December has been a bit of a blur. It seems like yesterday was November and now December is almost over. I’ve spent the last three weeks away from my site, mostly at Tubaniso for two weeks of In-Service Training (IST). The rest of the time was spent getting to the training center and relaxing for a few days in Segou after the training. Right now I’m in Segou and have every intention of spending my Boxing Day in a hotel room watching English Premiere League soccer games all day. It’s going to be awesome. But now for a summary of IST.
Unlike Pre-Service Training (PST), IST has been more focused on technical training and overviews of how PC Mali administration works. The first week of IST was just for the new Volunteers that came over with me in July. The second week also included the Malian counterparts from our respective villages. Since I’m in the Water/Sanitation sector, my technical sessions included topics such as: digging wells/ well masonry, well masonry repair, India-Mali pump repair, treadle pump irrigation, cistern construction, drip irrigation, hand washing station construction, latrine pit construction, latrine superstructure construction, and a field trip to see rainwater harvesting tanks and composting latrines.
All the training sessions were very helpful, but sometimes they could be a bit frustrating. A lot of the sessions were “hands-on activities” where we actually built the things we were talking about. The frustrating part was when our Malian counterparts were around. There is clearly an American way to do things and a Malian way to do things. In my opinion the American way is faster and better. But that also might come from the fact that the Malians were learning a lot of this stuff for the first time, whereas the Americans already understood what was going on for the most part. Something as simple as laying out a rebar grid 15 cm on center for a latrine floor slab was incredibly complicated for some reason…
During one of the days that the counterparts were around we had a bunch of booths set up to show off different kinds of income generating activities (IGAs) that could be done to help families generate more income. These included making soap, sun-drying fruit, mud-dying cloth, making shea butter, and making neem cream (natural mosquito repellent). My counterpart was really excited about everything and was scolding me for not writing everything down. He saw a lot of value in what was being demonstrated. I didn’t (sorry PC). The reason being that I am here do water/sanitation work AND come up with something in that field to do my Master’s report on. I think IGAs are a great thing if you can get them to work… but that’s the tough part. Getting them to work. Sure. I could teach people how to make soap and dry fruit and what not. What I’m not so sure I could do is find a place or a demand for people so sell their products. I’m not sure how to explain this to my counterpart. Suffice it to say, I think I am going to focus on water/sanitation stuff for now.
Lastly, I want to talk about something that has once again reminded me that I’m in