The richest visitors stay in nice hotels that have air conditioning and room service; they can sleep comfortably without worrying about mosquitoes. Other tourists stay in moderately priced hotels without AC but with mosquito nets and sometimes a fan for the hot nights. The budget travelers, like us, sometimes get to enjoy hotels of the last category, but at other times we have to sleep in rooms without any ventilation. These rooms are full of flies in the daytime and mosquitoes at night.
For most people in Mali these frustrations are simply a part of their daily life -- the only thing they've ever known since birth. When locals ask me how I'm doing, sometimes I respond by saying, "I'm hot." They simply laugh because they would only consider it to be a typical day under the sun. The extreme heat doesn't keep them from working outside, or even inside, without comforts such as air conditioning. Only wealthy businesses and people within Bamako (the capital) have that luxury. In the smaller towns, not to mention the rural and desert areas, very few homes or businesses have air conditioning.
When it rains heavily, Malians still work hard. You don't see many people with slick rain-jackets and umbrellas. Rather, you see folks who appear relatively un-bothered, wearing clothes that are soaking wet. Two guys sitting in front of me in the pinasse, both named Mohammed, were just as wet as I was for the long ride. Embarrassingly, only the tourists and I were complaining about it.
But why do I possess this power that people from Mali do not have? Why are the comforts of my life almost incomprehensible to average Malians - so much so that they can't even begin to envy me for having them? And above all, why is it that hundreds of millions of people in countries besides Mali are also suffering from conditions, natural or otherwise, that we would never choose to accept in our own lives? For them, there is no "transporter room" and nobody waiting to "beam them up" to better worlds where the wealthier, protected, and pampered reside.
Kevin p.s. - Please e-mail me at ...firstname.lastname@example.org
Jasmine - Not-So-Renewable Resources
Abeja - Water, Water Everywhere, but Not Enough to Drink!
Monica - Corps des Volontaires Maliens: Young People Make a Difference
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