Sunday, April 24, 2016

Navigating Bamako

Two Fridays ago I brought home the 1990s-era RAV4 I bought from someone who recently left post. It was my first time driving it, and for navigation I asked one of my apartment neighbors to ride with me. I made it home without incident, employing the aggressively careful hyper-vigilance necessary for dealing with the endlessly swerving motorbikess, stoplight-less roads, and lack of lanes or attempt to stay in lanes. I have to say, I'm so happy to have wheels, though my lack of sense of direction is - as always - limiting.

Unfortunately, the week leading up to that Friday was exhausting and I spent last weekend trying to sleep off the effects. Work continued at the same high-octane pace, but more intense, since I was handling the shop on my own while my boss is in DC for a conference. In other words, for my third and fourth weeks on the job, I was in charge of the entire GSO portfolio: housing, motor pool, shipping/customs, procurement, warehouse/supply, and travel. Going forward, the last three will be my primary focus.

The learning curve is incredibly steep, but I have to admit, as stressful as it is, I'm enjoying it too. I can honestly say that I've learned something new every day so far. My challenge now is to keep up... which is why I worked late so much two weeks ago, burning myself out until I had to spend the weekend recovering.

Luckily, towards the end of this past week, two different people advised me to be sure to take my time off and relax, reminding me that work would always be there when I came back. While this is true, it's still hard: I want to do well, and sometimes that necessitates staying late. However, I took their advice this weekend. Friday evening I went to the American Club and socialized; Saturday I joined a workout group for some crazy cross-fit-like routine, and then made some charosets and joined a Passover seder.

The Passover event was at one of my neighboring apartments and included several Malians and non-Jewish colleagues, plus a couple of Jewish ones. It was a lot of fun and we had some good conversation about discrimination and minorities. And of course, we ate well. I made a huge bowl of charosets and came home with enough matzoh to last me awhile. Nice to celebrate, though it made me a little homesick.

Today, I skyped with some A-100 colleagues in Croatia and China, had brunch at a neighborh's, then spent most of the day by or in the pool. We ordered out for dinner (pretty tasty Indian food) and lazed about. I FaceTimed with my family, which alleviated my homesickness a little. It was a lovely Sunday, overall.

Meanwhile, the heat - over one hundred degrees daily - is intense. At night it's been hovering at ninety degrees. Today it actually rained. We're not in rainy season yet, though. This was apparently what they call a mango rain, which sweetens and ripens the mangos (which are incredibly delicious already). Real rainy seasons hits in June or July.

Tomorrow, it's back to the grindstone at work, getting my boss caught up on what went on while she was away and continuing to learn how things operate.

It's the end of my first month in Mali. It feels both like I've been here forever, and like I've been here for just a few days. The security atmosphere is difficult, and work is draining, and there's so much in Bamako to explore and figure out, too. Overall, though, I can say I am glad I'm here and am enjoying the Foreign Service life so far.


1 comment:

  1. Happy Passover! We all enjoyed FTing with you - but also missed you over the holiday weekend.
    Congrats on balancing work and health ... we look forward to your continuing adventures, work and otherwise.