fredag, marts 28, 2008

Thoughts at an end...

Hello to everyone at home!

During this trip – my last, for now – I thought it would be a good idea to add a few thoughts and impressions from a trip through Mali and Burkina. The trip began in Mali’s capital, Bamako and finds its closure next week in Ouagadougou, BF with a flight back to Europe. In between lies a couple of thousand kilometres through the bush and bunch of meetings with partners, suppliers and friends. The otherwise innerving solitude of my West African travels is replaced this time with a car full of great colleagues and friends, so I guess I could not have dreamed about better company for this my last drive through the bush as an AAK-employee.

As I have already informed you, dear reader, my ‘African Era’ is at an end after this trip, and ahead looms uncertainty about my future career and my life in general. This of course adds greatly to the somewhat sad sentiment one can’t help feeling inside after so long down here. It seems like everything I am doing brings along a sentimental mood – be that last meetings with trusted suppliers and friends or be it farewells to staff at the various hotels and restaurants, I’ve frequented numerous times. It’s a bit strange to almost feel a lump in my throat when an old waiter gives me a spontaneous hug – but at the same time it’s great to feel that one has had an impact on the people one has spent so much time with and around. Such a gesture is very unusual, so I guess the lump in the throat is well earned.

So many impressions, so many thoughts. Africa is like a constant ‘stream-of-consciousness’ wanting to fill up your brain. The wonderful mix with the terrible thus creating a mix of great joy and tremendous sadness all at once.

Gestures of great kindness intermingle with acts of unspeakable cruelty both in the overall development (or lack of such) in Africa, but also on the streets day by day – every day. The optimism is incredible also but I guess there is no other mindset that will let you survive in a world like this. People with nothing whatsoever still give you the biggest smile and a wave when you pass - before they get back to their task of looking through a big pile of trash or wherever they hope to find that little something, which will get them through another day.

This may sound somewhat bleak, but after a few days in Bamako, the most lasting impression is always the incredible poverty of the people living on the streets or in makeshift huts built out of the leftovers of others. Open sewers provide both a terrible smell as well as an excellent ‘breeding ground’ for millions upon millions of mosquitoes. Malaria is rampant and terrible since no one can afford the otherwise inexpensive protective nets to sleep under, which otherwise would have kept both the bugs and the illness away. The city itself is filled with crowded, tiny streets that in no way is capable of handling the excessive amount of cars, mopeds, carts, bikes, beggars, donkeys and other livestock that roam the streets from early morning until late at night. It feels like being in the middle of an ant hive, and I must admit that the feeling of being safe otherwise so abundant in Burkina seems to have taken leave of absence in Mali.

Peddlers are everywhere and a white tourist-looking oaf like me is apparently like a red cloth in front of the nose of the bull. Amazing optimism is also seen in the different choices for a career one sees walking about the streets. Yesterday morning a guy walked past me with a sewing machine and about 50 zippers in his hand. He spends his day walking about looking at the crotches of every man wearing pants around him in the hope that someone will just hand him their trousers in the middle of the street for mending. Needless to say, the guy’s attire didn’t indicate that the business venture was yielding great financial results…

As I have described before on this blog, in spite of all its abundant cultural and geographical riches I find Mali to be a very difficult place to like. It’s dirty and extremely poor and a lot of people can seem very inhospitable, even hostile, when you approach them. Thankfully, however, the generally very negative mood changes as you leave the region of the capital. In and around Segou I get a completely different ‘vibe’, but Mali is still a place to approach with a certain amount of reprehension and caution, if I may say so.

We have just passed my favourite spot in Segou along the Niger, but thankfully the sentimental feelings couldn’t break through my joy in seeing the wonderful river again. We took a quick boat trip up and down a bit of the coast and I promise to add some photos of the people working, living and existing here.

Today we’re on the way “home” to Bobo in Burkina Faso, so I hope to get back with more updates from what used to be my home at a later stage during this trip.

For now, I must admit that whilst I of course look forward to seeing Bobo again, I fear that it is also the place, where my decision to leave Africa will be challenged the hardest by that little voice inside shouting to me how much Africa has entered my blood and how much I will miss it…

Sentimental greetings from Mali (with 43 degrees Celsius in the shade)


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