Saturday, October 3, 2009

A weekend in Bamako

Hello Again!

Today we braved the African transportation system again. My friend Sarah and I took a taxi to the National Museum and met up with our friends to see two Chinese photographers interpretation of Mali. It was interesting and there were a couple of breathtaking photos but I felt I had seen this all and I have only been in Mali for a month! But as for the places I have yet to go, Timbuktu being the most talked about, it was truly amazing. There were magnificent pictures of the desert and of classrooms. And most memorably there was a picture of two brothers on a bench, the younger carefree, laughing, and laying on the bench, and the older was stern and sitting erect next to his brother. It was a perfectly captured moment and that I applaud. But I felt that the art itself was nothing to be wowed over. While the lightning was good it was all things I have see millions of times over in Bamako and that was discouraging from my point of view because it seems like the effort was lost.

To contrast, had I seen the photo exhibit in the States I would have loved it. The pictures were full of color and really showed a lot of Mali, but I am in Mali. I felt that if this were an incoming raising event the best bet would be to take it back to China or another country. Malians rarely visit the National Museum. I felt out of place but this time I was surrounded by white people. So if there were to be an income-generating event I believe it should be for the people, not for the visitors.

In the room next to the exhibit was a room full of organic cotton made by people from Mali, Chad, Benin, and Burkina Faso. It was pottery barn in Mali. I felt again out of place and that the museum is directed towards the audience of visitors. While being important to actually have an audience, I feel in the States often having a wider audience is more important than having a few people pay a lot. While this is my disagreement with the National Museum, I understand that they do need to make money. Going back to the beginning I felt that this room was beautiful but westernized. Had I come back with items from this place I would feel like a westerner in Mali, not a person trying to understand the culture. The difference to me is the attempt of the person. I am not expecting myself to give up my habits and or customs from life, but I am not expecting me to force my life onto other people. To come here is a privilege not an opportunity to force western ways on people that have already experienced their whole lives. So in my eyes I will continue to attained the events that seem interesting to me but hold my values, both old and new, close at hand because I need to stay awake in a place where I am so out of place.

After the Museum we braved the Grande Marché again. This time I bartered, I bought things, and I looked totally in control. I walk with authority now; I can easily get my point across in French and with time in Bambara. While being my first time not with twenty-one white kids flanking around and sticking together, this time was world’s better. I could not belief how sure of myself I was, and also how easily I said the phrases. I am learning quickly. But now I am going with a list into the marché because I need to have a sure idea of what I need and not get sucked into situations where I just buy things because I am overwhelmed.

Rushing into October I feel confident in myself. I know I still have a list of troubles, worries, and uncertainties, but I am knowledgeable of all of the basic things that I need to know. I continue to find new people within and without our group to spend time with and also I find more and more activities to do around the city. While I miss quiet Vermont life, Bamako is not all that bad. There is smog, soot, and an unbelievable amount of smells; but there are also surprise sunset views, children with the biggest smiles, and people always willing to help.

I am getting to know Bamako, which gives to a lot of comfort for when I am left on my own for a month. Because I know I can brave the streets of Mali, day or night, I know I will be fine. The most trouble I will ever put myself into will be self-inflicted. I know that I will be able to weasel my way in or out of anything and I am glad that I know I can do that.

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