Thursday, September 10, 2009

Some post travel thoughts

Steve and I are sitting here talking. We've been home a week and we've almost finished putting the photos onto our web album. Some friends and family have asked about our trip and we've told some stories. But now we're talking about the best bits, lowest moments etc.

Here are a few high points...
-Approaching Djenne at dusk and watching the sun set over the Bani River as we waited for the ferry.
- Old Segou with its long and layered history and friendly and genuine people.
- Brendan holding court and keeping a bunch of kids captivated with stories of big planes taking off and motorcycles. They didn't understand a word but showed total respect and interest.
-The Niger River crossing in a canoe which broke up a 24 hour public transport journey from Senegal to Bamako.
- Cresting the Bandiagara escarpment on our way to Dogon Country. We could see for miles and the sky seemed so huge.

And low moments/ difficult points...
- Arduous travel in a slow moving, utterly inefficient public transport system. Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh but we had a couple of long, long trips. And the shear frequency of stops for one reason or another was irritating beyond belief.
- The heat, especially on those buses.
- Tadhg being severely dehydrated and me sending Steve out to phone the embassy and find a doctor. Thank goodness for rehydration salts and clean water- he perked up in no time.
- Slight frustration at never really being able to fully be in the moment because of the kids. So he says not that we'd have it any other way and we're not blaming the kids but it was just the circumstances.
- The hardest times were usually just before the boys went to sleep but as soon as they were both sound asleep we'd say, "wow, what a great day" :)

Although these low points might seem significant to some, they were usually far outweighed by something positive and pleasant. For example, although Tadhg was quite dehydrated, the concerned old caretaker man and the helpful nun were wonderful, as was the great hotel we found to hole up in while we recovered!

Prompted by a friend's interest yesterday, we've just asked ourselves, "was it life-changing?"
Well, not quite, but it has certainly got us thinking and talking. We think we got a taste of what life-changing could be. Steve's example is that one of his favourite parts of the trip was walking with Musa in Old Segou, his ancestral home, and talking about his life, family, his history, Africa and its problems etc.. He wished that that could have gone on longer but it seemed that moments like that, (with Diady too) were always too short. We look forward to the day we can spend more time in a place and immerse ourselves fully in another culture. We have a few years to come up with some ideas.

And lastly for now, here are a few other memories that must be recorded.

Billy: (quietly but with conviction) "Jo, stop eating" as a cute little green worm crawled across the lettuce on her plate.
Billy: "classic" Everything, especially every photo he took!

Being asked multiple times every day if I breastfeed the baby and getting big smiles and approval when I confirmed that I did. This also led to many a conversation with women about babies and mothering. Like Steve's chats with Musa and Diady, they were often cut short due to lack of time or my limited French. There was so much more to learn.

stranded jamaican
diabetic in need of money for his prescription
1000 Francs to call my mum
Circuituous route to a different hotel than we wanted. Four right turns make a circle (I saw this coming before we even took one step by the way, hence my aloofness :)

That last was the only one we fell for, or rather went along with because, well, what the hell, we're not doing anything else... and it wasn't that bad. The hotel we had wanted WAS really being demolished and the hotel we ended up in wasn't too bad so no harm done except having to tip a greedy, dishonest man. Although there is the possibilty that he just had a really, really bad sense of direction.

The best pool was at the Rabelais in Bamako. Great shallow end for Brendan to splash around in on his own.

Taxi fare should have been 500 cfa. It is raining hard and we don't really want to walk because we don't actually know which way to go but can't let on to the watching taxi drivers.
We say 500. He says 3000, we scoff, walk away, he says 2000, we say 1000. He scoffs, prattles on about the rain and too much water, we say we just came this way half an hour ago, he says 1500 and is adamant, we say ok and get in. It literally is a 5 minute car journey but the driver goes on and on about the rain. Then the best bit... at the highest point on the road he turns left down a side street and drives 200 yards very slowly down a very bumpy dirt road, turns right, then right again and back 200 yards and emerges back on the same road about 100 metres down, still on a hill with not a puddle in sight and no other reason for a detour, all the while complaining about all the rain... Steve and I are in hysterics wondering whether or not to ask the guy if he really thinks we are that stupid when we arrive at our destination. He predicitably asks for more money because of the rain and presumably that rough detour being hard on the car :) Steve refuses and walks away, still laughing. So I can only guess that the guy has absolutely no sense of direction himself and assumes that everyone else must be the same. Man, that was funny.

Enough now. Better get to bed. Our two Canada World Youth volunteers arrive tomorrow. Looking forward to it.

The mosque in Djenne as the sun rises. We've almost finished putting a huge number of photos on our web albums...

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