Today was super busy. Yesterday was for parts, only in a very different way.
I was fetched at 8:30 am and we went out to the School for the Deaf in Bamako. It was a holiday (Happy Jour D’Afrique!) so no children were there, but a number of adults were there, including a deaf artist I (I’m bringing a painting home…), and a few of the others I have been hearing about from Kathleen. They have a sewing studio with like 15 machines, and they make clothes and shopping bags and a bunch of stuff. The art studio was great – those children are blessed to have such an artist on staff! He uses car paint because that’s what’s readily available to him.
Then, we did a bit of a shopping tour. We didn’t go to any open air markets, but to a number of local art and artisan shops. The last one had a great selection of beads, and of textiles. I’m bringing home enough fabric to open a small sewing shop myself – but holy cow – it’s a tie-dye lover’s paradise here. That, and batik. Some of the fabric is waxed when it’s done- really pretty thickly.
Somehow, the day was tiring.
Today – tiring in a whole different way. We met with the President of the National Assembly (sorta like the US Congress), which was an experience in itself. Turns out, he has two deaf nieces. I went down a receiving line shaking hands, and ended up in this lobby with a TV camera pointed at me and they started asking questions about why I was there and what I hoped for re. deaf education in Mali. I was so not prepared to so anything coherent – supposedly it’ll be on TV at 8 so we’ll see about that. Then, we met with a subgroup of the Assembly charged with working on special education – and I gave my talk to them. They were awesome – they asked very thoughtful questions, even some pretty technical details about my research results. After lunch, we met with a group from the Minister of Social Development (I think…) – that was my biggest audience all week, there were about 30 people. All four talks this week went well – and we found out this morning (near the end of that presentation) that the Assembly has just passed a law setting up a focus in the country on special education.
Perhaps it’s just the “density” of things I did this week – but I really think the ball is rolling on changing policy and practice for special ed in Mali. Kathleen Peoples (my primary contact all week, from the Public Affairs Office at the US Embassy in Mali, for a few more days anyway – her tour is up) has been working on this for three years – and the week before she leaves things are falling into place. It’s pretty awesome thing to see.
My work is about done here. Tomorrow, I am going to Campement Kangaba, where Boubacar Traore (aka Kar Kar) is performing Friday night. I am SO excited about it. I may wrangle a ride on the Nile while I’m there. WTF was I thinking not packing a swimsuit? Though somehow I think it’ll be ok to swim in the pair of boxers I brought to sleep in and a tank top…