Saturday, June 24, 2017

Kicking off Year 2 in Bamako

It's official, I'm on the downswing of my time in Bamako! My tour here is two years and March was my halfway point. Although my exact departure date won't be solidified until much closer to March 2018, it feels good to be on the downward slope.

Things in Bamako haven't been so great. Perhaps you've seen the news, or maybe not: there was an attack on a "resort" area called Le Campement, or Kangaba, where several westerners and Malians were killed. Just another senseless attack, for terror's sake alone. I've been to Le Campement a couple of times and was looking forward to going again sometime soon.

It's funny, it's so easy to say (and think, and feel), "One can't live in fear, you just have to keep on doing what you're doing." It's not true. It is possible to live in fear. You just start to decide what you're willing to risk: go to the very popular-with-westerners restaurant? Hmm. The other resort-y place in town? Uhm. Grocery shopping at the market primarily frequented by westerners? Er. It's a terrible way to think, in trade-offs and hesitancy, but it's a real way to live.

The past month has been a tough one: we lost a member of our community, the attack at Le Campement, continuing security threats, plus all the usual work stressors and projects, and let's just toss on the State Departement hiring freeze and budget cuts, which are starting to have their effects. It's not an easy environment to live in, all around.

So how do we cope, here in Bamako? Primarily, by taking care of each other. The people here are incredible and I find myself depending on the goodness of my friends and colleagues more and more. I usually feel like I'm the one trying to provide lots of support, but here it's the reverse: I'm receiving it, all the time. From "I'm thinking of you, how's it going?" text messages to office walk-ins just to shoot the breeze, from get-togethers at friends' houses to sporadic phone calls to check in and say hi... the community here is real and it is strong.

Another way of coping is making flash decisions, and one month ago I did just that: after years of hemming and hawing, wishing it were the right time and place, I finally followed in my Grandma Nancy's footsteps and said "The time is now!" And I adopted a puppy the next day.

Jacques is just about three months old now and he's a handful: of cuteness, frustration, love and energy. He's a Malian mutt, a mix of Malian dog (technically called Azawakh) and an unknown father. There's no telling how big he'll get, but for now he's little and adorable. We're working on potty training, and crate training, and sit-lay down-come-hush training. Also on training ME, because it's a lot of work being a dog owner!

Without the support of friends here, I probably couldn't handle having Jacques on top of everything else. Luckily, the dog-loving community here is strong and very supportive, so I think we'll make it! Pictures to follow...


1 comment:

  1. You are in our thoughts and hearts always. We respect the important work you and your colleagues are doing and wish you the best in this difficult time. And give the puppy a hug from all of us.