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This is Africa

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BC: DEPARTED | MALI | DEC 10, 2012 | La fin | Mali | Morocco | France

FC: Out of Africa

1: Bamako | OCT 22 -DEC 5 | Okay! We arrived in Bamako after a series of long flights stopping in both Toronto and Paris. In Paris, I had lunch with Alisha who took the train all the way from Albertville to come see me! It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and I was so glad that I got to spend it with her. Next, we boarded a flight to Bamako and after 6 hours, we arrived in Mali where this adventure begins. The airport in Bamako was a bit crazy a full of strangers trying to “help” us with our luggage but with much confusion and a bit of patience we managed to make it out of the airport and to our new home in Africa! | Morocco | France Dec 10-12 | DEC 7-10 | Oct 21-22

2: Oct 22

3: Our house is extremely authentic. It's mostly open spaces with a goat pen, cool trees, and chickens running around. We have to shower with buckets, go to the bathroom in a hole and brush our teeth outside by a tree. It's a lifestyle that's going to take a little while to get used to. After a little chat with our new African family, Katey and I curled up in our bunk beds (with no pillows or sheets) and fell fast asleep under the protection of our mosquito nets. | A day in the life....

4: Bathroom and Shower in 1 At our place, there are 2 stalls each "equipped" with a hole in the ground for doing your business and a roomy area for showering. My tactic is showering as far away from the bathroom hole as possible. There are thousands of spiders hanging from the ceiling and the cockroaches in this area are abundant. Also, sometimes you need to choose between a bathroom stall with a piece of pooh on the rim, cockroaches hanging out in the hole or a toad family hopping around. I always choose the one without the cockroaches. A month from now I'll be grateful for a real shower. | At our place, there are 2 stalls. Each stall is "equipped" with a hole in the ground for doing your business and a roomy area for showing. My tactic is showering as far away from the bathroom hole as possible. There are thousands of spiders hanging from the ceiling and cockroaches in this area are abundant. Sometimes, you

5: Planning | Eating | Dressing | Getting used to the food in Mali was definitely hard! Everything there was deep fried and drenched in oil. Breakfast throughout the week usually consisted of pastries but during the weekend, we got a delicious egg scramble. In the evening, we were served a delicious dinner consisting of vegetables, fish or chicken. Shockingly, despite the fantastic food, Katey and I lost weight during the trip. | Lesson planning in Mali was a struggle. Katey and I had absolutely no room to concentrate, very little supplies to work with and after a long day of teaching, barely any patience. Together, with support from each other, Katey and I both passed our practicums! | Dressing in Mali was a chore- usually with a hilarious result. Katey and I lived out of our suitcases for the entire 2 months, shared clothes and because of the cultural standards of dressing extremely modestly, wore ridiculous outfits. In this photos Katey's getting ready during a power outage....

6: Every morning at 5:30, Katey and I were woken up by the loudest, most terrifying singing that either of us has ever heard. A loud speaker (which was positioned right outside of our window) played prayers loud enough for the entire neighborhood to hear. It was extremely hard to get used to and I don't think that either of us slept a full night in that house. | Sleeping | Door... | Bunkbeds: Katey's is on the left and mine (with all the junk on top of it) is on the right. | 5:30 am bathroom run... | * The most terrible thing in Mali would have to be this loud speaker | Sleeping & Lounging

7: The Loudspeaker

8: Brushing | Teeth Brushing Teeth brushing in Mali was the same as in Vancouver (brush, paste, water) but instead of standing by a sink, we had a designated tree where the entire family brushed their teeth.

9: Laundry | Exercising | Tidying | Laundry always took forever and was definitely a work out. To do laundry, you needed to get three buckets, fill one up with water and suds, one up with water to rinse and the other to put the washed clothes in to keep them clean before we took them up to the roof (and put our delicates in our room) to dry. Quite the experience. | For some reason, our room got super messy almost overnight with muddy footprints, papers from doing our homework (or arts and crafts) and just the mess of two girls living out of their suitcases in one room. Yes the mess was mainly mine. | Katey is the cutest... and also made me feel quite guilty during the trip. Almost nightly she would invent new ways to exercise in the privacy of our room using anything: water bottles, chairs, the bunk beds or lying on the ground. Power to you girl! You look great!

10: La Famille Hydra | I don't think Katey and I could have been placed in a more accommodating family. Despite the fact that we were never invited into their actual home or to eat meals with them, they are some of the kindest people that I have ever met. The brothers were extremely patient and helped us with countless frightening experiences that happen during everyday life in Africa: cockroaches under Katey's bed, ant infestations, carrying boxes of bottled water from the store to our room and much more. Madame and Monsieur Hydra were so welcoming and from the moment we arrived, treated us like family. This group of people made our adventure not only memorable but life changing.

12: Bonjour: Ani sogoma | Bon Apres Midi: ,Ani kle | Bon Apres Apres Midi: Ani oula | Bon Soir: Ani sou ! | Comment vas-tu ? : I ka kn? Je vais bien: tooro sit | Au revoir : K'an boufou White Person: Toobaboo! | Merci : I ni ce ([tié]) | Gas station on the side of the road

13: Typical Gas Station

14: Oct 23 Today was a whirlwind. Unfortunately, Katey and I did not sleep well last night (perhaps a combination of the intolerable heat or the prayers that woke us up at 5:30 in the morning) but we managed to have a fabulous time. We met a girl from California, Ally (randomly our next door neighbor) who invited us to a Malian wedding. We all piled into a car with Ally and her friend Amelia (who has the craziest eyebrows that I have ever seen) and went to a wedding. It was like a nightclub where everyone drinks pop, eats weird crisps and dances. After we exhausted ourselves from dancing, eating, drinking and meeting people, we went to the national park of Bamako where we met the rest of the girls. | Waiting for the chauffeur... | Oct 24

15: Katey and I had a hard time sleeping last night but we were still ready for the day. We had to get up early (at 7:30am) and quickly got ready for our driver to arrive at 8. We waited until 9:30 (Mali time) where we met the rest of the girls at PHARE. After we went to the grocery store to buy water and TP. Next we went to a restaurant for lunch where we had some delicious food. After lunch we headed home where “we” (mainly Katey) cleaned up our room. At home we got a lot accomplished in terms of devoirs and had a nice long talk.

16: Quelle journée! Quel chaleur. Today was a very full day. We left the house for PHARE at 7am and visited all the schools that the girls are going to be working at for the weeks to come. All of the schools were classically African. The average amount of students in each room was 70. There was no paper or pencils, lights, 3 kids to one desk and an untrained teacher. After we visited all the schools, we went for lunch and then to an Ethiopian dance performance at the French cultural centre. The dancers were amazing and moved their necks like no one I have ever seen before. When the performance was over Katey and I went home only to find a cockroach in our room. Luckily when the boys heard us screaming, they helped us get it out with several long sticks and lots of effort. It was hilarious. They finally got it out of our room, and Katey gave them a bunch of chocolate to thank them for their effort. In all, it was quite an eventful day! | A l'ecole... | Oct 26

18: Today was spectacular! We went to Siby and we visited a rural school there. It was so cool. We, of course, greeted everyone and were greeted by everyone because that's what you do in Mali. After that, we saw their super equipped library and visited their multiple schools. It was very neat. When us Toobaboos got out of the car, we were swarmed with children. They were so excited to see us! We went to every class and entertained the kids for a while. We then had lunch at a random resort of green beans and rice. Delicious. After, we went on a hike up a beautiful mountain with panoramic views and rock faces. | Oct 27 | A day in the Mandé mountains... | The area of Siby is surrounded by granite mountains (pictured). We went for a walk up to a hill with an arch. The story is that this arch is a result of a meeting between two powerful tribe leaders.

19: Today, the prayers went on forever! Super Annoying. We finally just got up and lazed about until breakfast. We did homework for most of the day (shockingly productive) and decided that we needed to do laundry- which was an adventure. We got 3 buckets: wash, rinse and dry. It took forever, but it was fun and hilarious. My clothes were filthy. We hung them upstairs and ran out to the Halloween carnival at the American school. Getting there in a taxi was a chore and a half. Abdel had to explain by phone to the driver how to get to the American School and Katey and I had to take the shittiest taxi ever. We were a bit scared for our lives. When we finally arrived at the American School, the carnival was super fun. We met Lindsay and Vicky there and drank apple fizzies and ate pizza. There were little kiddies in costumes everywhere. We had the best time playing musical chairs. We arranged to play just us (the big kids) but a huge black kid wanted to play too! I was nervous- there were cupcakes on the line. Katey won, and the prize was a tray of beautifully decorated cupcakes that tasted questionable but you take what you can get in a 3rd world country when it comes to baking. | Oct 29 | Happy Halloween

20: Oct 30

21: Sunday we basically rested for most of the day. Katey and I did homework and hung out. We've been here just over a week and I know almost everything about that girl and the same goes for her about me. We don't have anything else to distract ourselves with except each other so, we talk a lot. In the afternoon we went on a boat ride on the Niger with the entire group of girls. It was incredibly pleasant. There was a lot to see: people fishing, washing, beautiful homes, rambled down shacks and much more.

22: Today some super funny stuff happened. My class (pictured) wasn't there so I stayed in Katey's class with her and her prof would just not stop bothering me. He just kept talking to me all day. So I may have said "I hope that this class gets rocks thrown at them so we can leave." We laughed our asses off. This seems out of context, but a few days before Tabaski the older kids "liberate" the younger one by throwing rocks in the classrooms and on the roof. Katey's class was unfortunately the only one left in Missera E/F. Then Katey's teacher practically forced us to go see his house and his quartier. After that tiring day at school, we had lunch at the Relax then went to Sylvain's for a pointless meeting and worked on our lessons. Quite the eventful day.

24: Tabaski 2011

25: Today is Tabaski! We were invited to watch the special Tabaski prayers at the mosque. We walked along the deserted streets to find everyone praying. There were so many people. We walked quickly so we could have some alone time at the house. When we got home, we had cold bucket showers and were barely dressed when it was time to sacrifice some goats! It was a bit sad to see. The boys cut open thee goats' throats and held them down until they bled out. We were then whisked off to Mr. Hydra's second wife's house. The streets were basically empty- except people killing and skinning goats in their driveways. We sat at her house for a bit, and she gave us mango juice. When we came home, we found the boys dismembering the goats. They were skinning them and cutting off their heads. Katey and I watched and took some comical photos of us holding them. It was cool to see. We then tried to help Madame cut meat off the bones but everyone just laughed at us- apparently we are super funny in Africa! While cutting the meat, Madame, Ousmen and little Suma cut their hands and I had to administer first aid to them. After the eventful morning, Katey and I basically read all day and went on a little walk around the quartier. Tabaski was quite the experience! I finally felt that everyone had warmed up to us and Katey and I were finally really comfortable here- except of course in the bathroom which continued to terrify us.

28: Today, we got up early to go to school. When we arrived, there were no students and only a few teachers. We were told that no one was there because everyone was at home with upset stomachs due to Tabaski. After driving around for a while, Katey and I went for a little walk through the park and then we took a taxi to the Grand Marche. The place was a dump almost literally. We were attacked on all sides by people wanting us to look in their shops. We then took a cab back to Phare and got a ride home. When we were at home, we decided to dive into the wine that Katey bought us and it was awful. I did not like it but Katey was a champ and finished off the bottle! We talked for a while about whatever, and then we decided to go get our new identity photos taken which was hilarious. They are so bad. We went to a little blue place up the street and the guys there laughed at us- of course. On our way back from taking our gorgeous photos (featured on the cover) Katey and I bought a pastek, and we came home to a delicious lunch of fish, veggies and rice. A group of boys eyed us from their little circle of blue chairs (having a boy pow-wow) and an old man who I suspect is blind continues to live here. He practically lies on his little cot all day and rarely moves. The maid continues to destroy our privacy. She's always coming into our room without asking and simply saying "ca va" in her weird little voice. She stares at us for ages, and sometimes she will make herself comfortable and will watch us work. She watched us for over 20 minutes one day without a word. She's so strange. In the evening, Katey and I went on a short walk around the park and Katey almost stepped on a goat's head hiding randomly on the grass. Eyes open & no expression! It scared the crap out of us. There is always a need here to watch for motorcycles. They seem to swerve intentionally close to you. Cars and taxis honk and Sautramas putt by full of sweaty people. I have noticed that people here are either friendly or not- there is no in between. This being said, overall people here are friendly, chatty and very curious! Especially the children! Some of them are seeing white skin for the first time. "Toobaboos" they all shout which means white person. | The day after Tabaski.... | Dec 8

30: Segou Nov 11-13 | Nov 11 Our chauffeur was early (as usual) so we quickly packed and went to the bus station. We waited for an hour and when the others arrived, we realized our bus had already left. We had 7 am tickets not 8am! So we all clambered into Baba's car and raced to go find the bus! It was hilarious! We finally caught up, and we got on as quick as possible. We thought we lucked out by getting 5 seats in the back but quickly realized that no one wanted to sit in the back because it's HOT! I thought that my sandals were going to melt... for 4 hours. | Squeezed in the back of Baba's car... | Sweating in the back of the bus...

31: Our hotel in Segou is beautiful: pool, palm trees and adorable! We did lots of shopping when we arrived but the vendors here are crazy! Incredibly pushy. After, we had a nice dinner and a party in Lindsay & my rooms. Katey broke out the red wine and hung out on the beds. We had lots of laughs, shared ghost stories,and drunken stories. | Party in Lindsay and my room

32: What a marvelous day! We got up and went for breakfast - a piece of bread and some coffee (typical African breakfast.) After we went to this very cool place where men were making rugs, blankets, and scarves. It was kind of like a monastery- men all in beige silently working away. We got a detailed explanation about how everything is made and we got to make our own little tissues with symbols of different meanings. We then hopped on a motorbike tuk-tuk which was super fun but a bit scary. Quite an interesting start to the day! | Nov 12

35: Our next activity was a tour de pinace. It took about 45 minutes and was stinking hot but very pleasant. We saw a nice little donkey paradise with donkeys with birds on their backs quietly eating grass. We finally got to the island of pottery and it was beautiful.

36: The island of pottery....

37: The island of pottery is so authentic and so cool. There were little mud houses, cute naked and dirty kids running around holding our hands and little chicks everywhere. We played a little game with some kiddies and talked to some locals. It was so warm, the afternoon seemed to go on forever. We took the pinace back to town and on our way back to the hotel, got seriously harassed by the vendors. Not the type of thing you want to deal with when you're tired, grumpy and hot! Oh well c'est la vie au Mali.

38: Au revoir Segou! Back to the busy city of Bamako. | Nov 13

40: Today was great! The chauffeur was on time (not too early) and my lessons went well. I'm teaching my class different colors in French and how to make comparisons using the word "comme". Ex. C'est vert comme un sautrama! It's cute but as soon as you think that everyone understands the concept, you "check" their understanding and you realize that about half of them don't. Oh well my teaching skills will improve with practice.... right? | Nov 18

43: What paint is to a canvas is what education is to a soul

44: Nov 19 Today Katey and I mainly relaxed. She napped for about three hours and I did a bit of homework. In the afternoon when she woke up we went on a coca-lite run. I am addicted! When we got to our favorite corner store we were happy to discover the there were also little chunks of butter for sale! We got coca-lites and a chunk of butter to make the box of Kraft Dinner that Katey's mom sunk into her suitcase. When we got home, we managed to make dinner over a propane tank in a frying pan. It was delicious and fun. I put a piece of fabric that I bought in Segou down on the floor and Katey and I had a picnic. Yum. After, Katey and I went to "le Fourmi" to buy candy and then to the Relax for dessert. We ordered cake and coffee. Delicious. Then Katey and I went to Le centre culturel to watch a circus from France. The circus was fantastic and there was the most attractive acrobat. He was about 6 foot 5 and ripped. I would have been happy to just look at him from an hour.

45: Nov 23 During Wednesday's seminar, Daphne was sick so Sylvain taught in the morning- it was super fun. We learned German colors. After the semina,r Katey and I spent the afternoon at the Relax. We then went to the concert with our Jumelles Maliennes. It's so beautiful at the French cultural centre. The group was awesome. The singers were fun: 2 boys, and a girl wearing a super slutty dress.We danced the night away. The jumelles were a ton of fun especially Fatou. When a slow dance came on, I danced with a guy from Denmark and Cat with the cute singer. I can't express the fun we had! We basically got the whole place going and we totally made the party. We didn't get home until 11- pretty wild for Bamako! | La fete avec nos Jumelles | Last day at Le Relax

46: Nov 30 Today was great. We didn't have any oatmeal so we bought some bread at the end of the road which we peacefully ate on the steps of the IFM. Today was not nearly as painful as the other weeks at the IFM. For most of the morning we took pictures with our jumelles and played some games. After lunch, we passed out certificates and did a fun scavenger hunt. Now Katey and I are packing and getting ready to spend the next couple of days at Lindsey's and Vick's. Now that we are leaving, I am feeling much more positive about being here. This has been a very interesting and amazing experience!

47: Group shot of all the teachers, Jumelles Maliennes and Canadian Student teachers. | Beeswax juice bags | Evelyn, Madame Male and me ...

48: Dec 2 After our last day of teaching, we went to Le Relax. our favorite restaurant and celebrated. We shared our finals together and Daphne treated us to desserts. After our treat, we went to go say goodbye to everyone at PHARE- it was actually really touching and sweet. We shared our experiences and thanked everyone for making the trip possible. Then Mr. Coulibali (the head of PHARE) gave us all necklaces. I am sad to say goodbye. When we got home from PHARE, we had a long walk with Coca lights. We felt really positive and happy. Everyone was so nice. It was a great walk. We looked for fabric along the dusty streets and we met some hilarious teenage girls who loved us. They were so excited to meet us. They told us that they wanted to be our friends and that we were beautiful. We then stumbled upon the most amazing little central market. The shops were all in the center and they were held up by spindly branches with tarp roofs. There were flies all around the meat and the vendors. We walked into the interior and the lighting was super neat. We found people selling fabric, and we both finally found something we wanted. When we got home we had a glorious dinner and took pictures with most of the boys. After our delicious dinner, we were sad that it was our last night! Mr. Haidra said he wanted to talk so we went and sat with him and "Madame" he calls her "le ministre de l'interieur" which I think is really cute. Anyway, he told us that he was super pleased with how we had integrated ourselves with the family. I was pretty touched because they cared that we were there. They gave us some cool bracelets and beautiful bassin which is a decadent fabric. The entire night was very sweet, and we really felt the love. Everyone seemed super sad that we were leaving, and Hama kept telling us that he was going to cry. In the evening, Katey read with Souma, and we sang the songs A,B,C,D which is different in Africa and "bonjour tout le monde". It was a lovely day in Garantigubougou!

50: Dec 3 Our last day in our beautiful African home. Katey and I had breakfast which was made up of some nice peanut butter, bread and croissants and then eggs! We relaxed, packed everything up, cleaned with the stick broom until our little area was as clean as it could be. We started our good-byes and walked along to find some fabric. The market we stumbled upon was really cool: lots of people, meat covered with flies, fruits, vegetables, clothing and almost everything you could imagine. We walked home saying silent goodbyes to all the stores and houses that we grew to love. When we got home, we ate our final lunch, took photos and said our last goodbyes. Off to Anna's house we go! | Dec 4 The mosquito net chez Anna is super annoying- it's huge and always in the way. The bathroom besides us doesn't lock, has no light and no toilet seat. Katey and I sat and ate a leisurely breakfast of tea, mangoes, and bananas. We then went on a long walk to relax to get booze and cake for Sarah's birthday. It took a long time, but it was nice to get exercise. We bought lots of wine to make sangria. We took a cab home and relaxed. We made tea and sat on the gorgeous terrace. Forgot to mention the children that live here are little horrible beasts. For dinner Katey, and I had peas, pasta and pastek.Then we had our birthday celebration. We drank rose, made Sangria in a huge pot and ate cake. We definitely got a bit tipsy! | Weekend Chez Anna's | Sylvaine's house... | Our new room. | Sangria party.

51: Breakfast at les 2 moulines | Waiting in the airport with Special K & passports

52: Dec 6

53: Marrakesh, Morocco | We made it to Morocco! After a very long border line, we found our adorable taxi driver! He told us about the city and taught us some Arabic words. The city is so neat. Aladdin would love it. After many roundabouts, twists, and turns threw tiny alleyways we made it to Hostel "Chennoui." It's all made of mosaic and has a beautiful entrance with fountains, curtains, couches and potted plants. To say it's beautiful, is an understatement. The people are adorable and they brought us mint tea and biscuits- so good. We booked a camel trek with them for Thursday and Friday.

54: Dec 7

55: Woke up at 6:30 and felt excited. We had a beautiful breakfast of crepes in the main room. I felt like a princess. It is so beautiful! Compared to the warm weather in Mali, Morocco is much colder- especially in the mornings. We were freezing so we brought our blankets downstairs and ate a delicious breakfast. We had coffee, O.J., bread and jam. We set out without showers because it is far to cold to get naked and wet in the morning! We took a slightly wrong direction and ended up far from where we wanted. The little winding streets are fun to explore and I think we saw some interesting neighborhoods. We saw adorable kittens everywhere, horse drawn carriages, little archways and neat architecture. We were sent to an apothecary where a super nice guy gave us a long explanation of different kinds of medications and creams. We bought some beauty supplies and continued our adventure to find the market. When we arrived in the square, there were exotic things everywhere: orange juice stands, snake charmers, monkeys on leashes and women doing henna. We had monkeys put on us- it was a neat experience but at the end they wanted 10 euros each. We didn't want to pay that much, so I paid and Katey ran away! In the evening we had a delicious and very filling couscous dinner with cucumber and orange juice. It was nice to be full for once. In the evening, we went through the market trying to avoid as many vendors as possible. | A day around the Riad

56: Dec 8 | Camel Trek through the Sahara Desert

57: We had another early start of the day and sat with our blankets and ate breakfast. It was cold and dark. We were then rushed off to a bus to go on our camel trek. It was mostly full of Spaniards but there was this one gorgeous French boy sitting in front of Katey and me. The ride was long but it stopped lots for bathroom breaks in very strange small towns. We passed countless old villages made of earth, ruins, casabas and the view from the Atlas Mountains was amazing. We had to go on many mountain trails and my heart was in my stomach for most of it. We then stopped in a small town where we disembarked from the bus and got on camels. The camel trek (we were told) is a painful experience and the fact that I wasn't wearing any underwear didn't make matters any better. After about 2 painful hours, we finally arrived at a beautiful base camp where we ate a delicious dinner, had a drum circle around a campfire and then went to bed in these adorable tents.

58: Base camp in the Sahara Desert. | Dinner tent | Campfire drum circle

59: Night in the desert! | Sleeping tent | Watching the sunrise over the Sahara | The entire group

60: In the morning, Katey and I woke up bright and early to watch the sunrise over the Sahara Desert. Then we hopped on camels again for another 2 uncomfortable hours, and after we got back on the bus for another 4 terrifying hours of driving through the mountains. On our way back from the desert, we stopped in small towns and got a guided tour of the Kasbah Ait Benhaddou where The Gladiator was filmed. Katey and I were relieved when we made it to Marrakesh in one piece. In the evening, we spent our last night with our friends who we met on the camel trek: a German couple (Mathilda and Toby) and the attractive French man whose name I do not remember. | Dec 9 | Kasbah Ait Benhaddou | Dec 9

62: We made it to France and after about an hour of searching for our hostel we found it with Alisha already waiting for us! Alisha has been working as an English language assistant in Albertville for the past 9 months and nicely made the trip to spend the night with Katey and me. We spent a magical winter evening together. Alisha took us to an adorable restaurant where we ate a delicious and affordable (for Paris at least) meal. Then we went to the Christmas market for some mulled wine and browsing, and after that, we cracked a bottle of wine beneath the Eiffel Tower. It was great seeing her, and I couldn't imagine a better way to spend my last night on the other side of the world. Tomorrow morning Katey and I are heading back to Vancouver and I couldn't be more excited! | Paris je t'aime.... | Dec 10-12

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  • Title: This is Africa
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