After turning page after page of A Million Little Pieces, I decided to get out of bed on the day that would be my my first birthday in Mali, and my 22nd.
“I ni Sogoma”, a voice called. My Jatigi, Brahima otherwise known as “Papa”, lured me outside to witness something extraordinary. Ten baby ducklings had hatched outside our concessions. Fluffy yellow and black balls of father waddling in line in and out of the cesspool in front me. I watched them for a while. For years, since i was younger, I always wanted to have a pet duckling.Friends of mine can attest to the fact that I have a rubberduckie collection.
Then the flurry of calls. While I have trouble with my phone and the lack of power it retains, it was such a boost to hear a few messages from those I left the states close with and still am and those I have grown close with over the last few months.
That day went along pretty boringly, though. I was still in village. I decided to take a short bike ride and enjoy the scenery and read some more. There’s not much to do at site- no bar, no English speaking friend but at night, the stars accompanied me.
As I looked up, wondering if I could see the milky way, something normally I think I see but can’t really differentiate from clouds, I knew that in New York, I would not be able to see all the constellations as I did at that moment. While I have decided, however, that there is still no place that has brought me as much peace and as beautiful as Surprise Lake Camp, this was truly a beautiful moment. Then, I went inside and put on mosquito repellent with deet to escape Malaria.
As I try to lay asleep, wind storms up and finally think”I will sleep tonight”, but sadly, at around midnight, my plastic from my roof breaks spilling a load of muddy dirty water all over me, my bughut, and possessions in proximity. Apparently, when you cover up leaks with plastic, leaks still happen- accumulate, and then weigh something…who knew?
I moved my soaked mattresses, changed in the pitch dark and then proceeded to try and sleep in my sleeping bag liner to protect myself from the mosquitoes and termites that inhabit my hut. I thought the worst was over. I was wrong.
At 3:3oam, the plastic in the other room I had moved to in my two-room mud sanctuary, had also failed. Muddy water hit a second time. I moved back into the other room again and slept diagonally staring at the next section of plastic in that space praying to the thatch roof gods that it wouldn’t happen a third time. It didn’t but it probably will happen at some point.
Despite this, I am not breaking down. I am dealing. There is nothing else to do but wait until tomorrow at the bureau to hear from my APCD about the repairs and hope my bike isn’t stolen. I made sure to take my valuables with me.
I want to take the opportunity to thank all of those who called or left me messages on facebook wishing me a Happy Birthday. It feels better to know people still care and know that I still exist despite the fact that I’m on another continent.
On that note, “holy crap”, I’m on another continent. I had my 22nd birthday- 8 more until thirty. It’s practically crazy. I can’t believe it has been a year since we went bowling off Bedford and that I’ve grown so much and loved more than I thought I would. I’ve developed a list of personal and professional goals. We will see if it happens. I’m trying to do everything “dooni dooni” which in Bamabara is ‘little by little’.
On another note, being in a Muslim country where there is known Al Qaeda territory up north on 9/11 made me think deeply about that day 9 years ago. I can still remember smelling the stench of burning bodies and rubble. The tales of people in my neighborhood running across the Brooklyn Bridge. Candles on the stoop. Flags hanging house to house and murals honoring the victims. The weeks looking for survivors. I smoked two cigarettes in honor of the victims and in honor of those that helped.
Today, two planes zoomed and banged here in Segou forcing me to tremble. It seems that over time, while I haven’t really told anyone this, I am still greatly fearful of another attack such as the World Trade Center. I was shaking and afraid that something was happening here- an all too realistic possibility if something politically went awry, especially as an afterthought to what is happening in Florida recently.
I hope that we can overcome the hatred, discrimination, and resentment from what has happened and work towards a better future.
Stay tuned for more blog postings. I’ll try to post when I can despite the lack of amenities. Mail/Letters/Packages are greatly welcome and help keep not just me but the other volunteers .
Thanks and see you soon.