Mali undoubtedly is the most confusing place I have ever been. What I have found is that either logic is not known notion or similarly there is another force more important than logic that I do not know of. Examples are to follow.
Example 1. We were waiting after a school day trip for a taxi. The people left for a taxi were not all going to the same place. There needed to be two stops for each taxi and our school van had already left so we could not switch the number or location of the people (this sounds like a word problem). But out teacher could not figure this out. Logically we would have just put stops closest to each other in each taxi and paid that much more for a taxi, and that is what we were explaining to our teacher. But instead the location of the stop didn’t matter and our teacher made a fuss about paying that much more. After about ten minutes of struggling with the taxi driver we piled in the awkwardly situated taxis and headed off. I was in the taxi with our teacher. He then explained that we just didn’t understand and should have just let him deal with it. While not seeming like a big deal this situation happens all the time all over Bamako. If situations were explained I feel us Americans would ever feel overwhelmed. But instead it is only understood when it is too late. While it is just money and is not the most important thing in the world, I feel people would be more aware of what they are paying for when every FCFA counts.
Next my sister wanted to go out to dinner on Saturday night. She had been talking about it all week. Saturday rolled around and she fell asleep. She woke up just to go to the bathroom and I asked why she didn’t go to dinner, and she said, “my dad probably wouldn’t let me.” So I asked further, “why hadn’t you asked him, what don’t you try to sneak out, are there any other reasons, etc…” and she said she just didn’t want to. So I really went into prying mode mentioning how she had talked about it all week, how it’s a big deal to go to a restaurant and how she should really try and go. She then said no she just really didn’t want to ask. I felt I had pried enough because she decided to go back to bed. Again I am completely perplexed and want to know why, but in all honesty, that was probs her reason. She probably got tired and wanted to go to bed and that was easier than going to the dinner she had been talking about all week.
Example 3. When question by one American student to a Malian, why don’t you eat more peanut butter the Malian respond, “I don’t want to get Malaria.” Not making any sense, the American student questioned more, “How are they related, How does this happen, Why do other people eat peanut butter?” He just said when you eat peanut butter you get malaria. While the healthcare is not top notch in Mali, this is not right. Most people do not affiliate anything with symptoms and actual disease. The most often medications are given to merely treat the symptoms not to solve what the problem is. This has obviously proved to be semi-effective, but not a good approach. But peanut butter is not a chance event. One might think that he knew someone who got Malaria after eating too much peanut butter the day before. This is not true, when this was asked, he respond with that it is just fact and peanut butter is just like that. Logical? Correct?
While I remain more often than not befuddled in Bamako I have realized that I have learned the most useful skill, laughing at myself. If at home you thought I laughed enough, I haven’t found a better cure for lack of communication, confusion, or down right awkwardness to date. I feel I do get frustrated when I cannot get my point across, I cannot tell myself enough to just let it go. Obviously no one really cares, and if they do they can blame it on my skin, this also seems to be a common remedy.
I have finally learned the knowledge of survival in Mali, and it has proved to be very useful. If someone knows you are more than willing to make a fool of yourself and not be embarrassed they are more likely to be your friend. I have chanced upon many great opportunities like this and cannot to find some more.