Bamako is the prevalent smell of garbage, the clouds of dust, the halo of flies over my food. Bamako is a village that got too big too soon, and still hasn’t caught up to it’s new body. It’s exhaust fumes, harried drivers, impatient honking. It’s not waiting your turn, it’s pushing ahead, it’s taking what you want and what you need, before you lose sight of it. Bamako is weaving a path between small rivers in the road, formed of human and animal waste. It’s stepping over open gutters and dead animals on the sidewalk. It’s catcalls on the side of the road and leering looks at every corner. Bamako is not knowing which smile or which handshake to trust.
Bamako is exhausting. It’s trying to speak Bambara, it’s trying to be friendly, it’s trying to fit in, it’s trying to make friends. It’s figuring out a place, trying to grasp customs that aren’t quite clear. It’s memorising landmarks and strange sounds, understanding age old traditions mingling with new technology. Bamako is trusting that everything will turn out ok.
Despite all of this, Bamako is the chatter of women and the laughter of children. It’s the smell of wood chips burning in stoves in front of every home, surrounded by men playing cards. Bamako is toddlers running after older siblings, women looking out for every child, strangers looking out for strangers. Bamako is the prayer call five times a day, the rooster crowing and the donkey braying. It’s side-stepping chickens and puddles, it’s staying out of the way of motorcycles and sotramas, it’s the constant beep of traffic. Bamako is sweet tea and sweet smiles, happy children and laughing mothers. Bamako is the smell of my bedroom after the nightly round of incense, and the quiet hum of my fan as I lie in my princess bed.