May 9, 2004: Headlines: COS - Mali: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer Anne Cullen in Mali

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Mali: Peace Corps Mali : The Peace Corps in Mali: May 9, 2004: Headlines: COS - Mali: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer Anne Cullen in Mali

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Tuesday, May 11, 2004 - 7:12 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps Volunteer Anne Cullen in Mali

Peace Corps Volunteer Anne Cullen in Mali

Peace Corps Volunteer Anne Cullen in Mali

I visited my sister Anne at work at her village Tana, Mali in December 1998 and January 1999. Let me say a word about the pictures I took. I never took pictures of Malians without asking permission from Anne. She herself did not photograph them very often. Malians love to have their pictures taken, but often they want to dress up for it and pose formally. Anne said that kids loved to put on a show or do karate moves when you took their picture, but I never saw this. Anne lives in a village of 800 people, and if she took a lot of pictures, the villagers would be hurt if they didn't get copies. So Anne just takes pictures of a couple families she is very close to, and gives them copies.

You will see later on that I have many pictures of our visits to Anne's Peace Corps friends. The people in the photos which come next are Anne's closest Malian friends, and they were taken mostly in private compounds. But that's about it--I took almost no pictures of people my sister did not know very well. So, these pictures are representative of my month in Mali, there has been a lot left out.

Around Tana
Mali is a country that is three times the size of California and has a population of perhaps 8 million. Half of Mali is in the Sahara desert and few people live there. Outside of the capital city, there are only four or five paved roads. They call this kind of highway a "gidrone". They are narrow strips of asphalt with no painted lines, wide enough for two buses to pass with a little room to spare. Anne's friend and fellow volunteer Candy Avila was on leave for the first part of my visit, so I luckily got to use Candy's mountain bike. Each PCV in Mali is issued a bike, which they use all the time to travel to nearby villages and to their market town where they can buy food and go to the post office. If they have a long way to travel, they only need to ride as far as the gidrone, and then they can pick up a ride for themselves and their bicycle if they wait long enough.

Anne and I spent an awful lot of time riding on the gidrone. I thought the traffic was pretty light considering that the next paved road was probably more than 500 miles to the north in Algeria. In three or four hours of riding or waiting by the side of the road, we might see four buses, 5 big trucks, and 5 private vehicles. Believe it or not, Mali is one of the top tourist destinations in West Africa, and most of the tourists travel on Anne's gidrone to get the main attractions of Mali just to the northeast of her village: Djenne, Mopti, and the Dogon country. (I don't know how they get to Timbuktu). I guess many of these tourists travel by public bus, because I did not see very many private vehicles. The traffic comes in predictable waves, because travel is by day mainly (the roads are very dark at night) and vehicles usually start from major cities.

Anne's market town, San, is halfway between the larger cities of Segou (to the west) and Mopti (to the east). Every bus that travels this road stops for a break at San, and the one "rice and sauce" restaurant in town has a thriving business.

Since the PCVs have to travel by bike, most of them live in villages which are in biking distance of a major town like San (which has a population of perhaps 30,000--it is said to be the largest town in Mali without electricity), or the PCVs live in villages directly on the gidrone. Anne is farther away from the gidrone or a large town than any other PCV who I visited. It's not that she is in a more rural area, it's just that she's farther from the road. Anne is about 5 km from the gidrone if she bikes to it directly. She usually travels on back roads for longer than that on her way to San, which is 25 km away. I think Tana is one of the nicest villages I saw, because there is not a lot of traffic nearby.

Tana is divided into four quartiers which are about 1 km apart from each other. From the edge of Anne's quartier, you can just see two others. The total population of Tana is 800, but Anne thinks of it as four separate villages, and "her Tana" has about 300 residents. There are two families she visits each day. Click here to see Ma and his pet bird.

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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Mali



By STEVE ( on Friday, May 09, 2008 - 4:29 pm: Edit Post


My wife was the a PVC in Tana, Mali in 1991 and 1992. We went back last Oct 2007 to visit the village and see her friends. I am not a PVC, but can understand what made the experience for my wife so special. They are truely special people.

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