to the two days of travel to reach my destination (three hours of train travel followed by 18 hours of air travel, and then after a brief sleep, a seven hour bus ride).  I'm not looking forward to sleeping on a foam mattress.  I'm not looking forward to a five hour time difference.

Since my diagnosis, I have traveled by car across the US, which left me exhausted and washed out for well over a month after a 10-day trip.  By the sixth day, my pain level was so high I stopped being able to enjoy myself.  I am terrified of spending all of this money and time to travel back to Mali and being unable to enjoy myself.  I am worried about brain fog - the lack of cognitive function - flaring up and stealing my ability to communicate.  I'm worried about trying to explain Fibromyalgia to my Malian friends without either making it sound much more severe than it is or minimizing it so much that they don't factor it into consideration when making plans for me.

Part of me feels totally prepared - ready to leave tomorrow, let's go!!  The rest of me thinks that I have way too little time and I will never be able to get myself together enough to even take the first step.  Sorry, scared part of myself, I already have the plane tickets, and I've taken the first, second, and even third steps by now.  It's time to get serious about my plans!

I have a few ideas for making it easier on myself.

  • I've printed off a French description of Fibromyalgia to show people.
  • I'm planning on actually packing light for once in my life.
  • I'm hoping to shift when I take my medications little by little so that there won't be a sudden 5-hour shift the day I arrive.
  • I'm not planning to travel much in-country once I actually get to my destination city, Koutiala.
Hopefully I'll come up with a few more ideas before I leave!

3rd Goal Talk at MVCC

I'm giving a talk at Mohawk Valley Community College tomorrow and I wanted to include resources in case people want to know more about Mali afterward!

Update:  Here's a more comprehensive list of links for further reading from UCBerkley!

First of all, questions about Peace Corps service, benefits, opportunities, and so on are answered at the Peace Corps official website, and there is also a wealth of information at the Peace Corps Wiki.

General information about Mali is compiled in the CIA World Factbook.  Information about travel to Mali is found on the Dept. of State website.  The World Bank has put together an amazing set of resources on their Data website.  You can even zoom in on the Climate Change rainfall map to Koutiala (the city I served near) to get location-specific information!

For information about the conflict ongoing in Mali, I trust fellow returned Peace Corps Volunteers Peter Tinti and Bruce Whitehouse.  Al Jazeera is also a dependable source.  Not all English-language reporting of Mali has been either coherent or factual, so look for reputable sources (e.g. people actually reporting from Mali, or people with solid backgrounds in what it is they are reporting on).  Here's a good place to start!

I believe that this links to my GooglePhotos or whatever it's called, and several albums of a technical nature are visible.  Here's a flickr set of photos from my last few months in Mali.  My partner also has a set from his 3-week visit to Mali.

This blog, itself, is also a sort of record of my experiences.  Feel free to ask any further questions in the comments.  Thanks for your interest!