Published: March 18th 2009March 18th 2009
Nora chided me the last time she read my blog for always claiming shock at how long it’s been since my last entry. It’s a genuine sentiment, though. Perhaps I’m easy to shock, or perhaps the notion that I have of myself as a regular blogger is woefully misplaced. In any case, wow, it’s been a long time since my last entry!
When I look back over the past three weeks, one of the only defining things that comes to mind is the heat. It is ridiculously hot these days! Hundreds during the day, 80 degrees at night. As it gets hotter and hotter, my sleep is becoming less and less adequate. For the past two nights, I’ve woken up sweating to the point that I have gotten up to take a cold shower. That usually makes the third for the day. From what I understand, I’ll know that it’s really hot season when I’m getting up several times a night to take a shower. Awesome! When we first had our screened porch built and moved our mattress out to it in the evenings to sleep there, I could go without a fan because of the coolness of night. Now I have the fan blasting on me all night to the point that I sometimes wake up with a sore throat as was the case last week when I had ridiculously debilitating sinus irritation for two days. On top of that, because people are starting to crank up their AC, there are on average two brown-outs every day, some lasting several hours at a time.
Fortunately the coming hot season has meant an abundance of mangos and avocados. One can get mangos for 20 cents and avocados for 25. Some enterprising vegetable vendors even sell cilantro for the toubabs (I’ve never found cilantro in a Malian dish). The hot season also hearkens the promise of rain. Why, just last night at some point during my sweaty tossing and turning I recall Nora asking if it was raining. I was so out of it that it took me several seconds to realize that it was thunder and pounding rain that I was hearing. Of course, in the morning there was no sign of the storm whatsoever and the bare memory of it was so dreamlike that I had to ask Nora to confirm it.
And that’s pretty much been characteristic of our days: very random. We power nap during the day and occasionally go to our friends’ house to swim in their pool, but aside from that there is little consistency in what we do. Last week we took in our neighbor, Canadian Acke, who through a bizarre series of circumstances was displaced from his home by his new housemates. He’ll be with us for another week before he heads back to Canada. Nora and I have also recently taken to helping out a friend with a survey that she’s putting together to locate financial identifiers of the people with the greatest need for healthcare assistance. Finally, we’ve agreed to work with an obstetrician at the hospital in Bamako who has amassed a gigantic database of every hospital birth since 1985. I’m to put together a database program for him to facilitate data entry, and Nora’s to rewrite all of the papers based on it for publication in English-language journals, so the payoff should be pretty good.
I’m still contemplating one last study to do in Mali. I’m out of funds, so it will have to be cheap, but my time seems to be running really short. We just booked our return flight home—for the 6th of July—which makes our return that much more tangible. Given that it already feels like summer, perhaps it seems closer than it actually is. Next week we head to Senegal to spend a week at the beach with my sister. At the end of May we’re heading to Morocco to spend time with Nora’s sister, and then at the beginning of July we’ll spend a few days with our friend Alex in Britain. That said, it does seem like our time here is drawing to a close. I doubt that will make the nights more bearable, though.
Finally, there was a moment that I have to share that is both random and indicative of the charm of Bamako, something I am sure to miss when we are gone. Just yesterday we had spent the evening in a toubab restaurant because we had lost our house key on the way back from our friends’ pool and were waiting for Acke to come back from a party. We had to neglect our work for hours, and I had to slink around the city in my swimming trunks, which was pretty embarrassing, but nevertheless we had a good time. On the way back from the restaurant, we passed by a gymnasium across the street from which was a crowd of men. When we drew closer, we saw that there were about 20 guys in shorts, ranging from rail-thin boys to giant beefcakes, arranged around a circular sand wrestling pit. There were drummers off to the side pounding out frenetic rhythms that seemed to follow the pace of the matches in the center of the pit. We watched several bouts, which featured a range of highly unique styles, along with about 30 other people, mostly men. After 20 minutes or so, the wrestlers lined up in a formation and performed a dance in the sand pit. Seeing that almost made me wish we lost our key more often.
Unfortunately, that’s it for now. I could easily write more, but some topics are off-limits. ;) Ugh, I’m sitting through yet another brown-out. Off to the beach in 10 days!