Monday, February 27, 2012

{ MIA? Back in Action! }

It's time for me to blog.
I'm a little behind. I've been so MIA - literally missing in action.
We haven't stopped moving for the last 2 weeks - from this event to that event to another meeting to sending some emails to more events and rallies. It's wonderful. I love it all. But, it leaves me very little time to share this incredible experience with all of you.
There are SO many things I wish I could share.
I wish I could better share this experience - I wish everyone could have an experience of their own like this.

I recently finished the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn - I would highly recommend it. What are you doing to empower women? Education is key. Check out the Half the Sky Movement, too.This book has had a huge impact on me and my view of the world. As well, it has helped me to gain a better perspective on my mission in life.

I have two things to share - please consider each of these very carefully:
  • "Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people." -George Bernard Shaw 
When it comes to Humanitarian efforts, you aren't being reasonable, right? The world depends on you. Be an Idealist. Face reality and break the bands of poverty, gender-based violence, FGM, and so many other issues plaguing our world today.

  • "Young people often ask us how they can help address issues like sex trafficking or international poverty. Our first recommendation to them is to get out and see the tackle an issue effectively, you need to understand it - and it's impossible to understand an issue by simply reading about it. You need to see it firsthand, even live in its midst." 
I'll try to make this short and quick. I don't all that you really want to see are some pictures :) You really want to #makeadifference? If you don't, stop thinking about yourself and think more about how you can serve others (haha). Well, the best way to make a difference is to educate yourself, empower yourself. Visit the developing world! Many people are hestiant and think it's dangerous, as they say in Half the Sky, "The most dangerous part of living in a poor country is often the driving, since no one wears seat belts, and red lights - if they exist - tend to be regarded as mere suggestions." Honestly, it's very safe. Yes, even for women. In my travels in the "developing world," I have not once felt threatened. There is reason for legitimate concern (like disease) but take precautions, and I promise, it'll all be okay. Often, it is merely the fear of the unknown that is holding you back. I'm here to tell you, firsthand, that it's all going to be okay. The best way to learn and truly understand what is going on in the world around us, you need to see these issues. COME. Europe is great - I loved my time in France and England. One of the greatest issues in the American education system is that students never fully understand the issues of poverty at home and abroad. Take some time to visit the developing world, whether it be a "gap year" in your education or a summer teaching abroad. Look into the eyes of poverty and violation of human rights. See the oppression of women firsthand. This will give you a much richer understanding of the world around you and I promise, you will have no regrets. You will live your life with a greater sense of satisfaction, love, appreciation, and selflessness. You will see the world with a new pair of colored glasses. You will be a better entrepreneur, a better wife/husband, better mother/father, and a more passionate student of life. You will then begin to #makeadifference. DO IT.

Now that I'm off my soapbox :) Here's to the last few incredible, exhausting, exhilarating, accomplished weeks in Mali!

I love the Malian culture.

Random thoughts:
  • I have spent so much time in the villages. I have seen ridiculous amounts of malnutrition and blown-out bellies (usually Kwashiorkor), disease, unhappiness, and hard work. 
  • I receive a marriage proposal nearly everywhere we go - I can't even count them on two hands anymore.
  • If I don't get a marriage proposal, then they ask for my phone number and won't let go of my hand until I give an adequate response (don't worry, I have not and will not give out my phone number).
  • Now, as far as Mali goes, I'm married without a phone. Oops!
Some of my favorite things:

  • Malian dance parties - at each rally we go to, there is a little dance party before and after with lots of African drums, masks, etc. An older woman usually shares a story in song. Meanwhile, a lot of the Malian woman stand up and dance around. I love dancing with them and seeing their faces just light up.
  • Even better, when I am the first one to get up and dance to get all of the other women to join in...their eyes sparkle.
  • Holding little Malian 
  • Smiling at Malian children and have them smile back and shyly look away
  • Holding Malian Children
  • High fives for large groups of Malian children all at once
  • Malian villages - I love the serenity out in Rural Mali
  • When I am with a large group of little children and they all fight over me...and smother me...and I have like 10 little hands grasping onto my arm with dear life. 
  • Religious devotion
  • The "Samake2012" song - Samaké deux milles douze..the beat totally gets stuck in my head for hours. 
The last few weeks are a blur. We have been so busy on the campaign. Enjoy a random conglomeration of photos!

Top - Playing with little kids, making hand gestures, while at a rally :) So cute! - Me dancing (left) with the Samake Singer (he wrote a song for President Samake!) during a rally in Bamako - me and Kyle swarmed with little children in a village in Mali - love it.
Middle - Me with the most adorable girls that I bought popcorn from at a local rally, favorite memory - Me with the adorable kids that I "played with" during one of the local meetings - our good friend, Dra, with all the kids, love this photo!
Bottom - Kyle and I eating out of a community lunch bowl with our hands, traditional Malian - Kyle and I with Yeah's sisters family and some of her kids - me with Kadija and Sira out in the village.

Can you tell that I just adore little kids?

Getting my move on with the village women in African song and dance before a rally!
All of the Malian women carry their little babies like this - on their backs with a cloth strapped around their chest. It amazes me! Still blows my mind. 

Top - Rally in Bamako Commune 5 - dancing in the village of Mandé, look how high he is! - a masked African dancer in the village of Diorila
2nd row - young girl dancers in Mande- the children anxiously and proudly running up to the school, built by Yeah's foundation - Dressed gunmen (community leaders) welcoming us into the village of Mandé
3rd row - Dancer in Mandé - welcoming Yeah to a community - Yeah speaking at rally in Bamako Commune
Bottom - Dancing in the village of Beneko, I loved this masked and dressed African animal dancer, they told an incredible story of courage through song and dance - women at a local rally, Malian women amaze me! - Local children lined up to greet PACP and supporters to the village of Mandé
As a sign of respect and appreciation, Yeah was given two live chickens at the rally in Beneko. Here, Dra is taking them to the local market to be killed, and yes, they're still alive in this picture. 
Love this photo.
My little girl, Tanta at the village of Kouri - she's adorable! She was my "dancing queen" in our dance party.
High fives all around - "children reaching for their dreams"
Me with my little sunshine, Arrah, she radiates light and a sweet spirit. Miss her already.
Surrounded by kids in the village of Beneko - they don't look so happy in this photo, do they??
Swarmed in little Malian children - I love this feeling.  
My mommy gave me a present and a card for Valentine's day :) Made my week!!! 
Top - we visited a Muslim mosque for Friday evening prayers. I was sitting with the women. Here Kyle is with the men (my picture didn't turn out :() - this is the view from our balcony at the party headquarters, the streets were swarming with devout muslims who had come to the community area for Friday afternoon prayers - Basketball game, too cool. Thanks Kyle for teaching me the rules of the game!
2nd row - adorable little kids outside our home - Local meeting - Gunmen in Mandé (repeat picture, my bad)
3rd row - Me dancing with Samaké Singer (I love jumping up and getting the crowd involved) - a "joke" at a local rally, the crowd was roaring with laughter - a young girl giving Kola nuts at the rally in Mandé (a symbol of appreciation and greeting of respect in Mali)
Bottom - Dancing again at the local rally - the beautiful Niger River in Ségou - Mali has Mountains!!! What a beautiful sight to see. Reminded us of Southern Utah. 

One particular day, this last Saturday, was insane. Meetings at 9, 10:30, 11:30, drive an hour to Kouri for another rally at 2:00, more meetings, drive, dinner, drive, another meeting at 12:30 am (so, yeah, it was technically Sunday at this point), and then home in Bamako at 2:30 am.
I loved it, every minute of it.
(Okay, except for sitting in the back seat with my knees in my chest as we bounced our way back to Bamako).
I love working on the Samake 2012 campaign.
I love being in Mali.
It's always an adventure :)

Life is so precious. I become very easily attached, especially to little kids. It was so hard to say goodbye to my little Arrah when we left the village of Kouri the other day. Yes, I really did cry. I'm more convinced than ever that "All you need is love." All these little children need is to feel important. Okay, that's the idealist in me. Realistically, I realize there are a lot of other factors that influence their lives - lack of education and opportunity. Education is empowering. I'm determined to "Teach the World."

Also, if you know me personally and would like an invite to read my personal blog (yes, it's private), shoot me an email or leave a comment here with your email and I'll add you! :)

Love you all, xoxo,

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

{ I niche Mali! }

"I niche" means "thank you" in Bambara.
I niche for reading my blog!

A few more updates...goodness! I have been so busy - I wish you could all experience everything. This is one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had (I think I say that a lot). I am so incredibly blessed to be here and to work with Team Samake on a daily basis :)

Here are a few random updates and photos from life the last week here in Mali.

Me, Marissa, and Kyle went to an Ethiopian restaurant in Bamako - it was quite enjoyable! Much different than I expected but very yummy.
My ethiopian food. 
Zhu, our main driver :)
Walking down the neighborhood streets - I walk past here nearly everyday.
We got some cheeseburgers in Bamako! Pretty yummy - we'll definitely survive here until May :)
The packed streets of Bamako by the markets.
Some of my favorite people - Dra and Carmen :) She's a spitfire! But too adorable.  
Markets in central Bamako - crazier than India!!! To put it simply.

What a better way to use the banks of the Niger River than with gardens? 
Roadside fruit stands. 
These are called Sotramas or Bachets - they're buses - they don't have any particular route, they just have people jump in, pay a very minimal amount, and kind of take people around as they call out? I'll have to have that experience before I leave.
"ALLAHKABO" or "God is great" with the initials of the Sotrama driver - "BK"...haha 
We got ice cream! Nevermind that Kyle looks like he's part of the Mafia...
"Don't do a funny face!"
It was a nice ice cream shoppe - now we know we can definitely survive in Mali - burgers and ice cream! haha
Roadside work boys ready to help move stuff.
I love Mali - it's beautiful!

Village markets.
 Mom, don't look at this next picture.

This is Mari, our cute cook, dividing up the beef to freeze...lots of meat out in the open air here!  
Where I buy my fruit :) I haven't had a bad one yet - my apples and oranges are delectable!
This is the view from our roof. Everyday, I watch/hear the family next door wake up early early (like 5 am), make food, clean up, dig some trenches, do some laundry, make more food, etc. They're working all day. I bet they've never heard the saying "work before play" but maybe "work before soccer"...they love their soccer! 
This last Friday, there was a Muslim festival and they celebrated "Milad un nabi" or the birthday of the Prophet Muhammed. All night, I heard the speaker of a man talking to people and chanting and singing and celebrating. The people came in hoards, dressed in their religious attire, carrying chairs on their head and children everywhere to sit for hours to celebrate the birth of their beloved prophet - it was quite the sight to see!

Then Sunday evening, Mali was in the African Soccer Cup quarter finals. The game was Mali vs. Gabon. It was 3-3 and they were in overtime. Everyone was running through the streets. Mali won in the final shootout - incredible! People were going CRAZY - horns honking, people jumping up and down! I have never seen that much excitement :) When I was in Paris in 2010 and watched one of the World Soccer Cup games in front of the Eiffel Tower, the people were pretty mellow in comparison. This was something else! Mali is now in the Semi-finals. I can't wait for the next game!!! I will be sad when the African cup is over.

Meanwhile, there have been some strikes in Northern Bamako based off of what is going on with the North of Mali (a little ways away from where I am living - don't worry!). It has made things more interesting. To read more about the strikes, read this article in the NYT.

Saturday night, we went out for some pizza here in Bamako and it was so yummy! It was at the cutest little restaurant. Who knew you could get good pizza in Africa? ;) It felt like home!

Yesterday, we went to the market and to a huge rally out in the village - about an hour and a half away. It was incredible to feel the enthusiasm these people had for an incredible leader like Yeah Samake. He brings hope to the people. Courage. Please show your support and donate to our campaign at - $10 can make all the difference - share it with your friends!

I love Mali and it is quickly beginning to feel more and more like home.

Monday, February 6, 2012

{ 1er Leadership Conference - SUCCESS! }

As Yeah and his family walked into the auditorium on Saturday, they were greeted by 200+ skeptical supporters and a burst of applause. As the minutes turned to hours, we all sat in a trance as we listened (as best as I could in French :)) to Yeah eloquently speak about his father's vision for each of his children to gain an education, his background, his education in the United States, and his desire to change the lives of his people. He is so passionate. 

Each person, even the biggest skeptics, left the event that day as supporters.

To read more about this incredible event, go to Marissa Samake's blog post: PACP Leadership Conference - une réussite totale (a total success!)

I had to steal this next part from her blog though. She is an incredible writer.

"Yeah Samake is the candidate if Mali wants change. He is the candidate if Mali desires to get out of the hole 52 years of corrupt, bad leadership has thrown it into. He is the candidate of hope for a better education system that ensures Malian graduates can compete against foreign graduates. He is the candidate if Malians want a role model that can show what honest, open leadership is. He is the candidate who can bring Mali as an equal to discussions at the UN and African summits instead of the country asking for handouts. Mali is not a poor country. The actions of its leaders have made it poor. The time has come for Mali to raise itself out of the misery its former leaders have condemned it to. Yeah is the candidate that can reform Mali and make it a symbol of opportunity and change. The time is now. If you can help, the time has come to help. The elections are 3 months away. Support us at We need all the help we can to help Mali become the country where opportunities are in abundance and dreams become a reality. Vive PACP! Vive Yeah Samake! But most of all Vive Mali! May the hopes and dreams of all Malians be answered with Yeah Samake as President."

Yeah is the answer. He is hope. He is change.
He is one of the most incredible men I have ever known and I feel privileged to know and work with him. He motivates and inspires me.

{top two photos courtesy of Cole Nielsen}

The people immediately surrounded Yeah following the event - you can see the joy just bursting from their faces! They feel HOPE.
This is Yeah with leader of the Handicapped Organization. This picture brings tears to my eyes. Yeah will make the difference for these people. Can you see the passion in his face?
Yeah with all of the Team Samake Volunteers - GO TEAM SAMAKE!!!!

Yeah and Marissa Samake surrounded by Campaign members
I love that little Carmen is sitting up front on her mom's lap :) 
Me with members of Team Samake!!!
This perfectly describes the relationship between Kyle, Marissa, and I. Kyle is trying to make up for his bad jokes and Marissa teases him endlessly. And I just sit and smile. haha.
Me with one of the good campaign supporters. 
Nana is one of the strong Samake supporters!
My good friend, Dra, and I :)

The event was held at the University of Bamako - I love Mali!
It was a successful event and everyone left satisfied and in support of Yeah. Once the people meet Yeah, they are convinced that he needs to be the next president. He is unique. His story is unique - the people trust him. He is amazing. Vive Mali and Yeah Samake!!!