In English and Bambara

(see journal)



A piece of wood [a log][a wood canoe made from a log] can sit in the water many years, but it won’t become a crocodile.


Yiri be se ka sigi ji kono san chaman, nka a te se ka be ke bama ye.


This is often used to describe Peace Corps Volunteers. They can stay in Mali a long time, but they will not become Malian.




One finger can’t pick up anything.


Bolondio kelen te se ka foi taa.


This is used in the context of “two heads are better than one.”




When the donkey dies, the farting will stop.


Kofe fali sa ra, bo ci be ke ban.


This is used to describe people who talk too much.




If you travel with donkeys for many years, you won’t be able to speak like a donkey, but you will know all their paths.


Ni i sigi fali fe san cyaman, i te se ka fali kan fo, nga i be na fali tamisira don.


Allen uses this to say that he knows he won’t be able to become a Malian, but he can learn their way of life.







Ni Allah son na.

God willing [if God wills it][if Allah so wills it].


Basi te.

No problem.


Aw ni sogoma!

Good morning!


Aw ka kene?

How are all of you?


Aw ni che, Aw ni barra ji!

Thank you for your generosity!


Allah ka balo di ya kosebe.

May God reward you with long life.







Allah ka ne ma.

May Allah cool him.


Allah ka da yoro sumaya.

May Allah cool his resting place.


[Because Mali is so hot, the  Malians hope things cool off in the afterlife.]








aardvark: timba

bird: kono

crocodile: bamba

dog: wulu

donkey: fali

elephant: sama, or sogoba (“big meat”)

frog: toto

lion: wara

monkey: gon

porcupine: bala

scorpion : jonkonkon

snake: sa

wild boar: lei