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

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!

Home is Wherever When I'm With You

I made it back to the ridge, to my sister, to "home." Who knows what that really means, though? My heart is in so many places I can't even list them all. Seeing my father, mother, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparent(s), and other family is a delight. It's so exciting to meet all the new additions, young and old, to my family. My friends are laughter and reminiscences and reassurances that some things don't change. But some do. I've visited some of my favorite places again, and ate my favorite foods.  There's new beautiful babies to kiss, and a whole new world to readjust to.

I'm used to going out of my way to fit in.  I've spent two and a half years trying to change myself to become more like the people around me.  That's what cultural integration is.  That's how I assimilated into Malian culture.  Unfortunately, Americans go out of their way to avoid fitting it, and value individuality over conformity.  This adds a level of discomfort to a lot of situations I'm already uncomfortable in, like being in grocery stores and malls. There's an acceptable range of differences between one and ones neighbors that's ok: neither too like them, nor too far from normal.  I don't know the limits of the range and feel like I'm constantly over-correcting one way or the other.  At least I know I'm still nerdy.  And there are constants like Becky to balance myself against.  And there are safeties like Doug to experiment with.  And little by little, I'm re-familiarizing myself with the balance between space and socialization in public places.  You can smile at most anyone, but only wave at other drivers you don't know in you're in Tennessee (not New York).  They really need to write a cultural manual for the US... but it would be prohibitively long.  Maybe they could just write, "Just be yourself."  And include a definition of who that is...

I miss my friends from Mali. Rache's infant nephew died two weeks ago, and it tears my heart out not to be able to be there with the family. Grieving always sucks even more by yourself.  I've spoken with Rache on the phone, but I wish I could do more.  I just miss her in general, too.  It's strange to be disconnected from the other volunteers, too.  Every so often I think of something funny to tell Jeff, or a recipe idea for Claire, or a nerdy thing to say to Colleen... and while I could email them these comments, they really lose a lot of value crossing the Atlantic.  I worry about how Pamela and Samuel are getting on.  What's that about a pillar of salt?

Now I am trying to find a job. I've applied a few places, but it's probably time and past to ramp my search up a little.  Engineering jobs in CNY, even environmental engineering jobs, don't grow on trees.  I just bought a car that's older than I am.  It's a diesel, and I hope to run it on homemade biodiesel some day when I've gotten my life together.  There's commercially available biodiesel around, even in Syracuse, too.  Doug and I and another couple are looking for a place to live together in Syracuse.  I'm backseat driving for that quest, since I'm down in TN with my mother for a little longer, but I'm very excited about it.  It's going to be so amazing to really unpack for the first time since August began.  One of the things I noticed about myself while in Mali is that I enjoyed living there, but I don't really like traveling.  I like being established someplace.

So that's where I am.  Wherever 'home' is, I'm headed that way.  Maybe I'll see you there.