One quick thing…or things. First, I should say that we will be visiting Kita this week which probably means no Internet! So you all should totally leave me lots of comments so that I feel loved when I come back. Just kidding, but it does mean that I will likely be unable to post for a few days, which is unfortunate, since the Segou saga is already behind schedule. So, I promise hereby to write the following Segou posts if/when I have free time in Kita and will promptly post them so we can move on. Then I’ll post about Kita if anything exciting happens, and I’m sure it will. Something exciting always happens here. So, before I go, several quick things that I wanted to share.
Thing 1) First marriage proposal – Ah yes! I knew it was coming at some point, and dreaded it. He was relatively nice, but when a total stranger asks you to marry them it’s hard to think about them as more than just strange. It started with a normal conversation. Greetings in Bambara, compliments on French, questions of you’re name/where you’re from, etc. Then the first bad sign (though you get this from nice guys too): “You are pretty.” I never really know what the best way to handle this is, so I usually just laugh and say thanks, that’s nice of them to say so. Then bad sign number two: “How old are you?” And when you tell them your age: “Ah! You’re marrying age!” No, sorry, not in the States! Bad sign number three (though again, frequently asked by men and women) “Are you married?” Cue the mental prep, I came up with a quick lie – not married, have a guy in the States, need to finish studies first. Thus begins the dance. Why aren’t you married? What do you study? Why do you want to finish your studies? Is he nice? Are you going to marry him? These are questions all of us have been asked at one point, all lead up to: “You know what? We should be married!” Now, I have to give it to this guy, he was determined. I threw all sorts of things at him:
•I have to go back to the States soon soon. – Great! We’ll go together!
•We just met. – I’ve seen you before walking to class, I know you’re my ideal woman.
•I have a boyfriend. – You should dump him, he can find another girl in the States. •There are other women here. – No there aren’t, they are all married.
That’s the interesting thing actually. Yes, these guys are proposing because we’re stereotypically rich and living in the “ideal” country, but I know they don’t believe there are less women here. Quite the opposite actually. I was talking to Bruce a while ago (he’s doing research on polygamous marriage here) and he said that they believe that there is a surplus of women in Mali, and that is one of the pillars on which rests the argument for polygamy. There are too many women, so men need to marry a few to take care of all of them. This is, of course, slightly ridiculous. While there are more women than men, the percentage difference doesn’t exceed 10%, but nonetheless, Malians have insisted to me that this is true. Unless of course they want to marry you, in which case there are fewer women – partly because “American men come and steal all the Malian women.”
At any rate, the guy persisted for quite a while. I ended up telling him”I’d think about it,”so he’d let me go, and since strategized ways I’m going to say no more firmly if I encounter him again. Suffice to say, however, it’s weird. Some part of me wanted to feel insulted, some part of me wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it all, and a big part of me felt incredibly uncomfortable. The hardest part, is not being sure how sincere this actually is. If I said yes (not like I ever would), would this actually be a thing? Who knows. Unfortunately it’s just something all us girls will have to deal with. Part of being a minority and traveling in a more patriarchal and misogynistic society. Suffice to say, I increasingly respect and appreciate men who hang out with me and refrain from proposing. But at any rate, I survived, and I can laugh about it now.
Thing 2: We have a microwave in my house now. The maids adore it. When I saw it I was concerned it might end up like the second refrigerator and the stove, unused and taking up kitchen space (no one actually cooks in there though – it’s all done in the courtyard). It seems, however, it will be used to defrost things. My host mom called me into the kitchen to help on the first time. She wanted my advice on how long it should run. I don’t think I was especially helpful, but I love that she asked for me.
Thing 3: We met another musician, and it was equally awesome. Habib Koité is a guitarist and music prof. Really cool guy – very personable and absolutely hilarious. He told us tons of great stories about his first trip to the US. He is also buddies with Jackson Brown and Bonnie Raitt. Apparently, they put him up and treat him to good food and red wine when he visits California. Now, I know I already put in a plug for Bassékou Kouyaté already, but I am telling you, you should check this guy out. He was originally trained classically, and has made an intense study of Malian music, and makes an effort to showcase the different regional styles in his music. But, you can also tell why this guy’s friends with Jackson Brown and Bonnie Raitt, his music is really approachable, especially for the Western listener. And it’s fun! He invited a dancer and we spent half the time dancing with her. Such an enjoyable time. If you ever have the chance to see him live, GO. He’s a marvelous entertainer and as I said, he’s funny, charismatic, and if he ever sings to you – directly sings to you – you are lucky. Take it from one who knows. Also, if it’s informal enough, he may well come join you. He came over and played/danced with us – so very very cool. So please, if you ignored the earlier group, fine, but do check this guy out! I seriously doubt you’ll be disappointed. Those of you with taste won’t anyway.
Just kidding! To each his own! But seriously, check him out.
Off to Kita tomorrow! Hope you all have a great weekend!!