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Hope Shares a Typical Day in Her Life in Bamako
Wondering what it's like to spend a semester abroad? Each exchange experience is unique. Here's what a day looks like for Hope Johnson, YES Abroad Mali 2010-2011 scholar, in her own words:
6:45 Wake up by means of our goat baa-ing, the neighbor’s rooster sounding off (which isn’t just a one-time thing at sunrise, like in the movies. I hear that rooster all day long), the call to prayer from the local mosque, or a baby crying. On the off chance that all of these things fail, my alarm clock is the final assurance that I’ll get up.
7:05 Head downstairs and take breakfast, which consists of a loaf of bread and warm milk. All the milk here is powdered, and it’s a big affair each morning as to who gets to mix the milk. I tried it once, and it’s pretty difficult to get all the chunks out and make sure that the final product is the right balance of water, powdered milk, sugar, and coffee.
7:20 Get in the car with Meena, Miriam, and Sidiki. First we head to the preschool and drop off Meena, and next drive to the market and let out Miriam, the house cook. She buys all the ingredients for the meals of the day there. Finally, we rush off to Ecole du Progres, my high school.
7:50 The students have all trickled in by now, even though school technically begins at 7:30. Typically there is one class that lasts for two hours, then a one-hour class. Some days, though, there is one three-hour class in the morning. If students in the United States have trouble focusing for a one-hour long class, I would like to see them try sitting through a three-hour class. Lots of idle time for thinking!
10:30 Break time, during which I head to the cantina with my friends. The cantina is the break hot spot for the entire school (about 200 students), and it’s comprised of a couple shacks pulled together. If you want to buy a drink or sandwich before the break is over, you have to be fairly physical about pushing your way up to the bar. However, the reward is so wonderful! They sell one of my favorite things here, a deep maroon colored drink called bissap, which is sold frozen in a baggie. To eat/drink it, you tear off one end of the bag and become blissfully cooled down as you consume it. The best part is, the fruity and gingery concoction costs only 100 CFA, which is equivalent to about 40 cents.
10:50 Class resumes and lasts for two hours. One of my tiny meditations here is watching the chalkboard being cleaned, until it is perfectly green again, like it’s brand new.
12:50 Return home quickly, in hopes that I won’t miss all the good food. The younger kids all get home just a few minutes earlier than me, and some days go ahead and start eating. Those days are not great, because then I’m stuck with some nice bland rice for lunch.
1:30ish Go upstairs and take a little nap, just like my mama back home. I’m always exhausted at this point in the day!
2:00 It varies, from here on out. Sometimes I do some laundry (I think I should get a badge that says “expert hand-washer”), and oftentimes I take a walk around the neighborhood with the older girls. If it’s a really hot day like today, we’ll all visit my friend’s pool, which is just a few houses up the street.
3:00 On Thursdays and Fridays, I go back to school until 5:00 for the evening class. On Mondays-Wednesdays, though, I have a French teacher who comes to our house and helps me with homework and my general questions and frustrations with the counterintuitive language that is French.
5:20 With all the Diarra kids forming a mob-like group, we march a little ways to the stand on the side of the road which sells patté, which is like a little pie stuffed with meat and eggs and mayonnaise. A quick word on mayonnaise: it is so big here! People put mayonnaise on everything. I submitted to dealing with eating it, after all the strange looks I got after flicking it off my food. Anyhow, we walk back home and watch Curious George on TV and eat patté, and everyone is a happy camper at this time.
7:30 Eat dinner while the light is quickly fading from Bamako. The second wife of my host-father, who is the mother of all the younger kids who live here, has recruited me to teach English to all her children. So after dinner, all of the kids gather around and dutifully repeat numbers, animal names, and simple phrases in English back to me. Even the baby has to listen in.
9:00 Wash up, brush my teeth, and quickly fall asleep.