Friday, March 18, 2011

Out-takes from Mali

Living in a foreign culture means that you are bound to run into some funny situations due to misunderstanding or cultural differences.  Add in travelling with a dog, being pregnant, and having a baby in a foreign country and it's a recipe for confusion and comedy.  The following are some of our fun memories from our time so far in Mali.

1. Setting - Bamako Airport, shortly after landing.
Julie: (after searching for an airport worker who spoke some English) Excuse me, I'm looking for my dog. Can you tell me where the oversized luggage is?
Airport worker: You want a dog to pull your luggage?
Julie: No, my dog is the luggage. She is in a crate.
Airport worker: You put your dog inside your luggage?!
Julie: ...Thank you for your help sir.

2. Setting - Our laundry room the first week after we've arrived.
As Brian and Julie begin taking down a load of whites from the laundry line they realize they've been welcomed to Mali.  Lizard poop down Julie's white shirt. Mental note - fix the screens.

3. Setting - Koutiala Hospital, EVERY prenatal check up from 8 months on - this same conversation.
Nurse: I see you are having twins.
Julie: No, just one baby.
Nurse: (Looking at Julie's belly) No, you're definitely having twins.
Julie: No, really, I'm pretty sure it's just one.
All Nurses in the room: (Looking at Julie's belly and nodding in agreement) Congratulations on your twins.

Disclaimer to the twins story - I wasn't THAT big... it's just that Malian women and their babies are much smaller on average than American women and their babies. :)

4. Setting - Mission compound, two days after Caleb's birth.
Woman from the church: (Rubbing Julie's belly) Congratulations! When is your baby due?
Julie - (Pointing to Brian holding Caleb) This is my baby.
Woman from church: (Covers mouth and walks away laughing embarrassedly).

5. Setting - Mission compound. Greeting a Malian female visitor who had arrived.
Woman: (To Brian) I' ka kene? (How are you?)
Brian: Toro te (No problem)
Woman: So mo go ka kene? (How is your family?)
Brian: Toro te (No problem)
Woman: Muso ka kene? (How is your wife?)
Brian: Toro to (No problem)
Brian (Using his new Bambara language skills, and cultural savvy regarding greetings) I' ka kene? (How are you?)
Woman: Toro te (No problem)
Brian: So mo go ka kene? (How is your family?)
Woman: Toro te (No problem)
Brian: Muso ka kene? (How is your wife?)
Woman: (...)
Brian: (D'oh!)

6.Setting - Koutiala Souvenir shop, 10 Days after Caleb's birth.
Souvenir Man: Is your baby 3 months old or 4?
Brian: 10 days.
Souvenir Man: French equivalent of "No Way!"

7. Setting - Streets of the outdoor market in Koutiala. (Background info: Malian women breastfeed their babies anytime, anywhere. It doesn't matter if you're walking through the streets, sitting in church, or riding on a moto.)
Julie and a friend are walking through the hot and dusty streets of the market while Julie is holding Caleb. When she stops to buy some cilantro, Caleb starts crying loudly.  Within 30 seconds of this crying, male and female vendors along with passersby begin yelling out in Bambara and French - "Feed the baby!" "Give the baby the breast!" "Put the baby to the breast!" Julie imagined Caleb smiling mischievously on the inside as he had found his biggest support group ever.

8. Setting - Mission Compound.
As Julie walks over to the school, she sees one of the guards, Dirisa, sitting in a chair. He picks up a bottle of Cheer Laundry Detergent, pours some into the lid and takes a sip. After the initial shock, Julie realizes that he is just drinking water from the detergent bottle. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle... taken too far.

Loving life in Mali -
Brian, Julie, Caleb, and Sierra