On Sunday I was kindly invited on a boat ride on the Niger in Bamako. On my way to Senegal in December I had run into a fellow alumni of my study time in Leiden. We ran into each other at the airport of Charles des Gaulles, I was on my way to Dakar, he was heading to Bamako. We probably hadn’t seen each other in 7 years or so. We joked to each other, for being an anthropologist we had both turned out quite well.
We discussed this again during the boat ride, some of the pros and cons of the jobs we have. A lot of it is interesting from a socio-political perspective, even inspiring, but some of it is tough, lonely at times and can be incredibly frustrating for various reasons.
However, I’ll tell you the things that I love, starting with a boat ride like we did Sunday. I didn’t have a lot of time off this trip, and when I do, I’m honestly not very adventurous, but snoozing on a boat, with a variety of company from a Dutch father with his pubescent Dutch/Malian boys (an ideal genepool mix for an extremely tall 14 year old), a Cameroonian filmmaker and his French wife, her mother and sister who are visiting the French lady and my fellow alumni makes me happy very quickly. It’s probably the notion of ‘being in the same boat’, but this rather strange mix of people was a good opportunity to practice my French even more and funnily enough reminisce a little on the past as a student, while practicing another thing I love, photography and enjoying the views among Bamako’s life line.
What I love as well are the birds. I know absolutely nothing about birds, but my expertise seems to be growing over time. In Nigeria the tree in front of the hotel was full of yellow weaverbirds, here in Bamako they have the cutest little doves popping onto my balcony. In the evenings in Segou I would here an owl cooing, in the morning their would be a flight of green parrots passing by when I would sit on my yoga mat on the rooftop, over the Niger there were kingfishers diving into the water and the majestic kites float high up in the skies everywhere.
I love the colour of the red earth, even when the dust ruins your shoes, another reason only to wear flip-flops (even if this not always appropriate for work). You see a real purpose for washing your feet in the evening, when the red water flows through the sink.
I love the fact that I can wear summer dresses all the time (with some scarfs and decent knee length skirts you can come a long way in cultural coverage requirements). The temperature makes my body surge into life and feel at ease.
I love the fact that at times nothing seems possible, but often times everything is possible. On our way back from Segou to Bamako, we discovered we still had two sets of keys from the house where we stayed at. Oops. Leaving the owner only with his own set of keys. We were too far to return back, but about three calls later a solution was already on the way. A colleague of the house owner was on his way in the opposite direction and could take the keys back. All we had to do was look out for a green Mercedes along the 400 km road. You’d be surprised how many green cars you see all of a sudden, but it worked out perfectly.
I love the strange coincidences of walking along the river in Segou with my colleagues, admiring the century old trees, and all of a sudden hearing a call from a rooftop if you would like to come up for dinner. Our Malian guide of our Sunday outing happened to live there. We didn’t know, but he heard us talk and his Dutch girlfriend had prepared an enormous pasta salad. She was just wondering what to do with it as she was leaving for a trip the next day. We were the perfect ‘unplanned’ solution and besides spent a wonderful evening on another rooftop.
I love the unattachedness to things. Living out of a suitcase makes you realise how little you need, but I’ll be honest, I immensely appreciate constant electricity supply and internet, but you can even get used to less and notice that it is actually quite healthy not to have access all the time (okay almost all the time…).
I love that I met at least two fellow poets along the way. My colleague in Nigeria, another from Burkina Faso and actually also a third, but I’m not sure he wishes to be named. For now the journey is over again, but will continue soon again. In the mean time I will enjoy another thing which I love, being at home after a long travel and enjoying the company of family and friends.