Thursday, August 3, 2017

Bear Center in Ely, MN

 Last Saturday I got to go with my dad and his girlfriend up north to Ely, Minnesota.  It was the weekend of the annual Blueberry Festival.  We walked around the huge arts fair and saw all kinds of interesting things for sale.  We had a picnic by a lake.  And then we went to the Bear Center and saw 4 black bears up close.
 The bears enjoyed being fed peanuts.  They took the whole peanut with shell into their mouth and then very quickly spit just the shell out while chewing up the peanuts.
There are 4 bears at the center.  They are there because they wouldn't be able to survive on their own in the wild for one reason or another.
The center is full of all kinds of interesting educational displays.  You can learn all about bears, but there is also information on other animals that live in this region.  There is a theater for films.  We watched a documentary done by the BBC that had been filmed in the area featuring a scientist who researched the bears by following them around and observed them up close.  I learned that it is incredibly unlikely for a bear to attack a person and so I don't need to be afraid if I go hiking or camping in the woods.

Friday, June 9, 2017

a visit to Kledu Ostrich Farm near Bamako

I had heard that there is a farm near Bamako with around 3,000 ostriches, and I wanted to see it for myself.
We went to the shop located near the 3rd bridge which sells products from the farm and is called "Les Douceurs de la Ferme."  There they gave us a card with phone numbers to call to arrange a visit/tour of the farm.  They said that they want people to call to set things up a day in advance, but they were very kind and allowed us to come right away the same day.  There was a ticket fee to pay at the shop of 3,000 cfa per person.
We headed east out of Bamako and a few kilometers after passing the Bagineda sign we turned left down a red dirt road.  There were no signs when we went, but once we were there we saw that they have a lot of signs ready to be placed, so that will be helpful for future visitors to find their way.  The road turned and twisted and we were able to ask a truck going the other way if we were still on the right track.  Finally we came to a gate.  The gatekeeper wouldn't let us in until his boss talked to him on the phone and gave permission to open the gate, so they have decent security out there.

Our guide was very nice and spent time showing us many things.  The farm has about 3,000 ostriches, but it has a lot more than that.
 There were a bunch of peacocks to see and hear; they make a lot of crazy noise!
We went to a field with cows, donkeys, and camels hanging out together.  Nearby were some very cute calves.

This is our guide in the hat and white shirt.  JP is petting a Chadian sheep.  It is a very large kind of sheep.  There were also some Chadian camels, but we didn't get so close to them.  I think JP was proud of being Chadian and having Malians appreciate the fine livestock coming from his country.

It was really hot and sweaty the day of our visit while we were there at midday.  The guide said it's better to come really early in the morning or in the late afternoon.
Here I am holding a fresh ostrich egg.  They sell these eggs in the shop for around 3.000 cfa (thats like $5) and they also have hollowed out decorated egg shells.

These eggs had been hollowed out and then filled with cement to be permanent decorations on the farm.
Here are some of the many many ostriches.  They are fed three times a day when a tractor with workers comes around delivering food.  So here they are gathered around to eat.
I learned that male ostriches are black and females are grey/brown.

 They aren't very smart, and they are super strong, so they're a bit dangerous.
Here this guy has a number tag, like what you'd see on a cow's ear.

You can also see the picture of some tortoises.  There is an enclosed area with lots of these.  They go underground where its all dug out and these ones were just peeking out.

They also do bee-keeping and have a honey production house.  The guide wanted to show us the honey stuff but he didn't have the key to that building.  So that's something to look forward to next time.
The farm is huge and has so many buildings.  And they are going to be even greater.  While we were there we saw a big Caterpillar backhoe and a bulldozer at work.  They were digging a hole for a swimming pool!

surgery in Bamako

I found out I needed polypectomy surgery and we went to a small private clinic in Bamako. Compared to a hospital in the states I guess my experience was not as comfortable or fancy, but for Mali the place is really nice.  It's clean and the doctor is well-qualified and recommended, so I felt pretty safe.
I found it amusing that before the surgery the doctor wrote up a list of the things we needed to go buy at a pharmacy and bring to the clinic for the surgery.  Things like gauze, gloves, IV fluid, needles... it seems strange to me that the clinic wouldn't have these on hand and just charge me for them, but that's not how it works here.  I don't know what a surgery would cost like this in the states, I suppose it would depend on what sort of insurance someone had. Probably a few thousand dollars. But here the total was about $350.  It was more expensive for us to pay the travel costs and lodging for coming and staying in the big city!

I was really scared about the anesthesia because I had never had it before.  They put some burning medicine in my hand IV and it put me to sleep.  I know that later they put some gas mask over my mouth and nose to breathe to keep me asleep, but I missed all of that.  I woke up in the recovery room throwing up.  I didn't even feel too bad, I was just throwing up (or trying to since my stomach was empty!)  I was sore for some days after but I'm feeling pretty good now.  We had the polyps analysed and they weren't cancerous, hooray!  Hopefully they don't come back.

So here's a picture that JP took while I was still waking up from the surgery and wearing the ugly hospital gown and funny cap.  I think I was kind of crying. He says I kept asking the same questions over and over again - like "what time is it?" and "did it go well?"  I guess I also asked how my dog was doing when I first woke up!
It's not my prettiest picture for sure, but I kind of like the raw honesty of it.

house building

some great progress has been happening with our house building project.  we have walls!
here are a couple recent photos:

village wedding

There was a big wedding that I attended in a village on April 29.  One of my colleagues got married with a woman who works at the hospital in town.

I was able to ride with some of the staff of the hospital.  I left the house at 6am and got home around 6pm - that's a long day!  It was a 3 hour drive each way; one hour of paved road and then 2 of bumpy, curvy, dusty dirt.
The wedding took place outside in the village under big tents.  First the legal mayor's office stuff was taken care of, and then the long musical ceremony began.  Several different choir groups sang and danced.  The speaking was mostly in Bomu and translated to Bambara, but the message was in French and translated.  It was pretty hot and sweaty.  After the ceremony there was food; the normal wedding meal is riz au gras, which is like greasy rice.  We gathered into small groups to sit around communal bowls and eat with hands.  Confession:  I brought my own spoon from home because I hate eating with my hand. 

 Our house-helper is the sister/cousin of the groom.  (she says he is her brother, but they don't have the same biological mother and father, so I'm not actually sure... anyway, he is her close relation)  It was really important to her that I go to the wedding which was held in the village she comes from.  She even talked me into getting the fabric that many wedding attendees would be wearing.

So here are a couple pictures:

Saturday, April 15, 2017

another kids' lesson

I usually plan for 40 kids.  But in the last few weeks we've had up to 70!  Wow!
Most weeks I prepare a lesson and a coloring sheet to go along with it.  The coloring sheet has a verse (usually in French and Bambara) and a scene from the story.  We have been learning some songs and practicing them each week, too.  I try to make up some kind of actions to go with the words of the songs because that makes it easier to remember the words and most of the really little kids don't sing much but they have fun doing the actions.

 Sometimes you just need a nap!

Who knows why I received a bag of salt at the end of the church service last Sunday? 
It was given out because an engagement was announced.  I've been in Mali almost 8 years and I still haven't figured out if there is a great significance to this or if that's just the way it is because it's always been that way.  Well, now I don't need to buy cooking salt for a while!  This salt is big pieces, it looks like what you'd sprinkle on ice in the winter.  We use this in preparing food if it will dissolve.  Otherwise I buy regular, more expensive salt to sprinkle on food or for baking.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

power company tour

One of the students of our adult English classes is the big boss in our town for the electric company.  He once said that he'd be glad to give me a tour of the place.  So I got that lined up and it happened last week.
This guy knows all about how everything works, and although he did a great job of explaining it I don't really understand much of what we saw.  I could try to blame that on the fact that he gave the tour in French, but I feel like I understood pretty much all of his words and even if it had been in English I still wouldn't understand that much.  He asked if I had taken physics.  Yes, I did take physics.  The name of my physics class was "Physics for non-science majors."  Everybody has different strengths and I am not strong in the area of understanding how a power place works.  I don't even know what to call the place!  The power isn't made there, it comes up from Cote d'Ivoire and goes out from this place into town and on to other towns.
So I can't really explain what the pictures are of, but they are some neat pictures and I'm glad I had the chance to go on this tour!

It was me and JP along with another English teacher and two of her kids on the tour.  The student who is the boss did the talking, but he had two of his workers there as well.  My husband said he found it really interesting, he understood a lot more than I did, and that if he hadn't gone into medicine maybe he would have enjoyed studying this kind of stuff in school.
When we went in the building I was amused to see this sign.  Of course everyone should be wearing proper gear at a place like this - boots, gloves, goggles, helmets... but everyone, including the workers, was just wearing normal clothes and that's all.  This sign is ridiculous in Mali.

Those are a lot of fancy buttons and lights.  Just a flip of a switch and you can cut power all over town!