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Team Dispatch

Bittersweet Recollections: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Mali

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Yeah, Mali!
KEVIN: I don't mean to sound negative, but looking at all my dispatches from Mali, it seems like everything was so bad. You want a list? I'll give you a list! The MOSQUITOES (numbering on his fingers), the FLIES, the FOOD, the RAIN, certain PEOPLE, and especially the HEAT. The heat was overwhelming: it even made me pass out! Well, let's not use euphemisms…I'm the only guy on the team, and I fainted! And I'm so sick of the rain; it rains every day.

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The Tuareg were definitely a high point
Jasmine, so happy to be a Trekker

JASMINE: Yeah. Remember Barry? He totally saved me at the airport when I first arrived. It seemed like a million people were surrounding me, trying to "help" me with my bags, almost yelling in all those different languages. Then Barry stepped in. In a few words he dismissed all of my "assistants" and helped me find a taxi. He basically put me at ease. The next morning we went in search of a new home for me in Mali, and by checkout time at the hotel, when I was beginning to get a little nervous, Barry had solved all my problems yet a second time. He lugged all of my bags and boxes to his family's house, where they immediately filled my tummy with a delicious home-cooked meal, Mali style, and made me feel right at home. He found me a great place to stay, introduced me to great people, and kept me company until the rest of you arrived. He just went out of his way to make sure I was taken care of: I mean, so sweet! I even let him borrow my brand new safari hat the day he took me on my first Bamako tour. What a great guy: I don't know what I would have done without him.

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Hooray for the rain that brings the waterfalls

ABEJA: But the rain was such a relief from the unbearable heat! Just today I thought I was going to DIE it was so hot. I didn't even want to leave the room. Then suddenly the clouds moved in, and it started pouring! I almost ran out and started jumping for joy in the mud puddles, but these are my last clean clothes (big grin)! Besides, Mali is a desert the rest of the year. We're lucky to be here when it's green: even the Baobab trees have leaves. And I think we met some people who were really, really great people--like Dabel.

MONICA: But, dude, you don't even know the rest of the story with that hat (shaking her head). Kavitha and I were going to meet at the post office, but I saw Barry hanging out with his friends and I went up to him because he had your hat on. You were in Timbuktu and I told him that you wanted your hat back, and I asked really politely but he said, "No, Jasmine owes me 10,000 CFAs," and I was, like, "No way, we already paid you back for everything. Now give me her hat back." He got all defensive and said, "I respect the women, because it's my culture," but I certainly wasn't going to back down, and we both got really mad and heated and then - get this - a crowd of about 30 people gathered around us while we argued in the middle of the intersection.

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Finally a police officer came over and listened to both sides of the story, and Barry and I agreed to meet that night at 7:30 to settle the situation but he never showed up! I was so upset about it, I just decided to leave with Kavitha the next day without the hat and go to Djenne. But that was cool because on the bus on the way there, we met Fanta, who was this super-cool Dogon girl who let us sleep in her garage for free and showed us all around Mopti and was really, really nice to us, and didn't even ask us for any money.

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KAVITHA: Uh-huh, Fanta was really cool at first... until you left! Because she was so nice, I wanted to take her out and thank her for all she'd done for us. But afterwards, she all of a sudden expected me to pay for her EVERYWHERE we went. In fact, a few days after I'd moved out of her house, she even turned up in the restaurant. I didn't even order anything and she ordered the most expensive thing on the menu, and expected me to pay for her! But then again, you know, I was thinking about when it was a really, really hot day in Bamako - sweltering hot - and I had unfortunately let myself get a little dehydrated, and you know how everything gets out of perspective when you're really dehydrated and hot. Anyway, I knew where I could get a bottle of water but I had to walk through the crowded marketplace and told myself, "Okay, I'm on a mission to get bottled water. That's all I need to do; then I'll feel better." But then there were all these people and it had rained and there was sewage running in the street and I was wishing I hadn't worn sandals (grimaces). And then all these men just kept grabbing my arms when I walked by, going, "Look at this, look at this," and I got so angry I told myself, "The next man that grabs my arm I'm going to slap!" But the next person who grabbed my arm handed me a bag of that hibiscus juice, and it was a sweet little boy who was smiling and he asked me, "Have you tried our local drink?" and he didn't even ask for anything in return. I was so angry but he totally changed everything. It's people like him that make you remember that it's not really about Mali, it's more your attitude toward it that matters.


Abeja - You think you've got problems? Try getting across the Sahara Desert sometime!
Team - Kevin Gets a Souvenir from Africa: Malaria
Jasmine - Lac Rose
Kavitha - Jammin'….Groovin'….Diggin' the tunes!
Monica - The Ingredients of crossing the Sahara desert: Sand, Water and Landmines???
Monica - The People on the Bus Go Up and Down, Part II
Monica - Trying to sail the ocean blue!
Making a Difference - Abeja gets M.A.D.-- she's Making a Difference

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