Dance like no one is watching … or 150 people are

Field visits are one of my favourite parts of my job. It’s here that I get to connect most directly with our work and see the impact hours behind a computer really have for community members working for a dollar a day. We are so warmly greeted by the community members in a way unique to Mali itself. The greeting, filled with songs, long speeches,  and blessings for me, my health, my work, my family, and everything but the kitchen sink are a long standing tradition that can take forever!

Last week when I was in a community near Bougouni (said ‘boo goo knee’) for a community meeting with 150 people. I thought the long greeting session was over and slowly took my seat. But in true Malian fashion we were far from done. Community members started saying i danse ( said ‘e dan say’) i danse i danse. I looked to my field partner and asked :

” i danse… does that mean that want me to dance?” (This didn’t seem like a ridiculous question in a country where music and dance are seemingly ever present.)

My Field Partner said “yes… you need to dance they are saying i danse”

“But there’s no music”

“you need to dance they are saying i danse”

“okay…?…. ” and I got up and danced a white girl version your grandpa’s polka and everyone stared at me like I had 10 heads and started to laugh.

I slowly made my way back to my seat when a Field Agent told me that “i danse” means welcome, I looked to my field partner who was in tears laughing at the whole situation.

Cultural misunderstandings: 1 Krystal 0

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