Monday, November 9, 2009

An African Village

I spent my first couple months in Mali living in a village just outside of Bamako. While very much a village as far as amenities go, its significant that the town calls itself a quartier of Bamako, (though its really more than 10km outside the capital)--for the the sprawling town has plenty of city-like issues, especially the side of town I was living in.

The place could not at all retain the "quintissential village quality of being "tranquil." Right behind me: Mali international airport, in front of my house: the main highway going to Cote d’Ivoire, and across the street the villages notorious bar le loisir, whose dealing of alcohol was only one of its many litany of goods and services forbidden by Islam, and in some cases also by the law. The village has lots of trash, dirt (mud, when it rains), no electricity and it was always a half-day affair trying to get clean water. Though the town is relatively close to Bamako and is quite big comapred to other villages, people are very discourage to invest much in the property because the city has not yet gotten around to surveying and registering property lots. Many people commute into town for work and school on a regular basis, and the part of road running in front of my house was a particularly potent reminder of the perils public transportation that most everyone is enslaved to here. On average, about three accidents happen a week in this spot, usually of a "T-bone" quality, usually the fault of the wreckless public transport drivers, and usually very audile from inside my house. The village also seemed particularly poor--a trait emphasized all the more by its proximity to the capital--and most everyone seems to be hardly getting by doing extremely menial jobs (or not), and many, many people steal.

In the end, I moved to a location a bit quieter, a bit closer to my work. Yet it’s interesting how fast a place—or more aptly put, the people in a place—can grow on you. There are lots of people I’ve come to spend regular time w/ this village, and I’ve grown quite fond of them. When I began telling folks of my imminent move, and it was surprisingly sad.

In many ways, this Africa. What I just written explains alot of villages, and alot of lives. The problems are many and veritable, and living and earning a living are a continual trial, no less for the people who born and die here. But these people are wonderful, perhaps even more so because of the difficulty of their lives.