Published: October 18th 2011October 18th 2011
Old Friends and New Ones
Raven has been taking care of me in Bamako and helping me learn how to do life here. She and 3 month old Diaye make life in the capital look easy.
After two years, I've come back to West Africa. The first two weeks in Senegal were surreal. I just dived back into life African Peace Corps lifestyle as if I had never left. My French luckily reappeared. But within 24 hours there were people testing my Pular as well. This proved to be a bit more challenging to recall. But I was never fabulous at Pular, so it was really as if nothing had changed. It was as if the last two years of my life hadn't happened at all. No year in Boston, no MBA from Portugal. This was very bittersweet. There was a a degree of relief: I knew how to do things already and I could easily slide in the flow of life here. But there was also a sense of regression: if this was going to be where I ended up, why did I ever leave? Were the last two years just a waste of time? Should I have come back? Shouldn't I be moving forwards, not backwards?
And then I got to Bamako. Bamako is the capital of Mali and the fastest growing city in Africa. It is the sixth fastest growing city in the
The Peuhls and their Cows
Just because it's a massive city don't think my people aren't there herding their cows. Here my taxi driver impatiently waits for a herd to make it's way down the road. I think this is one of the reasons people have negative feelings towards Peuhls throughout West Africa.
world. This is not the village life I'm use to. I live in an apartment with running potable water and electricity. I live on one of the main roads that is busy 24 hours a day. My neighbors are Malian, Guinean, and Lebanese. Everyone greets me and speaks to me in French. I take taxis everywhere, and they're expensive. There is food here, American food, Italian food, Indian food, Chinese food, even an American style Sunday brunch. I spend five days a week in an office for nine hours a day. Life in Bamako is completely different than my life in Guinea.
So I've realized that this is an entirely new experience with some vague similarities to my time in Guinea. I still greet 300 people a day. I still get mobbed by children shouting "white person." And I still wash my hands 15 times a day. And life is good. This year or so in Mali will hopefully help me get some closure after being prematurely pulled out of Guinea, and help heal some of the scars that I took with me as souvenirs.