Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Last Evening in Mali - 2002

It is now evening, on my last full day in Mali. Items are already shipped off, luggage packed, donations and gifts given and received, and good-bye's said more than once. Although I am very much looking forward to seeing my family and friends in green Wisconsin, I will miss this place.

As we drove through Bamako tonight, I reflected back on some of the sights that first caught my attention. Women and girls expertly balanced large items on their heads and carried babies on their backs. Men pedaled bikes, carrying enormous loads of goods or produce. Women sat along the bumpy, dusty roads, hoping to sell their brochettes, mangoes, or other food items to passersby. Although there were no Walmarts or any significant stores, commerce was occurring everywhere, from the tiny tin shack to telephone card seller at the roadside, to the small cement-built shops. In fact, people were everywhere, especially with the heat of the day now past. Women dressed in their brightly patterned and colored boubous. Likewise, some men dressed elegantly in outfits made of besoin cloth and a matching colored skullcap. Elder goats nudged younger ones to safety across the street. People exchanged the long salutary Bambara greetings. Radios could be heard playing Toumani Diabate, Neba Solo, and Salif Keita. Children amused themselves by kicking around a slightly flat soccer ball in the dusty street. So many scenes....

As we arrived to our destination, it was quite apparent that there would be no sunsets. Rather, it was cloudy and appeared to be raining at a distance. As night fell, the lights on the bridge and the "Batman Building" provided a tranquil view of the city. An unusual breeze cooled us as we sat on the terrace of the restaurant. Occasional flashes of lightning filled the distant sky. All this, as we chatted away with friends and colleagues, some with whom we may never see again.

In 24 hours, Mali will be but a memory for me. Although I may never find myself in Mali again, I will revisit it many times in my memories.

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