Fletcher and me on our way out of the officeWhile on our Dogon hike with Sarah in August, Ryan and I put our heads together to make a list of things we wanted to accomplish while in Bamako. After living in the big city for a year and anticipating a new job in Bamako, Ryan knew how easily the time can slip past and you find yourself wishing you had done all these things. And so, under thatched roofs and in between Dogon cliffs we put together a living list of things to accomplish in Bamako. Two months in and we're making progress. Here's my latest attempt to work on the list.
After running a few miles at the park, Fletcher and I collect our things from the PHARE office and brave the streets of Bamako. Bikers with 20-kilo orange-mesh bags of onions stacked 4 high on the back of their bikes pedal precariously close to the edge of the road and Sotramas filled with tired legs and colorfully wrapped heads cough past us. Normally Fletcher and I walk together, in the direction of our respective homes, while I crane my neck behind us to try and read the neighborhood signs posted on the commuter buses indicating who is going where to try and catch a ride home. But today is my first Modern dance class - improving our dance moves being a mutual Bamako goal of Ryan and I - at the school near Fletcher's place and so I forgo the neck yoga and keep my eyes on the road ahead.
Known for its large variety of 'dead toubab' (read: thrift store) clothes and fresh produce, the market near the PHARE office is always bustling. However, with Tabaski next week the palpable buzz of action has risen to a vibrating roar as truckloads of produce unload morning, noon and night on the sides of the road - piles of yams, onions, tomatoes and cabbage spilling over themselves asking to be bought. In between produce women sit on low-lying stools fanning charcoal fires that heat crackling pots of shea oil and fried cakes or silver platters with sliced watermelon - appealing to both humans and flies alike! Fletcher convinces me to pass up some questionable watermelon and since we're cutting it close on time we take a short-cut through a school yard to get to Fletcher's street. I make it to the dance school just in time to see the previous class - ballet for toddlers - release. Roly-poly two-year olds in mesh tutus and high ponytails - I hope I am only half as cute coming out after my own class!
I called the dance school the day before to confirm the class offered (Modern), the time (18h-19h30) and the cost (5,000 CFA/class - a little steep - but less if you get a carnet). I wanted to make sure I was prepared and so asked the helpful French man on the other end of the line what to wear. He paused and asked if I had ever danced before. I mumbled something about a college class and, reassured that I wasn't a total debutante, he told me to wear nothing fancy, just shirt, pants and shoes. Guess I'll have to save the sequined leotard for another class.
While I think the dance class I took in college was Modern, I wasn't sure what lay in store at this particular 'école de danse'. Fletcher said his sister took a Modern dance class once and it involved a lot of Britney Spears moves. The class I took in college, and the definition I found online, prepared me to be expressing my inner feelings which, for me, doesn't typically involve a lot of Britney Spears-esque moves. I also did not know how I would feel about expressing my inner feelings with strangers or how I would be at following the class in French. Fortunately, thanks to mirrors which make it easy to follow moves and dance names being in French anyways, both concerns turned out to be moot points. Fletcher, tempted to stay when he saw the handful of ladies waiting outside the dance studio (sorry Fletcher - they turned out to be the unavailable moms of the toddlers) continued home and I headed inside where I met Fonfon, the dance instructor and man with whom I spoke on the phone, and the 4 other women in the class. For the next hour and a half we stretched, chasséed and kicked the air which cumulated in a dance routine with only a few moves Britney Spears would envy. I left the class with a flushed face and excited for the lesson next week. The pursuit of the Bamako Bucket List continues!
Coming home to protective tomato paste cans and patio furniture