Homecoming for Soumaila Samake


I was in Bamako to talk to one of my friends about the plastic brick making project up in Mopti so while I was down there I decided to finally go back to my homestay village, Kobalakoro. I had put it off for so long mostly because I didn’t know how to get there and I was too lazy to find out. But after what seems like an eternity it seemed like the time was right for a return to Kobalakoro.

I set off early in the morning by taxi to the grand marche aka sugu ba. I told my taxi driver I was going to Kobalakoro, which is near Baguineda Camp and so he dropped me off by the bush taxis (green vans) and luckily I found one that was going to Baguineda almost immediately so I ran it down and jumped on. I saw a car run into a guy on his scooter and on the side of the road a lorry had been left on the side of the road and burnt down but eventually I got back.

It was strange to see Kobalakoro so clean, but that was because there wasn’t water/sewage everywhere. Coming in rainy season I really had to be careful where I stepped because there was a good chance I would step in sewage if I wasn’t. I was really wondering if people would remember but almost immediately I was inundated with people screaming out “Soumaila, Soumaila!” just like the good ol’ days. There’s a part of me that loves it when people recognize but now that I’m in Kita it’s also great that I don’t have to greet every person I see. I first went to see my concession and getting there was difficult because it took forever for me to greet all the people on the way. When I got there I only found my host mom Bintu who told me my host dad Seibu was in the market at their stand. So after greeting her and catching up I made my way back to market. I ran into my host brother Kalifa. We joked around and caught up. He hadn’t changed much, maybe just a little taller. He told me my host dad Seibu had gone to Bamako to buy potatoes to sell so we just waited for him at their stand. I brought some tea so we made some of that and in the meantime the rest of the little ones came through. I got to say hi to Maru, Seku, and Lamine. My host dad arrived some time later and we talked for a while. We then went to see the village chief so I could greet him. I got my host brother to buy some cola nuts then headed over.

On my way over I greeted nearly everyone in the village and after a while I had developed a small following of children and parents alike. By the time I reached the village chief’s concession I had a crowd behind me screaming my name. Meanwhile they were having some sort of meeting to celebrate the baptism of the prophet Muhammad. I greeted the village chief, who was surprisingly still alive (last time I checked he was over 90, I swear this guy is like JoePa). Then I went over to visit Ami and Sali, my friend Amanda’s host family. I had a chance to see everyone else’s host family and gave them gifts of tea. Ami’s baby, Seku, was the kid I most enjoyed playing with and I had a chance to see him. He had gotten a little bigger but the little bugger was still cute as hell. After playing over there and taking a ton of pictures I made my way back to their stand in market. I ate some delicious fonio with this peanut leaf sauce that my host mom made and then just hung out for a while talking with my host dad. He was impressed how much better my Bambara had gotten. I still remember that first day when I arrived completely confused and disoriented. We spent the entire day just me pointing at body parts. I’ve come a long way since then. I told him about my projects and about Kita. After doing that for a while I decided to head back. I bought them a big ol’ bag of rice before I left and then headed out.

Now that I know how “easy” it is to get to Kobalakoro (it still took 1.5-2 hrs to get there) I plan on going back from time to time (in sh’Allah). I didn’t know what to expect, whether or not they would remember me, or if things had changed, or if anyone had died. It was good to know that more things change the more they stay the same. I was able to pretty much pick up where I left off, which makes me wonder if that’s what life will be if and when I go back home home. Who will remember me? Who will be glad to see me? I can’t say with absolute certainty what will happen but until then I’ll keep on keep on. Til next time!

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