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And then there was Kunnafonix

I expected that, as a white guy from the west, you would also pay accordingly. It happens to be, however, that in Mali people actually don’t try to rip you off all the time. In India anyone would try to get some extra cash from us poor westerners. But here, up to now I only paid too much to a cab driver. I actually knew that I was way overcharged for my cab ride to the Hellen Keller Institute, but what the heck. 2000 CFA instead of the 750 CFA we paid to get back. It was hot, and I didn’t feel like stressing myself. I just told the guy that I knew he was bullshitting me. For food and the like prices asked were always correct. I bought some dates (dadels, Dattels, dattes) and the 1000 CFA I paid were just fine, according to Issa, our driver. He actually speaks not only French and Bambara, but also Arabic and his mother tongue. As do many other people here, in this francophone muslim country with 12 or so national languages... The InstallCD (and we get a LiveCD for free, in the process) is rapidly progressing. Based on Morphix, and meant to make it easy to put lots of useful free software and free information on computers people in the west are dumping. Amadou, my percipient Malian colleague, proposed to name it Kunafonix, after kunafoni (which is Bambara for information). So within a week or so we’ll probably be able to put out a beta version with lots of cool stuff that can be used at radios and schools in Francophone Africa (or any Francophone country for that matter). It is funny, you can buy oranges at about every second street corner, but the orange juice people drink here actually comes from Spain or France. At least, the people who can afford to buy orange juice. It seems that 50.000 CFA (69 EUR) a month is actually a decent wage here. That’s about 42 litres. So most people eat rice and beans (rice, beans, beans, rice, beans, rice, rice). I’ve read somewhere that the CFA is way overvalued due its fixed rate with the euro, with the consequence that rich people can get western products for relatively low prices, but that the goods of the poor people involved in farming and fishing (about 80% of the population) are too expensive to compete on the world market. So, we volunteers could actually buy 5 times as much orange juice a month. We’re fucking rich here, to local standards. Which is hard. How to explain that my digital camera wasn’t expensive while it could have meant food for an entire family for a month or so? What to do? Spend the money on the pool and the housemaid? "Well, yeah, isn’t that gonna feed families just as well as giving away would do?" could one ask himself to soothe those thoughts. The courses at HKI, given by my geeky colleagues (although I’m probably the ubergeek of our group) were a big success. By Friday night the radio stations will be equipped with a website, which they can easily manage themselves It’s good that I dropped by, not only to give a techy helping hand here and there, but, more important, to meet the people I will work with later on, when I’ll be visiting other places here in Mali. Yesterday evening I found out that the Citroen 2CV is actually one of the best cars to ride in this city, much more comfortable than the Geekcorps 4WD. Its suspension and open roof are just sooo convenient in this hot and dusty city, where unpaved roads contain many deep holes, and there aren’t that many paved roads. Although I haven’t seen much of the city, I haven’t seen any traffic lights yet. I neither went out to shop for clothes, books or musical instruments. I will on Saturday. And I’ll probably get ripped of then. ’Cause it seems that for stuff like that you are supposed to hassle. Isn’t it so nice to wake up (at times I would consider brutal just a while ago) and hear that "...with a healthy, growing economy, with more Americans going back to work, with our nation an active force for good in the world -- the state of our union is confident and strong."? And realising that you’re a part of that? Well, am I? No, what? Well, I am more or less paid by this clique of well-respected criminals to improve their image. So well, fuck it! I’m doing stuff I like, "helping create a better way of life for Malians in one small way, providing radio stations with better access to information. It’s intended that they will use that access to spread relevant info to the people - weather reports, law changes, etc - that will help them grow more crops, do better business, and raise the overall standard of living." A k'an be!