Monday, July 28
Djenne, Mali

I’m getting into the backpacking grove now.

I’ve ditched my sleeping bag, a pair of shoes and some clothes to decrease luggage. What I need has taken on a whole new meaning since I have to carry it.

I’m torn over my fleece, which is taking up a good section of my bag. I bet I’ll be able to count on my two hands the number of nights when I need it. But I suppose I’ll be pretty sorry on those night if I don’t have a warm layer, particularly since my sleeping bag is no longer an option.

Losing those items made room in my bag for toilet paper, since most bathrooms here don’t have it, and jam, which I add to bread some mornings for a quick, cheap breakfast. I’m also slowly replacing some of my western clothes with African ones.

I still have a few luxury items with me, including a pillow that packs up quite small. My best friend convinced me to take it with me just before I left, and I’m glad she did! I sleep with that every night, on top of a sheet my mom sewed for me like a sleeping bag.

My money belt has gotten uncomfortably thick, partly because I’m carrying a large stack of CFAs with me since I’ve heard ATMs are sparse in northern Mali. But my pregnant-looking belly also can be blamed on my passport, which has grown in thickness since I left. I got pages added at the American embassy in Bamako because I was running out.

Oh, how I love seeing new stamps in my passport. I now have a visa for Cameroon — picked it up in Dakar — and Burkina Faso — got that one in Bamako. I’m visa-less only for Ghana, and for that I plan to apply in Burkina’s capital.

And yes, i’m taking my malaria prophylaxis, Malarone.