Thursday, January 5, 2012

Soup and Sunshine

As promised, a recent snippet of Bamako traffic on a normal evening at 7 pm. Enveloped. That's a word that comes to mind often.

Nowadays I have a driver. I feel like Miss Daisy. A man named Abbas Maiga takes me in his tiny little yellow cab to and from the international school and wherever else I should want to go. He just started working with me on Tuesday, and so far, I really like his driving style of being cautious but quick. We have set times, so thankfully he's not twiddling his thumbs between our little drives, but he more or less has specific appointments with me. I also appreciate that his car doesn't smell like sewage or body odor, like many taxis here. He dodges the scooters like it's second nature too. I'll try to get some footage from inside the cab as I am sitting much lower than in the SUV's I'm otherwise traveling in. It allows me to be more integrated into the traffic - and much more discreet than my normal blond that is a target for the peddling kids in traffic.

I've been heading to the school this week to get ready for my next two weeks as the full-time Art Teacher at AISB. It's unfortunate that it takes up to 45 minutes to get through the traffic here from the neighborhood I live in (ACI 2000) all the way over to Sotuba, but the advantages of being where I am now definitely outweigh the temporary commute. Can I also just remark that the amount of prep work required for an art teacher to properly teach means one must complete the art projects before teaching them? Now do this for K through 12th grade, and in three days. Goodness gracious!

As for Bamako and I, we're getting along. Some days are still a bit worse than others, but I'm not as annoyed daily by the odd way that I witness the people of Mali who spit a lot and pick their noses mid-conversation (or simply see the definition of culture shock: I think one stage might be fury). Take today for instance. I was sitting in the backseat of Monsieur Maiga's cab as we drove through the market. I noticed a young mother set her 6 month child onto her back for her to tie the cloth sling around it and her. Then I noticed the baby start to slip off her back. She barely reacted fast enough to catch it against her hip with one hand before he would have fallen onto the concrete. Speaking of which, the average fertility rate in Mali is eight.

Sipping on Pom Pom apple soda at the theater's concession bar before watching the latest Mission: Impossible on Christmas Day, in dubbed French. Surprisingly good movie, not surprisingly bad soda
Needless to say, I spent an hour on the rooftop reading "The Gargoyle" after I got home from the school this afternoon. (Such a great book, by the way, but maybe not one for the easily squeamish.) I'm reading it on a my first experience with a Kindle. I still reject the concept of electronic books as a whole, but was handed it and haven't been able to put it down since.

I've been on a soup kick lately. I make up a new vegetarian recipe of soup each week using various spices and whatever carrots, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, and onions we have around. The first had a creamy consistency from mashed potatoes, the second was a spicy broth, and tonight was a curry broth. Somehow they're really hard to mess up and I've learned that no matter what I put in, the trick is to let it sit on low for a long time. It's been a lifesaver from the boring pasta dishes and sketchy fresh dishes and meats that are ordered in restaurants. And God forbid the vote goes in for pizza again from the same place that never cooks their palm oil crusts long enough. (Note: Palm oil is used in lotions and soaps for a reason, and should not be ingested due to the inability for our bodies to process it efficiently.)

Lastly, I've got the best news to report! We found an amazing retreat. I won't even call it a gym because it's so much more than that (even though that's why we go). Ignore the fact that it appears to be a false business owned by some French mafia family - as no one is ever eating or drinking in the restaurant or swimming in the pool for that matter. We focus on what it does for us: providing us a very necessary release by running and spinning in the mini gym upstairs. One treadmill, one elliptical, two upright bikes, one recumbent bike, a row machine, free weights and a half dozen weight machines - it is the size of a large living room. Look out the panoramic 2nd story windows from your cardio machine and you see a beautiful view of distant ridges outside of Bamako and a little neighborhood that looks just like the African version of surburbia. In fact, it's very much like Edward Scissorhands except the houses have flat roofs, are usually light beige or peach in color, and their perimeters are lined in huge gates complete with a guard out front. Yay for Bamako's suburban wives! I'm guessing they totally made this place happen.

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