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Happy endings

I got to spend my last night in Africa (for now) under the stars at my favourite little bar with my favourite new friends.

In my last post, I talked about a malian friend of mine. I had the pleasure of his company again tonight, and I got to hear more of his great wisdom (usually, he says things that I think of on a regular basis. It’s nice to be reminded that my vision is shared half a world away). Today’s lesson was to focus on what you’re living now, and enjoy each moment to it’s fullest – memories are what’ll stick with you, not possessions or money.

Lucky me, that I got to enjoy a great last night, great friends, great music, great last motorcycle ride under the stars. I’m leaving here richer than when I came.

Lucky me that I get to see you all again soon!

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Bamako is…

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.


Five minutes later…


Remember five minutes ago when I just posted about my colleague buying a motorcycle? And how I think he’s crazy? And how the traffic is crazy, and cars and motorcycles swerve in and out, within an inch of each other? And how people who ride motorcycles here must be crazy?


So, I had to go to the bank, and one of my colleagues offered to take me. I was just told that the bank was within waking distance, so I thought, why not? But, as we’re leaving the office, he takes me through the parking lot. And heads towards a motorcycle. And puts his keys in the ignition. At this point, I’m still hoping that, I don’t know… that’s where he keeps his keys or something. Nope… the guard opens the door, and my new friend tells me to hop on!


I try to protest, saying that I’ve never ridden a motorcycle before, that I’m terrified. Clearly, I can’t tell him that his countrymen drive like maniacs. He shakes his head and says ‘no no, you’ll be fine, just hold on’

Famous last words?

Ok, we were fine. Well, he was fine, and I was terrified the whole way. When we got to the bank, I was shaking. And we hadn’t really driven through any traffic! On the way back from the bank, I was actually able to enjoy the sights – we drove through a market, which was beautiful and colorful… and full of other cars and motorcycles, all driving within an inch of me. But I figured, hey, I’m not the one driving this thing, so it’s not my place to worry.  But worry I did… and I won’t lie, I closed my eyes once or twice.

Just after writing the last post, I said to myself that I wouldn’t be getting on a motorcycle here. And now I just had to, and I bet it isn’t the last time. Maybe I’ll even get used to it one day!