Arts, Culture & Media

The country's name means hippo and its capital translates to crocodile's back

Crocodylus.jpg

Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus)

Credit:

Wikimedia Commons

Good day everyone. I listen to the Geo Quiz on KNOW in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. I was inspired to come up with this Geo Quiz because it’s a place I love and a place in which I have many friends.

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The country’s name that I’m looking for means hippo in Bambara, the country’s most prominent local language and the name of its capital city translates to crocodile’s back. The north of the country is dominated by desert landscapes and the south by moist savannah grass lands.  The country is bisected by the Niger River which arcs up into the desert.

Can you name this country?

Credit:

Wikipedia Commons

The answer to this Geo Quiz is Mali.

I first began working there in 1987 when I went as a young Peace Corps volunteer in my 20s. I was sent to a small village of 200 people.

While I spoke French, there was only one other French speaker in the town so I had to learn the local language, Bambara. 

It was terribly important to greet people and to be friendly so I learned multiple greetings. In the morning, I would say i ni sɔgɔma, “good morning.”

In the middle of the day I would say i ni tile which literally means “you and the sun.” In the afternoon I would say i ni wula which means “good afternoon.”  

I lived with a family. I wore local clothes, and I worked with farmers and gardeners in that community to improve food production.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate because after I was a Peace Corps volunteer I was able to return. I return every two to three years to do research so I’ve maintained contact with the families in the village where I was a Peace Corps volunteer.

When I go back and spend time in the village it’s like we haven’t missed a beat. Even if I arrive completely unannounced, they insist that I stay and have a meal.

In order to socialize they drink strong tea which you cook over a long period of time on top of a small burner or a charcoal stove.

You prepare three cups of tea very slowly, so the first round is the strongest, the third round is the weakest, and you add lots of sugar to it. You drink it out of a small cup which you pass around and all share from.

So should you find yourself in Mali, I encourage you to sit down with a local person, share some tea with them, take time to greet them, to inquire about their family. It’s a great way to socialize. Kambɛ soni. Goodbye. See you again. May we remain together.

Written by Bill Moseley,  a professor of geography at Macalester College.