Aside from the boat trip (see the last post), I've been working quite a lot and haven't yet done much exploring. But the little that has been done always makes me smile.
My home during my time in Mali is The Sleeping Camel, a backpacker hotel that’s retained half that identity and added in clientele from the UN mission (MINUSMA) and various affiliated UN agencies; with the decline of the tourist crowd because of the Northern Malian conflict, UN numbers swelled.
Here, I’ve developed an eclectic group of friends, some from the former travel crowd and some from the new security-minded crowd, most on the anglophone track, but only a few Americans.
The Camel also has a boat that it uses to cruise on the Niger river and is often rented for relaxing half-day trips by all kinds of groups. One Saturday, a couple of the Camel’s owners invited friends out for a day trip on the boat. Food and alcohol were largely provided, but after I said that I made killer brownies, it was requested that I make brownies on the boat.
There was a tiny oven with uncertain temperature and definitely no measuring cups, but the brownies with M&M’s were a success! No photos of the brownies exist because this was toward the end of day that was supported by coolers of beer and a bowl of sangria, but below are photos from the trip.
I reckon these were the first brownies ever made while cruising down the Niger River.
I've recently learned that I have been awarded a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation. What this means is that I get to do more fieldwork!
I'm headed to Conakry, Guinea, in about two weeks until mid-June and then Bamako, Mali, from September sometime to December sometime. This research will be focused on the same international agenda that I researched in Cote d'Ivoire, but I won't be doing strictly comparative research.
What I'm really excited about (in the research sense, not in the human citizen sense) is learning the differences in context with these three countries. Guinea has reported a number of new Ebola cases in the past week, and the security situation in Mali is somewhat unstable at the moment. My project is not explicitly focused on either of these threats/events, but they of course inform the context that my research partners operate in and impact the response of the international community (and lots of others), which in turn changes women's strategies and the attention given to women's issues in these countries.
I'm not certain I'm able to express how much I'm beginning to love West Africa as a sometime-resident and as a politics-art-society–watcher. But I'm so thrilled to be heading back.
Travel and research notes
Fieldwork and travel in Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Mali, as well as Burkina Faso, Morocco, Tanzania, South Africa, and wherever else I end up. Plus occasional research-related thoughts.