the baby mangos are appearing. soon it will be april. it will be mango season. it will be one more training stint. it will be a reunion with your yala yala buddies.
but let’s talk about now, february.
right now you’re in bamako for a special reason. a reason that shouldn’t have happened if someone hadn’t been so careless.
but no matter.
you’re busy being productive.
for the past month, your first month, you began asking all the villagers their name. writing it down.
looking at their faces. making their portraits with your camera.
the end goal being to remember who all these people are. because if you end up not doing anything in your village, the very least you can do is know the people who you live with.
so far, 1 month, 508 togos. names. it helps you keep busy in village – and in town as well as you compile everything into your computer.
so while you’re resting in bamako, you think back to your first month at site.
each morning begins with you unzipping your bug hut. the one thing that separates you and…
the ants under your water filter,
the lizard that trapped itself in your bucket,
or the bats that help you eat mosquitoes and flies.
you love your bug hut.
then you step outside your door and peer over your wall.
you eat breakfast. you greet your host family. then you go off and yala yala and see what people are up to.
one of your favorite places to wander into is the community garden.
green is all you can see.
but this purple plant makes you stop.
you rub your eyes because you never knew that this is where one of your favorite fruit comes from.
in mali, ripe bananas are green.
just like mali’s ripe mandarins. green on the outside.
with the unmistakable orange color on the inside.
they’re also matchbox sized. perfect for snacking as you wander around all day.
those same matches are what you use to light your charcoal fire.
because your gas tank is leaking.
but before you can continue cooking, first you hop on a donkey cart for 8 kilometers because your bike is broken.
this is the view you stare at from your bumpy ride for over an hour.
once you arrive at your market town you can finally buy eggs.
the 3 ingredients needed to make a simple egg sandwich.
but with the work involved in mali – you’ve only made this once.
you often wander into people’s homes. you walk right in. this is malian culture, where every home is your home.
malians are always busy doing something. such has knocking over bubaga hills to feed their chickens. termites.
or roasting a freshly killed toto. rat.
they might even be making soumbala. a sauce ingredient made from the nere tree or from soybeans.
they might be making music.
they might be building a new so. house.
they might be learning how to write.
they might be in the middle of eating taro and then shove a few into your hands.
they might be crushing peanuts.
to make peanut butter.
which you store in a jar, sprinkle with sugar, and eat by the spoonful. protein doesn’t come often in your malian village life.
it’s not uncommon to see guinea fowl crossing the dirt paths.
or a flock of sheep.
what is uncommon, however, is the day the harmattan winds arrived.
they come from the sahara. and with it they pick up dust.
with that dust the sun is blocked and the temperatures drop.
landscapes are deserted as people hide indoors.
harmattan haze. dust cloud. sand storm. different names, same thing.
you – and a few malians too – don’t heed the warnings to avoid outside activity. laundry is being done. you cross your fingers and hope that your lungs will be okay.
after a few days, the cloud is lifted and the normal blue sky returns.
you look forward to the night because of your new fascination: the silhouette.
to be elaborated on later.
once you’ve eaten dinner with your host family, you retreat inside your house to your desk. the desk where you write. letters. journals. ideas. plans. thoughts.
that about sums up when you did (when the camera was around) for your first four weeks in your new village.
and now, in bamako, you finish typing your thoughts from the past month. you also wonder when you can finally leave and return to your village – you miss the names and faces you were beginning to know.