Dear all,

I really appreciate your updates of news from your neck of the woods. It often alarms me to catch on BBC or VOA the situation and then I also ask my fellow Malians if they know any more than yesterday’s news. But thanks to my diverse source of news, I have become somewhat the news giver instead. As I’ve said in my previous reports, the infiltration of these extremist muslims in the South of the country is not a new thing. More than 60 of them have been caught with weapons since my arrival here in Mali on December 28th. However due to the fact that their numbers are increasing under pressure from the war area, more and more of them are managing to find their way into the dense populated regions in the south. Bamako is not the only hiding bush for them, but all over the southern side of the country. At the beginning, knowing of the infiltration, people were freaked out, but now most everyone is on the look out for who is whom and wary of new faces in the neighborhood. The other day neighbors were questioning a woman who had asked a teenager whether my Center is a school; the teenager told his mother and they stopped the woman for questioning. It turned out she was not a threat, but simply looking for someone.  None of this is by any means to undermine the situation here in Mali–in fact it is going to be hard for me to go to Portland leaving my brothers and sisters and their families behind me. The only thing left here is hope, the hope that this will end soon because the damage is already done to the culture.

Yesterday I visited the high school students that are exchanging poems and their thoughts with a high school in Portland through KoFalen. The name of this high school in Bamako is Lycee Filifen Sissoko. The students told me that what they learned in this first exchange of poetry, is that adults in America need to take more responsibility and know the importance of their families. But they also admitted that their own poems were mostly about the struggles we face here in Mali presently. They said that they will also use the positive side of globalization to ask the world to help save Mali. “Is there any negative side of globalization?” I asked. The students said yes indeed, because globalization does very little to keep good cultures intact. Their main focus is technology and making things, and encourage buying of those things. Alassane their English teacher was grateful that not only I came to see the students, but I came with Jessica and her husband Jon, Portlanders who are visiting the KF Center. I am really looking forward to expanding this poetry program with other schools in the Portland area.

We say here in Mali now, the country is not well and we need your blessings.

Only love from here,