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,

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