Mali


Monday, July 21
Kayes, Mali

(UPDATE: See previous post on crossing the Mali border. I added photos.)

It happened again!

Another mother today dragged her screaming child toward me, forcing the toddler to get close to the toubab (white person). The mom thought it was funny that her little girl was scared of me.

It’s like when parents in the States bring their small children to the mall to see Santa Claus, and the kids are terrified of Santa. Only I’m Santa! The scary girl with the white skin.

Nearly a month ago, I swam in the Senegal River near where it meets the ocean in northern Senegal. In Kayes today, I saw the other end of the same river!

I wouldn’t dare swim in it here; it’s visibly dirty, with residents bathing and washing clothes near the shore. A friend of mine, Meg, who served in Mali in the Peace Corps recently, reported she got schisto from swimming in Kayes. So here I am standing on a bridge over the water instead:

Hanging near the Senegal River in Kayes, Mali

Hanging near the Senegal River in Kayes, Mali

The hat is incredibly fashionable, right? I bought it in Kaolack, Senegal, as a shield from the fierce African sun.

Sunday, July 20
Kayes, Mali

The rumor is, indeed, true: the road from Senegal to Mali is long.

Day #1: Kaolack to Tamba (short for Tambacounda). Travel time: 7 hours.

The parts of the road that were paved were so full of holes that the sept-place driver drove mainly on the shoulder, sometimes half on the road.

His driving technique was similar to those used in race car video games. He confronted the road like an obstacle course, constantly turning the wheel left, then quickly right, then left again, alternating between hitting the brakes hard and accelerating, to avoid massive gaps in the pavement.

On some bumps, my head hit the ceiling. I resisted falling asleep against the half-open window for fear of getting my teeth knocked out.

Door handle on the sept-place

Door handle on the sept-place

Though his skills were impressive, the chauffeur drove like a bat out of hell, much to the dismay of myself and my fellow passengers. He drove at a crazy-fast speed, passing uncomfortably close to large trucks even when they kicked up so much dirt he couldn’t see where he was going. I pulled my shirt over my nose and mouth to avoid inhaling the dust that came through the car windows and gawked at the trailers that had overturned on the shoulder, stuck indefinitely on their side.

 

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