Posted by: kristinej | March 15, 2010

March 15th

I just got back from almost a week in “mini America” where I was house sitting/baby sitting for the woman whose home we went to for Cailey’s birthday last week.  Daniella and Becky were there as well, and we joked that it was Spring Break Badalabougou (Badalabougou is the neighborhood where most of the ex-pats live).  It wasn’t quite Spring Break Cancun, but was super relaxing and luxurious for us.  I was much in need of a break from the heat and from Malian life in general, the final straw coming Monday when a huge cockroach crawled over my feet while I was squatting over the latrine.

The week was an interesting look into what it’s like to raise kids in a foreign country.  Claudia is an American who works for a non-profit here in Bamako, and is married to a man from the Cote d’Ivoire.  They have two sons, who speak fluent English and French.  They attend the American School in Bamako, have a nanny, and only know a few words of Bambara.  Their family also has guards, a cook, and a driver.  This sounds like a lot, but it’s the norm for foreign families, or even richer Malians.  We even have a guard at our office, although his primary responsibilities are to make tea, fetch lunch for our director, and chase away little kids.

Anyway, as house-sitters we got to benefit from these luxuries – we had eggs, cereal, and tea for breakfast every morning before getting driven to the office. We then left earlier than usual to come home and take a dip in the pool and hang out with the boys before enjoying an American dinner and watching a movie in the wonderful air conditioning.  It was fabulous, and we were more than a little sad to be heading back to real life yesterday, but we had no choice since we had a big Malian party to attend.

Nana, who was Anjali’s host mom and who acts as our Malian grandmother, had invited us to the “6th cultural meeting of the Niares and their sympathizers” and had even bought us each some of the official fabric to make matching outfits out of.  The party was all weekend, but we just made it for Sunday afternoon.  We got there a little late, and there were tons of people trying to get in, so we had to call Nana to come usher us in.  She got us prime seats right by the microphone and the tent of VIPs.  I didn’t realized what a big deal this event was, so I was a little shocked when Nana told me that we were waiting for the President to arrive!  Sure enough, at around 5:00 Amadou Toumani Touré (known as ATT by pretty much everyone) showed up and was escorted to his seat, about 20 feet from where we were sitting.  The festivities then began, with several people, including Baba Niare, the patriarch of the family, which was apparently one of the founding families of Bamako.  There was then a parade of sorts, with representatives of 16 different villages each doing a little show with dancing and traditional costumes. It was really fun to watch.  Because ATT was there, the parade was only allowed to get so close to him, but at one point this person dressed in a huge traditional costume that looked kind of like a grass hut danced his way right up in front of him, and security had to intervene and nudge him back towards the other dancers.  It was pretty amusing.  After the parade the President was escorted out and it was interesting to see how his security detail worked.  There were a few men dressed in suits, but they were nothing like the Secret Service with their ear pieces and everything.  In fact, when he got up to leave, the police and security guards joined hands and formed a circle around him and his entourage as they proceeded back down the street to their vehicle.  I guess their biggest fear is not someone shooting him, but rather having a big crowd mob him.

Since there were probably 2000 people there, it was a little crazy getting out of there.  Nana grabbed my hand and led us through the crowd towards her mother’s house.  While we were walking there appeared these men dressed as traditional hunters, and just as I was thinking that it seemed a little dangerous for them to be holding rifles in the middle of this big crowd, a gun went off, scaring me to death.  Nana jumped too and then burst into laughter when she saw our faces.  The men kept shooting off the guns into the air, and unfortunately we were walking right along with them, so we were much closer than I wanted to be.  Each time a gun went off people jumped and ducked or covered their heads and Nana would start laughing and pull us along.  Finally we got to her mother’s house, where we ate rice with 4 generations of Niare women before heading back to Yirimadjo, feeling once again fully immersed in Malian life



  1. Kris, My goodness! You have done a little bit of everything in the last couple weeks. Sitting near the president. Mags will be jealous. But the house sitting. Now that is something. I’m sure that helped get the cockroach off your mind. Hey, if sleeping on the roof is more comfortable, you go for it. Good time to show the kids star formations. Take care, Robby

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