What remains unknown about the aspects of my being here in Mali create a sum far greater than what is—for this very reason I wanted to stay far away, and it’s also exactly why I came: the depths, and the power, of my unknowing feel at once languid, restless, and still.
As was the case the last time I made the journey to West Africa from London, the beloved friends with whom I traveled have gone, having returned to their lives, to their jobs, to their families, and to their commitments. Unlike that time nine years ago in which I followed my friends’ lead, and returned home to my bed to dream, I have decided to travel on.
“It’s not a big deal,” I say to myself in the mirror. But then my travelling companion (who is exactly my age) and I lie in our tent and geek out—“We’re in Bamako—stressing especially the first syllable so that it has the momentum to carry the other two, and because that’s her name: Bamako, my newest city.
It took seventeen hours to get here from Tamba (and that was on a good bus!): when we rolled in at four a.m. we barely had enough energy to argue with our cab driver. As these things happen, at the end of all of the darkness/mosquitoes there is light, and now we are rooftop camping, third night strong, our auberge complete with a giant tortoise and three watchdogs.
It’s tough to say where we’ll go from here. It seems rational that a greater level of understanding of this place must be reached before further decisions can be made, but the more I learn (i.e., overhear in my limited understanding of French and guarded, broken English), the less viable and realistic this seems.
This said, my sense of wonder continues to grow at an exponential rate, helped along in no small part by the very sense of discomfort, and, yes, at times, impossibility, in which I currently dwell.
And I don’t think I could put a price on that, and I would be remiss to name a price that could take it all away.