I remember when I first came to Mali just how hot it was. The days were scorching hot and my nights were spent sweating any and all liquid I had consumed throughout the day. It’s funny to think back to that time because I would carry a fan around with me everywhere I went. I would get off my bike, take a seat, and start fanning myself because of the heat. One of the things I would do is I would get the kids who congregated around me and one of the kids would start fanning me until he/she got tired then he/she would pass it on the next kid to do the same.
Yet here I am a year and a half later and I find myself going to sleep wearing sweatpants and a hoodie because I’m so cold. I even spend the mornings wearing my hoodie which would have been unheard of when I first got here. Talking to everyone here they always tell me how cold it is but when I check the thermometer I realize that it’s only in the mid 70s. At night people make small campfires and huddle around and the funny thing is I’m right there with them.
Back in the States during my vacation I spent the entire time draped in layers and the first few days I was there I refused to go outside because it was so cold. I spent a lot of time dreaming about cold weather but when I did get back it was a little too much for me to handle.
A lot has changed over the last year and a half. I think in the end the people I came to “help” will have changed me more than I them. Peace Corps volunteers are NOT aid workers. I think there’s this huge disconnect even among volunteers. The plan isn’t to come and build wells or schools but to share what it is to be an American and learn about different cultures. For many village people we are the first non-natives they have ever seen. I’ve personally scared many babies because of my light-colored skin (most of them eventually get used to it). When people ask me what I do in Mali from now on I’m just going to say I met and hung out with some really interesting people and hopefully shared my culture as well so people would understand that although we come from different countries and different backgrounds that we’re not so different after all.