The past week was productive on so many levels and quiet on so many other levels. Heat has taken on a new meaning. I lived in Bahrain, a country in the Middle East, for 20 years. In 20 years, I did not feel the heat to the extent I felt this past week. Either it is the intense humidity or just the fact that I’m older and Utah’s cold weather has spoilt me. I feel extremely lucky that the kids and I have an air conditioner in our car and our home. To see the people outside experience the heat without these benefits is conflicting.
Also, I was extremely proud of my little man Keanen this past week. We have been working on his capital and small letters in order to prep him for kindergarten. This week we reached all the way to the letter “T”. When I tested him, he even spelled “TEST” out without a problem. I am so proud of him. He gets frustrated easily but he is sticking with it. He is also starting to ask more questions about Bambara and was able to say his numbers from 1-10 in Bamanakan to Yeah. Each day we play hide and seek with us counting to 10 in Bamanakan. The trick to learning numbers I found out is making a game out of it. Even Carmen is starting to catch on, though she says it half Bambara and half inputs an English word. So number eight which is “segi” in bambara became “seg-mommy”.
I have spent this past week watching the large rainstorms move through. Seriously, I have never seen rainstorms like the ones Mali has. The bugs the night before and the gusty winds announce a storm’s arrival like no other. Within 30 minutes to an hour, the storm wreaks its vengeance with thunder and pouring rain unmatched by Hollywood’s best storm scenes. When it passes, calm returns and the sun peaks out and the heat returns. I have also been trying to study Bambara from the Peace Corp book. I was lucky to be put in touch with a Peace Corp volunteer currently in Mali. She was able to lend me this book that has progressed my language skills faster than trying to listen.
Yeah too has been extremely busy. Meetings in Bamako, meetings in the villages in the South and meetings in Ouelessebougou make up his days. The man racks up more miles on his car that if there was a card for car frequent flier miles, he would get it. He currently is a jack of many trades: mayor to his 44 villages, presidential candidate, director for Mali Rising Foundation and most satisfying, a dad. He does all these roles with ease. Last Sunday, we attended a meeting attended by 30-40 youth( men and women). Yeah spent an hour with these youth addressing the concern of education and jobs. Mali today has an unemployment rate of 35%. The education system today is undergoing massive degradation at a higher level with many students not completing higher education. And if they do complete a bachelor’s degree, no job is available. This is a vicious cycle that Yeah hopes to break with increasing employment opportunities.
Friday brought villagers from miles around to attend a forum that was held in Ouelessebougou and headed by Yeah. The elder’s quorums of the surrounding 44 villages were in attendance. To explain a little, Yeah has created an elders quorum of advisers and the chief of the village. Who to better know their constituents needs than these individuals. These groups brought their issues and also were presented with the spending and tax collected in the last three months by the mayor’s office. In a way, it was accountability for all parties involved to show villagers how they are contributing to the success and failures of their leadership. An opportunity to witness decentralization on a local level. This is one of Yeah’s primary messages on the campaign trail: returning power from the central government to the lower governments. Citizens were also informed of the services provided by the mayor’s office, the cost involved and the time taken to provide these services. This was a unique opportunity for accountability instituted by Yeah that is singular to the city of Ouelessebougou. The national TV ORTM and 4 major news papers captured this important event and it will be broadcast on news today. It provides an awesome opportunity to broadcast the changes that one section of Mali is enjoying. All in all, a productive week.