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Nathan Kennedy's Mali Journal (Winter 2006)

Junior Nathan Kennedy (Kenosha, Wis.) is spending winter term 2006 on an off-campus French studies seminar program in Mali offered through Carleton and led by French professor Cherif Keita, a native of that country.

  • March 5: Saying Goodbye to Mali

    March 5, 2006

    It’s been a long ten weeks, but at the same time it’s gone by very quickly. Now it’s nearly time to leave Mali. In two days we’ll be on a plane headed north, back to Western society, cold weather, and family. Not that we won’t be leaving family behind as well. Monday night we face some tough good-byes.

  • February 23, 2006: The Voyage

    February 23, 2006

    We flew back to Mopti after spending the night in Timbuktu. After a quick stop at the hotel where we'd left our larger luggage (its name: "ya pas de problème," literally, "there's no problem"),we spent a little time touring the city.Then it was on the road again, off to Mali's famous Dogon country.

  • February 15, 2006: All the Way to Timbuktu...

    February 15, 2006

    Yes, Timbuktu (spelled Tombouctou in French) is in Mali, and we actually went there. Before I started preparing for this trip, I didn't know that a city of that name really existed. I thought it was just a cliché, as did many others in our group. It's amazing how far this term abroad has taken us.

    But I suppose I should start from the beginning. The visit to the famed middle of nowhere was just a part of a long journey around Mali and its neighbor Burkina Faso. Twenty-two students, four professors and seven drivers were squeezed into seven 4X4s, in which we traveled over paved and dirt roads and through diverse landscapes on trips ranging from two to nine hours.In eleven days we visited nine cities and villages and saw the immense diversity among Mali's different regions and ethnic groups.

  • Bamako - City at a Crossroads

    January 26, 2006

    Bamako, the capital of Mali, is a city full of anomalies. We've been here about three weeks and everywhere I've noticed these unexpected juxtapositions of old and new, traditional and Western. For example, on our second full day here, I was sitting in the courtyard of our hotel and was able, for the first time, to place myself geographically. Earlier that day, traveling through the city, I had been looking out of the bus window and had seen first a donkey cart, and not ten seconds later a brand new Honda.

  • My Family in Mali

    January 17, 2006

    We were picked up by our host families the night we returned from the village. It was an apprehensive wait, although many of us had already met our parents. Still, nobody knew quite what to expect. How different would life with a Malian family really be? Would our homes have luxuries like TV or running water? Would we really feel like a part of this new family?

  • January 8, 2006: In the Village

    January 8, 2006

    Our journey began with a short stay in a Bamako hotel, and some basic introductions to the country. Apart from a few ill students, and a flat tire that delayed us for about two hours in the middle of the city, this went rather smoothly. After that we all packed a bag to stay three days in the village where faculty adviser Chérif Keita's father was born. This was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life.

  • Dec. 27, 2005: Mali Expectations

    December 27, 2005

    Over the past month I’ve been accumulating stuff, as I’m sure everyone has—gifts for my host family, basic necessities, malaria meds, and of course plenty of Pepto-Bismol. But until about a week ago it was all still so far away, the fact that instead of going back to Carleton with its familiar faces and atmosphere, I’ll be flying halfway across the world to a place where, it seems, everything will be different.