It has been a week since I returned from Mali. After spending a summer in Senegal, the academic year in Boston, and then the past seven months in Mali, it was the longest I had gone without coming home. It has been wonderful reuniting with my parents, brothers, other relatives, and close friends. It has also been great to eat all my favorite foods (such as dumplings and oxtail- yum!) and to see what things have changed and what things have stayed the same in my home city.
It also feels a bit strange not being in Mali anymore, not seeing people and scenery I used to see everyday and not hearing anyone speaking French or Bambara. My coworkers and housemates were incredibly warm people who did what they could to make me feel at home and from whom I learnt a lot about life in Bamako and Mali. Every time I walked out of the house, the streets were bustling with activity- speeding cars and motos kicking up dust, men selling phone credit, women cooking and selling fried plantain, and people greeting each other in Bambara.
My time in Mali helped to grow tremendously professionally and personally. I had the opportunity to gain further experience and skills while working on issues I am passionate about – reducing gender based violence and women’s economic empowerment. I also learned more about how to work effectively with people who may not always see things the way you do. I learned the importance of listening and being culturally sensitive. As much as one of the main goals of my fellowship was to reinforce the capacity of Sini Sanuman as an organization, the Sini Sanuman staff taught me so much more about NGO management and working with others, as well as some Bambara language and Malian music.
On my last day in Mali, I attended a wedding with two of my housemates. Our dance teacher had invited us, as his younger sister or cousin (sometimes it is unclear because cousins are referred to as siblings) was getting married. We ate well and enjoyed some energetic singing and dancing performed by the griots and by our dance teacher and his troupe. The day epitomized everything I would miss about Mali, i.e. my sweet housemates who became my friends, Malian hospitality, and Malian music and dance.
Posted By Refilwe Moahi
Posted Dec 28th, 2015