as i am.

"…but soil is a refuge for dispersed seeds."


Final Thoughts Before Heading to Site

Posted on by chrissy

I am currently in San, at my stage house (or place to go for recuperation from village, also known as a transit house) waiting to be installed at my site tomorrow. I have been spoiled with an abundance of toubab time in the past couple weeks, and am getting slightly nervous about settling back in in a new village full of only Malians for the next two months.

So that you’re aware of the logistics, the first two months at site will be spent almost entirely by ourselves (without the safety of other Americans, but with the abundance of eager Malians to get to know), to better ensure our integration into the community, and to strengthen our language skills. We are allowed two nights during the next two months to leave our sites and come to our stage houses, go to the bank, and check our emails. Otherwise, we have been given a few tasks designed to expand our knowledge of the community, but otherwise have few requirements until our In-Service Training, or IST in June back at Tubani So.

This period of initial integration into site is usually three months long, but we lucked out in that another stage (rhymes with taj, like Taj Mahal) is coming at the end of June, meaning there isn’t enough space and resources to run both our IST and the other stage’s PST at the same time (although I hear they’ll overlap a little…). This year Peace Corps Mali is increasing the number of stages per year from what it has been (once per year in July) to what they hope it to become (twice a year, once in February and once in October). For reasons unknown, that means that there are three stages this year, because it’s a transition year, and for reasons even more unknown, instead of sticking with July, the next stage has been moved up to June, making us the lucky stage with only two months before IST instead of three.

Every stage has a handful of current volunteers who help with training (they’re called PCVTs (everything has an acronym here if you haven’t noticed)) and they are tasked with many things, including the job of giving us our stage name. Mali is the only country that I know of that names its stages (most others are just numbered sequentially, how boring) and I like the tradition of the current volunteers handing down a name to those who come after them. It also provides an extra layer of community for the members of a stage. It means much more to have a name than to just be ‘stage #91’. The current stages in Mali, except for a few straggling HOBOs (originally Honey Bunches of Oats), are Risky Business and Team America.

We were presented with our stage name at our swear in party, and everyone is pleased with what we got. As I have previously expressed, our stage has been exceptionally lucky with meeting important people (like the Director of Peace Corps); we’ve been getting VIP treatment in many respects (like getting whisked to the Presidential Palace for swear in). We have also grown fairly close over the last couple months, but have been fairly devoid of drama (what there has been has been kept in the family). And what better iconic family to model ourselves after (minus some unmentionable occurrences) than the family that started Peace Corps fifty years ago: we are the Kennedys.

Now, as the other volunteers in San have one by one returned to their sites, I wait for morning, full of anticipation, angst, excitement, and faith that I will have the experiences I came here for, that I will work hard and successfully with my community, and I will come out in two years with both the idealism with which I came, and the experiences I hoped to find. Regardless, the real journey starts now.


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  • About Me:

    I am a Peace Corps Volunteer working in Mali for two years promoting sustainable agriculture and environment development.

  • Address in Mali:

    Christina Scheller
    B.P. 02
    San, Mali

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    King Leopold's Ghost - Adam Hochschild
  • What I’ve Read

    High Tide in Tucsan - Barbara Kingsolver All the King's Men - Robert Penn Warren Half the Sky - Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn Prodigal Summer - Barbara Kingsolver Dirt: The Erosion of Civilization - David R. Montgomery Everything is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Foer To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee The Education of Little Tree - Forrest Carter The Rodale Book of Composting Team of Rivals - Doris Kearns Goodwin The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling The Lacuna - Barbara Kingsolver The History of the House of Representatives - Robert Remini East of Eden - John Steinbeck Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin The Imperial Cruise - James Bradley