MAD in MALI Journal #5 December 22, 2007
LETTER TO MY COLLEGE FRENCH INSTRUCTOR
By chance, I had located Tom, a nephew of my former teacher. Tom sent me an email to confirm his Uncle John was a retired teacher who had taught in Illinois. Uncle John was in town due to the death of his brother, Tom’s father. Following is my letter to my college French Instructor, who is now 81 years old and retired in Texas. I had
found Tom’s blog, online. The blog is about Western Massachusetts, my birthplace.
MAD in MALI
Thank you for reply and I am pleased to be able to write to Mr. Devine and provide an interesting update.
I have seen the photo of your Uncle John on your blog. He does not look like he did about 38 years ago, but then neither do I.
Please, send the following note to your Uncle.
Sorry, about the death of your brother, we send our sympathy to you and your family.
One of the things I enjoy is running into folks I have known years before.
Remember, that baby I had brought to morning class a few times, she turned 38 this year!
Presently, I live in Bamako, Mali West Africa. This is a former French colony and most of the population is acquainted with French language and culture. The census is 90% Muslim and those traditions are evident throughout the country. The remainder is Christian and a lesser count of very old beliefs.
They sent the French Foreign Legion to this one country. I am 600 miles west of Timbuktu, which is next to Sahara. Mali is now independent.
We have guards 24/7 and they are all Muslim and speak French and Bamara. This is for our safety, due to the very poor population of Mali. Well, yes, the possibility of terrorist who are primarily in the North near Algeria. The people are very warm and friendly and have a great sense of humor. My housekeeper/cook is Moussa; he speaks a little English so we communicate just fine. I ask 'how do you say...in French 'and I learn more vocabulary each day.
One fascinating thing, is how I remember French. It is uncanny; my friends are quite impressed.but not has much as I! It is wonderful, to speak without the difficulty of a first semester student. I love being able to tell a joke but Malians love to laugh, anyway.
One story I wish to tell. We were ordering dinner in Paris while on leave from Moscow. It was most difficult to get Russian out of my mind and think of French. Our waiter had the most peculiar look on his face. We got dinner, eventually.
You cannot do better than to live in a culture to learn a language. I have the opportunity to take private lessons, and plan to do so very soon.
We arrived in October 2007 and leave 2009. We have traveled to several countries and have lived in Moscow, Yerevan capital of Armenia and our last tour was Tel Aviv, Israel. My heritage is Byelorussian, so lessons in Russian have been another skill I have put to use. I am not a linguist, but I have managed to communicate along with charades! Ha ha
It must be over a dozen times, when I talk to people about my roots that I repeat what you said once...' there are over 400 dialects in Massachusetts'!
You know how people think you are from Boston, if you were born in Massachusetts, as if western mass does not exist. Therefore, I set them straight.
So glad, I can communicate with you about the worth of my class time. I was not one of the very best of students but I certainly am glad I tried.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
The adventure continues...
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