Posted by: kristinej | June 4, 2013

June 4th, 2013

One of things I remember most about Mali was how each day was filled with extreme ups and downs – moments of happiness or accomplishment could so easily turn into moments of frustration, and vice versa. I’ve already found the same to be true here. I think that must have something to do with living in a place where so much is out of your control. In the US I know all the appropriate methods for coping with things that go wrong and have all the tools I need to fix them (usually), but in Africa, as a visitor, you’re often left feeling helpless and totally reliant on others.

My weekend started out well enough – I went out for a beer after work on Friday with some coworkers and other Americans, and had a great time chatting in French with a coworker from Benin who had just spent 2 years working with IPA in Mali. We reminisced about how warm and friendly everyone there is, and when I imitated the Bambara phrase I used to use to tell the bus driver where I wanted to go, he literally snorted he was laughing so hard. “You’re a true Malian!” he said.

My stroke of luck continued Saturday morning, when I was walking down one of Accra’s busiest streets and a man came up behind me and said, “Hey, your bracelet, is from my country, Mali!” I looked down and realized I was indeed wearing a Malian bracelet, and so I stopped and said hello and told him that I used to live in Mali. We switched to French, and he pulled off the road to tell me about how he had been a tour guide in Mali’s Dogon region, but had to leave because of the war, and was now selling bracelets on the side of the road in order to make enough money to live on and to send back to his family. While he speaks both English and French fluently, he has not been able to find a job as a translator here since people seem reluctant to hire foreigners. Actually, he said he found Ghanaians to be a bit racist, a comment I took with a grain of salt, but still found interesting since we usually think of racism being based on skin color. Anyway, I bought a couple of his bracelets since I felt bad and he was a genuinely nice guy. I didn’t even have the heart to bargain because, let’s face it, the dollar or two I would have saved meant a lot more to him than it did to me. Before parting, I made sure he knew I spoke some Bambara, told him my Malian name, and gave him a blessing to wish him luck in the market. He in return, gave me his phone number in case I wanted to drink tea sometime, as well as his number in Mali and the number of some family member that still lives in Gao, Mali. Although his name is Alifou, he said if I went anywhere in the country and asked for “Camille the Magnificent” they would know who I was talking about and would be able to direct me to him. An Malian legend, selling bracelets on an Accra street corner.

My Sunday morning was just as pleasant. I walked down to the ocean for the first time, though within Accra it’s not much to see – limited beach area and lots of trash floating in the water. There is supposedly a much nicer beach down the road, but I’ll save that for another weekend. What I was really in search for was what I had seen on Google Maps, called the African Artists’ Alliance. It ended up being hard to miss – a brand-new mansion right between the main road and the ocean. Though I think I arrived a half-hour before it even opened, the doors were wide open so I walked in and no one stopped me. Inside were 3 floors of some of the most beautiful paintings I’ve seen, from around Africa. The rooms were large, with white painted walls and the ocean breeze coming through the open windows. In addition to the paintings, there were smaller sections of textiles, beads, and wood carvings, as well as a gift shop with some really beautiful items. I’m thinking I could spend every Sunday there!

So what, you ask, could have ruined this weekend enough to merit my intro paragraph? Well let’s see: a torrential downpour leading to a flooded living room and bathroom that I mopped up with dish rags and a bucket was just the start. A toilet that mysteriously stopped working and still hasn’t been fixed has been a constant source of frustration (and disgust). And a sketchy encounter with a man who wanted my number and was not so friendly when I wouldn’t give it to him put me in a sour mood (fortunately, some much nicer Ghanaians helped me out of that situation). But the real kicker? Waking up Monday morning with my torso covered in very itchy bug bites and realizing that no, they are not from mosquitoes or spiders but rather from bed bugs. I like to think I have a pretty high tolerance for “roughing it,” but the combination of the toilet and the bed bugs has just about put me over the edge. Stay tuned…



  1. I’m so sorry Kristine! Keep your chin up! Try to get something to cover your mattress. If the bugs are bad you might try sticky mouse traps but the key is to clean them out, and they apparently don’t respond to poison.

  2. Just think, maybe that was the worse. It can only get better.
    Others there have obviously been through it, and will have advice.
    Stay strong! Very interesting stories already.

  3. Oh noooooo! At least you’ll get the bedbugs out soon and can focus on more fun things (like data collection and analysis, obviously). We miss you!

  4. Welcome to Ghana !

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