The past few days have been extremely busy. Much of Saturday was spent visiting Yeah’s family in the big city. We met his aunt who he stayed with when we went to college. To study in Bamako is a privilege offered to the few that have a place to stay while they finish their education. We had lunch with his big brother Nango before we headed to a neighbouring city to meet his uncle. As you get into the city, it seems that the cleanliness jumps a level, the bugs reduce, but the one thing that remains a constant seems to be the greetings and the culture of family. The family remains the central unit here. It does not matter if you go to a strangers house, you are greeted with the same level of homeliness as if you were part of that family. You depart with the same blessings and you share the same meal.
It is this togetherness that keeps a nation like Mali united. Here, most people attempt to have your best interest at heart. When we went to Yeah’s uncles house, they happened to see the few mosquito bites on my hand. They told Yeah this was unacceptable and he should get more things to protect me. That touched me. I don’t think they were saying it because I was a foreigner or even Yeah’s wife. I think the genuine concern for my well-being was evident. Coming home from Bamako, we travelled at night.The one thing that blew my mind, is how no one person believes they own the road. It is one lane on each side. If the person in front of you happens to be going slower, they will actually signal to you and the car ahead if there is an opportunity for you to pass them. From my experiences driving in the US, this is not a concept practiced. 9 times out of 10 the person in front of you would be offended if you passed them and would not even let you pass most times. I can say with some honesty that it irks me to have someone pass me. It is the genuineness of seeking the best for everyone’s welfare that amazes me in this country.
On Monday, we had the opportunity to go get Keanen registered in the French school. He seemed more open and excited when he saw the playground of the school. The school allows for many nationalities and while the core language remains French, it will give Keanen the opportunity to dabble in multiple cultures similar to the melting pot of the U.S. When we registered Kean, the school admin appeared shocked that not speaking French, we would want to have Keanen go to their school. We will need to get a French/Bambara/English nanny to help ease the process. It is essential that we Keanen all the tools to succeed. He is however also a smart kids and I am sure he will have no trouble picking it up.
Today, we spent some time with Bourama and his family. Bourama is Yeah’s youngest brother and the patriarch of the family in Ouelessebougou when Yeah is not in town. He has a growing family and Keanen spent some fun time with the kids. There was a language barrier but fun has not barriers and the kids had a blast. Keanen managed to fall twice and I can see keeping him clean will be a task in itself. Carmen refused to talk with anyone and threw the biggest fit. She is so stubborn and hard-headed. That is definitely something that comes from me! She refused to shake anyones hand while Keanen was busy shaking everyone’s hand twice and even three times 🙂 I also had the opportunity to sit and chat with Dianna. Di is an American and has been in Mali a few times now. She has been here since June and speaks Bambara quite well. I hope with practice I will be able to speak as well as her. She is a PhD student that is working on her dissertation in Mali. She lives in the same compound as Bourama. It will be great to have someone here that I can speak English with but also someone who shares a friendship and culture.
The campaign goes on. Yeah has been blessed to have many local leaders support him. He has had many meetings with several mayors and Presidents of political Parties. He was able to get the support from a well-known mayor here. One person donated 7 motorcycles to help with the travel to neighbouring villages. This will help tremendously. The concern still remains money. Times are tough and hopefully people will continue to donate. Even $10 helps as if a 1000 people each donated 10 dollars it becomes $10000. The financial pressure remains a great obstacle. The message of better education, fair access to healthcare and decentralisation continues to be the focus. Yeah had hoped to go Malabo for the African Union summit where all African leaders would be present, however there was a lack of flights. Disappointing!!! However, everything happens for a reason. Another opportunity will present.
Time flies in Mali. The people and the culture have opened their arms to welcome us. Hopefully we can do some justice and return the warmth. The kids are getting along better, the campaign is deepening its roots and I am getting more comfortable in my new surroundings.