Posted by: kristinej | October 7, 2009

October 7th

Life in Mali is now becoming just ordinary daily life, but if I step back for a minute I realize that it’s still not your typical day in the US.   Two of the things that I do almost every day, running and biking, definitely have a Malian twist.  I’ll take you through a typical bike ride to the office:

I leave my house and wind my way out of my neighborhood.  My route has changed multiple times thanks to the rain: the wood plank bridge I used to take is now gone, and the shortest route to the concrete bridge is now a murky green pond.  So, I take the long way around to the bridge, tossing my bag of garbage on the pile along the road as I go (when in Mali, do as the Malians do…), probably passing several pousse-pousse tigis (guys who push carts loaded with yellow water jugs) along the way.  Depending on recent rains, I may have to get off and push my bike through the mud.  Once I hit the main road, it’s smooth sailing for about a mile until I get to the detour.  A Chinese company is building a new bridge across the Niger that will link Yirimadjo’s neighboring community to downtown Bamako.  I ride across a dirt field that is closed for soccer games in the evenings, and wind my way along the extremely rocky and bumpy dirt roads until finally getting back to the paved road.  What’s funny about this part is that I usually end up passing both motos and cars that slow down for all of the bumps, whereas I just bounce right over them, holding on tight and trying to avoid the biggest rocks or mud puddles.  What’s not so funny are the incessant “tubab” cries or the potential dangers:  Yesterday I was almost pelted with a rather large stone that was intended for a pack of wrestling dogs.

Once I reach the paved road along the river, which is the best part of the ride, I’m usually drenched in sweat, so I pull out my handy American flag bandana.  Sometimes I wear my ipod and listen to music.  On good days I can go along at a pretty good pace, and actually passed a drivers ed car the other day, much to my, and their, amusement.  The road isn’t too busy, which is nice, but I have the occasional man pull up next to me on his moto and try to start a conversation or say something like, “A sporty woman, that’s good,” which I either ignore completely or tell off in English (I’ll have to be careful when I get back to the States!).  There’s also the problem of emissions control on vehicles (zero), so I often use that bandana to cover my mouth and nose as I pass through a cloud of black smoke.

The road then turns up into Magnambougou, where our office is.  I pass another soccer field, and an area where locals dye the waxy fabric called basin.  It’s really pretty to see a rainbow of colored cloths drying on clotheslines.  The road turns again into the market, which is definitely the scariest part of the ride, as the narrow road is crowded with sotramas, motos, taxis, large SUVs (there are a few rich Malians in the area), donkeys, pedestrians, goats, and who knows what else.  I then chug up a final hill, which I still can’t make up without feeling like I’m going to have a heart attack, and ride the last stretch to the office.



  1. Kris, You’ll be strong like Bull when you get back. Geez, might hire you as my body guard. Ha!!

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