Back to Bamako
Late afternoon we reached Macıs Refuge in Sevare, where we once again
treated ourselves to a shower and some home-cooked meals. The next morning
we headed off on the long drive back to Bamako. As soon as the 4WD stopped
in the Sevare gas station, a number of locals headed towards the vehicle in
hopes for a sale of items including Fulani blankets, jewelry, hats, shoes,
cigarettes, and produce.
Between Sevare and the town of San, we passed through villages also holding
markets. Many people on donkey carts and the occasional horse-pulled carts
were making their way to the market. Others were walking, carrying large
loads in baskets expertly balanced on their heads. Boys pushed small carts
with a pole full of chickens balanced on it. Other kids held up guinea hens,
hoping for a roadside sale. Along the way we passed by seasonal riverbeds,
now completely dry and sandy. On the road we passed large white passenger
trucks, crammed with people in back and gourds, sheep, sacks, plastic bowls,
and other goods piled high and tied down on the roof. Sometimes there were
even people on top of that! Some larger trucks hauled sheep on the bottom,
and large numbers of people filling every spare inch of the open area. Our
driver had to constantly be aware of hazards on the road, including
slow-moving donkey carts, potholes, and animals such as goats, sheep,
cattle, and donkeys attempting to cross the narrow paved road.
In Segou, numerous signs indicated the upcoming COCAN, the all-Africa soccer
tournament held starting in mid-January in 5 regions of Mali. New
restaurants were built; lodging, stores and roads with streetlights were
added. New soccer stadiums were erected. I hope that Mali and its citizens
reap great rewards from the tournament, both in the immediate future and for
some time to come.
As we neared the capital city of Bamako, darkness began to envelop the area.
A curious white fog seemed to hang in the distance towards Bamako. The
closer we got to the city, the worse the ³fog² was. We then realized that
the ³fog² burning our eyes and making it difficult to breathe was created by
burning garbage a practice encouraged in order to clear the area of
garbage prior to the tournaments. Our thirteen-day trip was now over. The
next day we started school, adding with it all the familiar routines.
Mali is a country with people proud of their tradition. Despite the numerous
cultures and ethnic groups, people generally co-exist peacefully. Life is
not easy most are in subsistence mode, barely able to make enough money or
grow enough crops to support their family. Many things are still done as
they were hundreds of years ago. New technology and ways of doing things are
gradually encroaching, even into isolated areas. It remains to be seen
whether the introductions will be positive or harmful to the culture,
environment, and overall way of life. Although poor financially, Mali is
rich in its diversity and warmth of people. Once again, I have had the
pleasure and opportunity to witness this.