Today Cherif took us on a bus tour of Bamako, and we were introduced to the 3 hills of Bamako – les collines de pouvoir, savoir, and devoir. It was cool to get to see the city in the daylight. The architecture is so cool. Most of it uses traditional styles but modern materials, thus echoing the larger theme of tradition vs. modernity that is a big debate here. I can’t wait to start our classes, we’ve already learned tons, but I know that we’ll get to learn a lot more once we start our courses. The most challenging thing has been trying to learn while still fighting off jetlag and a totally spacey brain – I feel like I’m totally overloading it with all these new experiences/information. But things should settle down by the end of the week. Bamana is totally overwhelming for me. Usually I’m good with languages, but I keep forgetting everything. The hardest part is the greetings, which are both lengthy and specific to the time of day/number of people/etc. But it will come with time. And everyone’s been very accommodating in the meantime.We had lunch when we got back, and then Cherif gave us our family names and formally initiated/invited us into Malian society. I’m a … (drumroll please) … Keita! To be more specific, I’m Cherif’s niece as I’ll be living with his brother. Or at least with his brother’s wife, since I think his brother may be living in Dakar. But it’s exciting anyways. The Keitas are descended from kings of old (including Soundjata – who we’re reading about). So basically I come from a good family and get to call lots of people my slave. Yes, they actually say things like that here…not sure that I’ll take advantage of that privilege though. Emilia is also a Keita, so we’re relatives now.
Some of the families came to visit this afternoon, but mine couldn’t make it. Technically I had family though, since Cherif and 2 of his kids were there. So I ended up hanging with them and the other kids whose families didn’t come, which was nice.
This evening a bunch of us decides to take a stroll around the city after dinner. We went with one of the employees at Le Cres and meandered down the main street for a while. We ended up buying some bananas from the street vendor before heading back and munched on a few on our way. The city was still bustling with people of all ages up and hanging around. The traffic here is utterly terrifying. People don’t really tend to follow any strict set of rules, so it’s always hectic. Moreover, China has began manufacturing and selling cheap motorcycles here, so tons of people buy them and don’t bother to register it and get a license. Constant vigilance is demanded when crossing the streets here. But we had fun and got to see a new side of Bamako.
Tomorrow we leave to visit 2 different villages. Then we’ll come back and be picked up by our families and have a week to adjust before our classes start. Busy busy!!