Esiteri and the Red Earth

A few updates:

We made it safely to Bamako!

We started language classes. I am amazed at how far God has taken me. Growing up, I could barely open my mouth because of fear to talk to a stranger in my own language. Now, I am going out on a limb speaking to people, risking failure, in a language completely foreign to me.

Our hosts have a small television, and the Africa Cup (soccer precursor to the World Cup) is a big deal. Let’s just say that when the Mali team scored, I swear that I heard the whole city erupt in cheering.

We have been given our new names to make pronunciation for the Malians easier. My new name is Esther, except when they say it, it sounds like “Estare,” and they spell it like “Esiteri.” I like it quite a bit. I think I may try to study the book of Esther while I am here.

Thank you so much for your prayers! We have been very blessed so far, and the team is bonding well.

I really enjoy this way of life. Though the simple things take more effort, I feel more at peace and happier.  My emotions go up and down like a roller coaster. I suppose this is normal. To ease my aching heart, I try to be glad in having memories of family and friends to hold on to when I cannot hold on to the people themselves.

I am sure we have made plenty of cultural mistakes even in these first few days, but they are gracious with us. In a way, they have adopted us into their family while we are here. They have even given us the honor of introducing ourselves with their last names.

We went to the post office today to mail letters. It took about two or three taxis and almost two hours to complete the task. Unfortunately, it looks as though we will not make that trip too often. I wish this were not so, but such difficulties come with the territory. I will still try to write, but so much rests in uncertainty. It also looks like Skype won’t happen until the end of February most likely.

The days pass by unannounced. There are no warnings, dramatic conclusions, or credits scrolling past on a screen accompanied by some fitting theme music (though, from time to time, Valerie does play soundtracks from various films.) We are here. And though I knew it would be true, it has not hit me until now that we are here to live. This is life for us now. This is the norm.

We wake up, or at least we try to wake up at 7 or 7:30 in the morning. By this time, the Malians have most likely been awake for about two hours. While I lay in bed, I am awoken by the sound of the morning call to prayer, a rooster’s crow, or the sound of the women doing their chores.

Breakfast is generally at 8 am. Before this, one of the women will usually ask if we want to take a shower. If we answer affirmatively, they go about the work of heating water and filling our buckets. We take the bucket into a shower room and splash ourselves to our heart’s content. This room has no roof and the drain goes out through the wall.

After breakfast, we usually have class to learn Bambara. Ton ton Sako is a wonderful teacher. He says that we are learning quickly. Class is about three hours long. Then we have lunch. All the food is so good.

In the afternoon, we rest and have tea. Depending on the day, we will do different things, like go to the market or play with the children.

Stress comes without warning. It can be a culmination of things – language is one of those things. I find comfort in knowing that God knows and understands my language. He also knows and understands the Malians. I pray that when we fail, He could bring understanding to both of us.

We are all missing our loved ones, but God is faithful still. Personalities sometimes clash, but we are not in the business of giving up on being at peace with each other.

Thank you for your prayers!

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