Friday, January 13, 2012

Africa day 2

Day 2 (or three? They blurred) ...We're now about one and a half hours from Koutiala. While we were stopping at a little gas station, a crowd of kids gathered. At first it was just one little boy who stood and stared at me through the open door of the van. He smiled at me, the hugest, most gap toothed adorable smile I've ever seen. I, of course, grinned back as wide as my face could go. We stood grinning and periodically waving at each other, as other kids came up. I finally nerved up the courage to try and say "good afternoon" in Bambara, the trade language. I said "I ni wula" shyly, and could tell from their mystified expressions that they hadn't understood. So I tried again. This time they understood, and their smiles ( I would have thought it impossible, but it wasn't) got even wider. They giggled and kept repeating "I ni wulu" to each other. They obviously got a kick out of the white girl speaking Bambara. *
They were so indescribably beautiful, with their mix matched colorful and unkempt clothes, huge white smiles in their black faces, and enormous eyes.

*[Also, I later realized that I may have used the wrong phrase. So they were probably just laughing at the fact that the white girl  thought she was speaking their language, but definitely wasn't succeeding very well. Still, it's one of my happiest memories, my first attempt at Bambara and that beautiful little boy's grin.]


   Considering this blog is supposed to be about Africa, but the whole college thing is getting in the way of me going back to Africa in the immediate future, I figured I'd tide myself over with all my Mali memories. So here's the story of me and Africa, taken from my journal from the trip.

June 30th, 2009 1:30 pm, London Time, Heathrow airport.
...The flights so far have gone well. I stared out the window half the time, fascinated by the view of the clouds from above. They look like a sea of cotton swabs, stretching forever. I joked with Dad about how glaringly obvious it was that I was the only first time flyer on our plane. I was the only one who seemed to find the view more than briefly interesting. I spent the flight with my nose against the glass.
July 1st, 9:30am.
The rest of our trip went well. We had a three hour layover in Casablanca. The airport smelled of over expensive designer perfume and cheep cigarettes.
...I could barely keep my eyes open by the time we got to Bamako. [Understandable after two days of travel and no sleep, since I discovered I have trouble sleeping on planes.] It was so good to see [the Alliance International Workers we were working with]. They drove us to their home, which is beautiful. My first nightime view of Bamako showed very run down buildings, some shacks, and many people walking out, even thought it was three thirty in the morning. When we arrived, their guard [At first I was taken aback by the fact that most of the missionaries had guards and cleaning help, but began to understand it was a fabulous way to build relationships in the community, and supplied an income to people whose families might otherwise literally go hungry.] unlocked the gate to their walled in courtyard. He was wearing pants, socks and a sweater because it was "so cold!" Dad and I, meanwhile, were sweating profusely.
We settled in, and everything was very comfortable, but it took me a long time to get to sleep. When I'm overtired, I can't fall asleep. I was so tired I physically felt sick. Dad woke up and tried to sing me to sleep. He's wonderful.
....I took a nap after our whatcha mackalit session [I believe my jet lagged brain was searching for the word "orientation"] when the missionaries gave us some Mali basics.
Later, they took Dad and I to the artisan market.
The driving is insane. Absolutely insane. People, sometimes three on one, often carrying large objects, weave in and out of traffic on little motor cycle like things called motos.
My main impression of the artisan market was, well, everything. The noise; so many people trying to sell you so many different things, the colors; of beautiful cloth, crafts of all kinds, outfits of men and women, since Malian men wear "girl" colors too. The filth, trash littering everywhere, smell and smoke.
The silversmiths have little open grill like things [braziers], and work on their jewelry right there. It was sensory overload.