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Halloween in Mali, Power Outages


From: Melissa Enderle (melissa_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Thu Nov 02 2000 - 12:18:37 PST

Hi all,

I'm glad to hear that many of you have been enjoying my posts. I
often think of things to write at inopportune times, such as when
walking to school, but don't always have the mental energy to write
them when I get to my computer at night.

Anyway, I'll begin with Halloween. Mainly for the ex-pats and other
families working in Mali, the American Embassy and our school hosted
a Halloween trick-or-treat. Homes of expats and around the
Badalabougou area volunteered to be a place where the children could
stop for treats. The school was the starting point and also had
candy. I decided to go and help out at the school, partly because I
knew they would need help and also because I have not gone to one of
the 2 "supermarche" stores in well over a month. Kids (mostly those
who attended our school) began descending on the school entryway,
accompanied mostly by their parent(s) and sometimes by a driver. A
few used commercially-made costumes, but many had more creative,
individually (perhaps by one of the local tailors) made costumes. Or,
they simply improvised with the clothing or materials they had at
home. Of course there were quite a few witches, some ghouls and
vampires, and a few dressed up as cats or dinosaurs in full costume.
Some had makeup on as well. Children were carrying the plastic
pumpkin containers or plastic bags.

It was quite the sight - all the kids in costumes walking through the
terracotta dirt road - past the goats eating leaves or grass, and
past the local people. For the locals who don't even understand the
whole concept behind Halloween and trick-or-treating, you can imagine
why they had looks of either puzzlement, surprise, and perhaps more.
Why, when you really think about it, would any sweet child suddenly
wear plastic fangs in their mouth, garish makeup, and a dark costume?

As I began handing out candy, I noticed the local children. Some were
playing soccer (they have to be careful where they are playing, for
if they hit the ball too far in two directions, the ball could land
in the open sewer) and others were either standing around, playing
with the handmade toys, or helping at a local produce stand. Knowing
that they probably haven't had candy in quite a while (and certainly
not Halloween candy), I brought the bowl closer to a few. At my
urging they each took a piece. Well, word soon spread, and I was
giving a way quite a bit of the candy. You should have seen their
faces though - it was if they were given a precious gift!

Yesterday the power went out at my house duplex, much like it often
does. Like other times, the guardian turned on the generator. The
generator ran for about an hour, then power was restored - except to
me, the upstairs duplex resident. Knowing that there was nothing
electrically that could be attended to until morning, I resided to
reading by candlelight and working on the computer with only the
light of the monitor. (Aren't laptops great!?!) The school secretary
- a Malian (she speaks fluent French, Bambara, and excellent English)
called two electricians that the school works with. One finally came
about 3:30 in the afternoon and fixed the problem. At school around
10:40, the power went off, then on, then off again. The school's
generator went on but began smoking - a major part had broken. So,
all afternoon, the school had no power. No power meant no computer
work. After finishing some miscellaneous tasks,I took some reading
about wireless networks with me and read on the picnic benches
outside the lab - the area where the kids eat lunch.

It sure would be nice to have some type of backup power for the
computers, but they are quite costly. If anyone knows of a company
that might be willing to either donate some UPS battery backup
systems or similar things for our small school (or at least give a
reduced price), I would be most grateful.

For many local people (nearly all in the local villages), electricity
outages aren't a concern - there simply isn't any electricity. So, I
guess I should just look at the whole situation as a minor
inconvenience and take it as another memorable aspect of Mali.

| Melissa Enderle |
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/ / / / Melissa Enderle