Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Homes: Bamako, Mali, 2004

I just realized that in my backwards chronology of homes, yesterday’s blog should be for today since I wrote about the place I lived in during the first 3 months of my Malian internship. Anyway…

My placement in the village of Markala was not ideal. The project that I had been sent to do did not really exist. And while I was there to help with IT development, we had only 3 sometimes-functioning computers (after I cleaned out the ants nest) and no internet. These and other reasons lead me to move to Bamako, Mali’s capital city.

I found an organization that was working to help youth and community development – and volunteered to develop their website and help with some computer stuff. They happily accepted and I was relieved to be able to move into their compound where I had some more personal freedom and space.

I lived in one of three adjoining rooms on one side of the organization’s compound. Each room had a door and window facing the courtyard. The offices were in another building in the courtyard.

My room was quite small – a single bed, some shelves, a table and a fan. Cooking was done over a single burner – although I quickly picked up the bachelor habit of going out in the evenings and buying my dinner for the equivalent of about 25 cents from one of the many women who would set up stands where they served traditional Malian food.

I was still a white foreigner who stood out like a sore thumb, but I was relieved to no longer have the close, constant scrutiny of living within a family in a small village. There was a young British couple living in room adjoining mine, and another British woman who worked with the organization. I made friends with other foreigners as well as with Malians who could see past my skin colour and engage with me as a person.

While I certainly learned a lot about Malian culture and rural life while living in Markala, in Bamako I was able to explore and interact with my surroundings much more. The overall experience was very enriching, but was certainly very challenging too.

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