So, usually I try to stay in touch and post every few days, but I know I kinda fell off the wagon there. In my defense, I’ve had several posts written and ready for posting for a few days now, but recent events have made wifi access impossible. I’m not sure how much of this has been on the news/reached the US, but there has been some unrest here regarding the rebels in the northern parts of Mali. Just the other day the president gave a long address regarding this, and some of the nuance was definitely lost on me, because where I saw nothing wrong, he pissed off a lot of Bamako citizens. Basically what I’ve since gathered, is that the situation is REALLY complicated. Tuaregs have been rebelling and threatening to secede in the north, but it’s hard to get any facts on what’s actually going on. For one, the Malian national news is totally ignoring it. I’ve heard that anywhere from 5 to 200 Malians have died fighting the rebels in the north. (Unfortunately it’s sounding like the bigger number is more accurate.). The families of the soldiers, therefore, are really frustrated by the situation, the lack of information, and the president’s apparent lack of initiative in dealing with the it. Some people also believe that the president is deliberately stirring up the scenario in the hope of deferring the upcoming election and keeping power longer. (According to Cherif, he’s never been considered an intellectual and his term has already been longer than it should.) The problem, however, is that there are still plenty of citizens up north who are peaceful compatriots and deserve the government’s protection. So, basically the situation is a total mess and really difficult to resolve. At any rate, frustrations with all of this led to demonstrations in Bamako, rendering it unwise and unsafe for us Westerners to venture out. I should say that Westerners are not in any way targets, but anyone would be in danger from the young opportunistic looters that took advantage of the marches. What with our skin tone and obvious disorientation, we would have been in danger of getting mugged. Plus it just got kinda ugly. Tires were burning on big street corners, shops were closed, sotromas were not running. Cherif ended up locked in a courtyard for a while to avoid the marchers and later met a woman from the American embassy who had to flee her car after people threw rocks at it. So, we’ve been on house arrest. Thursday and Friday classes/events were all cancelled and we were told to stay in until the situation calmed down. In some ways the break was nice, I read a ton, powering through both our French assignment and A Feast for Crows, which my father helpfully uploaded on my Kindle before I left. And I watched the new Star Trek film dubbed in French! That was fun! And had a long conversation about dating in the US vs Mali with some of the guys in my courtyard, which was really enjoyable.
At the same time, however, house arrest does not suit me. Granted, there are times when I go into hibernation mode and stay in my house for days, but that’s rare and usually comes on the heels of a really stressful finals week. No, I’m usually the girl who can’t stay in the same town/country for too long, so being stuck in the same house was kind of like torture. Especially now that we are finally getting to be self-sufficient enough to go on excursions and run errands in Bamako. Now that I finally feel like I can explore and do the things I want in this city I was stuck at home.
Thankfully, everything settled down rather quickly. Friday we were allowed to take taxis to the Hotel Colibris and go swimming (all of us welcomed the chance to see each other again), and by Saturday everything was back to normal. We went to Cherif’s for lunch and he explained a bit about the situation, as well as how it will affect our trip. We’re hoping that it won’t drastically change things, but the Grand Voyage is already suffering. We have officially kicked Timbuktu and Mopti off the program and will hear on Wednesday if we still get to visit Dogon country, Djenné, Burkina Faso and Segou. Segou shouldn’t be at risk though. And Cherif said we’ll probable spend a little more time there since we aren’t visiting some of these other cities. So that’s not too bad! More time in our favorite hotel during the Festival on the Niger. More time for me to get my art history on and chat with Dolo and meet weavers. So it will all work out.
At any rate, sorry again, for the delay in messages. Thankfully I’m finally caught up now and things should be pretty consistent…until the Grand Voyage, that is but we knew that would be challenging. Hope you all are enjoying your weekends and that it isn’t too cold! (Or too warm for that matter…climate change is wacky.)