Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Mali Evenings- 2002

Ah, yes, another typical day in Mali. After a few days of cloudy skies and slightly cooler (or should I say less hot) temperatures, the sky regained its blue color with the sun pouring out its ultraviolet rays. This weekend one of our Malian neighbors held a big party, most likely a marriage celebration. True to most fetes, there was plenty of live music, with sounds of a variety of drums dominating. Women dressed in elegant boubous, flowing around them in a sea of color. The dancing, drumming, singing, and lively discussions continued throughout the evening, thankfully waning a bit at my bedtime. The air conditioner drowned out most of the remaining noise. Even if it was rather difficult to see much from my window, it was obvious that it was a joyous occasion.

Throughout the year I have had great pleasure in giving out small gifts to Malian children and some of the adults I meet on the way to school. Whether it is a box of crayons and paper, a matchbox car, or a bag of marbles, they are so appreciative. Even a simple handshake and "bonjour" makes their young faces light up in a smile. I have "fan clubs" around the vicinity of my house, with the children waving and shouting my name even at a distance. One little girl, rushing forward to greet me, nearly took me off balance as she hugged me with full force. Looking through my wardrobe, I decided it was time to give away some items. The women were so thankful for the clothing, even if the items were starting to look a little tired. I took some digital photos of my neighbors and those working in and around the duplex. They were delighted as I presented them with printed mementos. Children eagerly rushed to locate their presence in the photos, giggling with glee as they succeeded.
As part of their new uniforms, the guardians were issued new shoes – plastic black shoes. Although the guardians didn't complain, it was obvious that the shoes were hot and uncomfortable in this humid heat. When asked, one did admit that the shoes hurt his feet, especially since he didn't have any socks. I quietly gave him a few pairs of mine. From his praises, you would have thought the gift was sizeable and expensive - so appreciative of the little things.

After practicing kora on my porch overlooking the lush yard, I went for a swim. The menacing ultraviolet rays of the midday sun had disappeared, with the evening star appearing in the sky. Dusk is also the time for the bats to appear. They swoop around the mango trees, biting into the succulent fruit, which is at near peak in the region of Bamako. While swimming I could see them in the sky, sometimes swooping near the pool but not taking a drink, as they would normally with the absence of swimmers. Geckoes congregated in the pool pump area, seemingly having a conversation. The brilliant colors of the flowering trees soon gave way to the darkness. Crickets began a chorus, growing louder as more joined in. The beauty of nature....

At school, things are both drawing to a close and entering a climax. Final field trips, art shows, graduations and other events are occurring. Some families are already leaving, some for the summer and some forever. Kids, some who have been here most of their school years and others for a year or two, have begun to make the transition of saying goodbye. Some families will go on to other overseas posts and others are returning to their home countries. For some of these children, they will be going to their "home country" - a place in which they have never lived. I too am preparing to leave. Most of my belongings are now packed in containers awaiting shipment. Still have those end of the year preparations and goodbyes to do....

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