Friday, September 30, 2011

Bamako & London: Photography exhibit

Images found here

A recent photography exhibit spent a week at the the Musée de Bamako.  A photographer in London and a photographer in Bamako took photos of activities that happen in both places - taxi drivers, tea drinking, soccer playing, cooking for the family, playing music.  It was neat to see the similarities and learn more about the people in the pictures from short interviews accompanying the photos.   Learn more here!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Where's Waldo? And Qaddafi...

Image found here

It's been over 7 months since the revolution began in Libya.  Folks tried cease-fire talks a long time ago.  They failed.  So where is Qaddafi

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

That is Important!

Am I right in thinking this is just a knock-off spare-tire cover?  Or do all Rav4 tire covers in America have sayings like this?

"It s an outdoor sport that has recently started to shine.  To choose sports for fashion or your personality.  The basic idea is to enjoy yourself.  That is important.  Outdoor sport is the sicence to raise spirits."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

No Strings Attached: Chinese/Malian Bridge of Friendship

Creepy or not we had to snap a photo!  With Massa and Cassie on the bridge

Don't you want a photo on the bridge of friendship with Abdoulaye, too??
Bamako's third bridge, the result of a collaboration with China, was inaugurated last Thursday, September 22nd as one of many commemorations of Mali's 51st independence day.  Ironic?  Perhaps.  Events like this bridge opening encourage me to reflect on the merits (and demerits?) of foreign investment and development in Mali.  What are foreign investors/development projects doing in Mali?  What, in particular, does China get when they build this bridge?
Image found here
Malians share similar stereotypes of Chinese manufacturing as Americans.  Cheap, low-quality products priced to sell that won't last long.  A Malian friend, when discussing all the moto accidents in Bamako, made the observation that "the Chinese are just sending us these crappy Jakarta motorcycles to kill us!"  Hm....can't say that I agree with that intention, I think Mali just needs some rules of the road (and enforcement of those rules!) but the motorcycles are inexpensive!  However, while I often hear Malians complain about low-quality Chinese manufacturing, I haven't heard many folks worried about the quality of their construction - the bridge does appear to be solid, though! 

Foreign investment in Mali is low and limited to handfuls of Lebanese owned night clubs and grocery stores, South African and Canadian owned mines and a very large administrative complex built by Muammar el-Qaddafi.  The US Embassy in Bamako states there are many sectors the Malian government is seeking to expand through the help of foreign investment.  But why, I wonder, does everyone want a piece of Mali?

The Bridge of Friendship in Bamako marks China's largest gift to West Africa and many are already waiting for bridge #4 and #5 to alleviate the capital city's awful traffic.  I hear Malians talk about how there are no strings attached to this bridge and that China is just doing a good thing for a poor country like Mali.  I have a hard time buying that but then how different is the US from China or Libya?  We might not be quite so overt about taking advantage of the country but we do benefit from our relations. 

Living here is kind of like being the friend of someone in a bizarre, gossip-y relationship.  One day I hear the accolades of USAID, Qaddafi and China - the next day I hear USAID is self-serving (possible), Qaddafi is crazy (yes) and China sends prisoners to work in Mali (also quite likely).  Sometimes the best friends are the ones who just listen so I will work on continuing to smile and nod.   

But maybe I am looking too much into this bridge.  Maybe China's gift of the Bridge of Friendship to Mali really does have no strings attached.  Maybe not.  While it is possible that China really is just looking for new friends - I think they are looking for a certain kind, as are all foreign investors - friends with benefits.

I haven't seen the movie but I'm sure we all have a few things to learn from Natalie and Ashton

Monday, September 19, 2011

Annasoura goes to Ghana!

Bon voyage Annasoura!  Can't wait to speak English with you when you return!

Annasoura is headed to Ghana to learn English - we're going to miss her a lot here in Bamako!  Travel safe and come home safe!

Rokia Traore kicks off the concert series at the CCF

Image found here
Friday night we went to the CCF (French Cultural Center) to see Rokia Traoré in concert.  Wow.  Beautiful woman.  Captivating voice.  I would have loved to see more dancing - I hear she's incredible.  So glad the CCF is open again for the season!
I'm coveting the back-up singers' dresses...

Here Rokia plays ... what?  I can't find the name of this instrument - anyone??

Sunday, September 18, 2011

We'll see...

So let's just call last week a wash.  On Monday the cute boy sitting next to me had an interview for a tourist visa to visit the US and he (we) got denied.  Does bummer really capture how we felt?  Um.  No.  While we are (or rather, were) incredibly upset Abdoulaye won't be able to come home this fall to meet my beautiful family it will all work out in the end.  After all, as Abdoulaye says, we're stronger than this, and so I'll keep my head up and we'll keep making alternate plans.  We're both so incredibly thankful to our precious family and friends who have been so supportive this past week - thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  It would have been so much harder without you.  

This week is already looking to be better.  The lovely and talented Cassady Walters is officially back in Mali (!!!) there's a photography exhibit opening and the beginning of another round of single-teacher school training sessions.  Mom and John will also celebrate 20 years of marriage and then Mali will celebrate 50+1 years of independence.    

I haven't felt much like writing these past couple weeks with the build-up to my sweet boy's interview and then the bad news -  but I'm back to blogging - thanks for staying tuned. 
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