That’s the Way It is

Yesterday I was supposed to have a language lesson when my tutor canceled on me. His sister had just passed away and he was on his way to Bamako. Today I came back to my house and in my sink I had let a pot soak in some water only to find a dead lizard floating inside. Unfortunately, a recurring theme here in Mali is “life and death.” Even in my escape, whether it’s watching movies or reading books there seems to be this morbid fascination with what happens after we die. Most people may feel they live lives of consequence but as a well-educated young man I can not claim to be as helpless as the countless others I meet on a daily basis. For many here they don’t have a choice but to do what they do; many Malians are resigned to the fact that’s just the way it is, so they keep on keep on until they can’t anymore. Many Malians ask me where I came from and find it hard to comprehend why I came. Some times I really feel this is exactly what I should be doing and that I’m making a positive difference. But, other times I just miss parts of my former life: driving my car, hanging out with friends, being cold, etc. This is the latter.

After serving two years in Mali as a Peace Corps volunteer no doubt I’ll be leaving as a different person. I’ll probably end up more Malian than American (for better or worse). But when I go back to America my life will return “back to normal”, or will it? After living in a place like Mali, what will seem “normal” to me? Surely this experience has ruined all hopes of ever going back to work for some heartless corporation grinding out a 9-5. Then again, the alternative, working for an aid organization for the rest of my life doesn’t sound too appealing either. There’s a part of me that just wants to say forget it (I would actually say something else….), move to some so-called “developing” country and just get rich, or die trying. When I leave what will happen to the people I’m working with? Do things ever change? Can we change? Can things really ever change in Africa, or should we just realize that no matter what we do nothing WILL change because poverty is not some problem that can be solved by politicians or celebrities or economists? I don’t know…..

We look at poverty like it’s some sort of illness, a disease that plagues all of Africa. So we come in and try and dole out our medicine as best we can. But maybe poverty isn’t a disease at all. Some say that darkness is the absence of light. Then isn’t poverty simply the absence of wealth? If only it were easy to convince a bunch of rich people to move to one of the poorest and most unstable places in the world.

I’m leaving for Dakar, aka Africa Light, in a few days for much needed vaca. Hopefully I’ll come back rejuvenated and ready to take on the world once again.


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