A day in the life…

Yesterday was a rough day. I found myself totally depleted when I returned to my hotel room. What had depleted me are the challenges in my work here; the rampage in Las Vegas; the depressing and inane remarks from the gun lobby people; the misery in Puerto Rico, and the hidden misery of all the Caribbean islands that are no longer in the spotlight. And then there is the chaos I see in Bamako, a city and country that was so full of hope and visibly getting a handle on its development when I was last here more than a decade ago.  A coup in 2012 changed its course.

I had to call home to re-center and replenish. I managed to talk and Facetime with Axel, Tessa and then the Blisses. This helped, especially seeing Faro doing a Chinese bow and saying something else in Chinese that no one else understood, but it sounded very Chinese. He is learning a lot and seem to be enjoying it.

I don’t particularly like to travel by myself.  Meals in restaurants by oneself are boring and are just about food; and when the food is not so remarkable, meal time is not something I look forward to. I had such a large meal at my first dinner in this hotel that it served me for 3 more days, every day another chicken leg or wing. The little refrigerator in my room allowed me to have the leftovers packed up.

But the next day I found out that it is more of a freezer. I called the hotel technician who said he fixed it but he didn’t, and so I ate frozen (but cooked) chicken legs and wings for 3 nights in a row. The 4 dollar Pink lady apple I bought (imported from France) was crisp but I made the mistake of putting it in the fridge/freezer and so it froze and wasn’t as crisp anymore. These not so exciting meals were made palatable by fabulous local fruits: papaya, pineapple, bananas and melon. I bought a large Chinese knife to cut the fruits.  I will leave it behind for the woman who cleans my room

At lunch time I usually join with those ICRC colleagues who actually eat lunch. Many skip lunch altogether, and one even skips breakfast. No wonder some people have little energy during the day – it is not just the heat.

A couple of small restaurants are open only during work days for lunch – they serve the staff of ICRC,  UNESCO, Oxfam and other development agencies in the area. They serve only African food and the menu is limited and conveyed orally, and then served instantly for very little money.

During the weekend and after hours this part of Bamako is dead. There is construction of fancy apartment buildings but most are not yet inhabited. And so there are also no supermarkets nearby.  The closest is a store containing a jumble of kitchen and household stuff, run by people who look like Saudis (but I am told they are Malians) – this means of course also that they don’t sell wine – one of my few indulgences as I work on my computer in the evening, dealing with the never ending email stream.

Way back during my regular visits to Mali in the 90s I used to stay in a small guesthouse in the center of town. There were many places to eat. It feels like a different place now; and the people I used to know here are either gone or I can’t find them on social media.

Tonight is my last night in Mali – tomorrow I will conclude this visit and board a Turkish Airlines Plane that will drop me off in Niamey on its way back to Istanbul.

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