I had a great time in Europe. For a while there I wasn’t sure whether or not I would be able to go because of the volcanic ash cloud that has been disrupting flights all over Europe for the past month. One of my friends had tried flying out a few days earlier to go back to the States and was forced to buy a completely new ticket that would take her through Dakar instead of Paris just to avoid the cloud. Fortunately for me I just missed the cloud and was able to fly into Paris and onto Barcelona without a hitch. Barcelona’s a beautiful city and I was able to walk around a little before meeting up with my parents. It was great seeing them. I really miss having them around and I’m sure whatever I’m feeling is doubly so for them. It was good just to talk and be in their company. Of course we had our scuffles but what would meeting up with them be if we didn’t argue about something. We took in some of the sights around Barcelona but really I was just content staying at the hotel enjoying the big, comfy bed, air conditioning, and hot showers. After that we went on the cruise where we went to Monte Carlo, Florence, Rome, Naples, and Palma de Mallorca. As it was my first time in Europe it was great for me to see so many different parts of Europe. On top of that we were on the cruise where I ate nonstop. My parents like seeing me eat a lot but even they were shocked at how much I ate. After the cruise I went back to Barcelona and said goodbye to my parents. I hung out for a while there meeting up with friends before coming back “home” to Mali.
As I get used to being back in Mali one thing that keeps bothering me is the fierce urgency of now. I see the second-year volunteers here and most of them are either leaving or getting ready to go back home. I’m sure that I’ll be doing the same thing myself around this time. During my vacation I was able to take a mental inventory of the things I wanted to accomplish during my service here in Mali. I even went back and looked at my aspiration statement I wrote before coming to Mali. I’ve come to realize how difficult it is to do anything here in Mali. As hard as it is to get things done back in the States if you want to do anything here it’s a combination of being incredibly persistent and a whole lot of luck. I look at the mobile bank that was started here five years ago by a previous volunteer and it’s probably not what she intended when she started it. We all have these great ideas but what happens when we leave? Will the restaurant I want to start continue? Will the women of my Shea cooperative be able to find buyers on their own? I work on these projects in constant fear of what will happen once I walk away.
I’ve had some interesting conversations with people about development work, about life in Africa, and the reality of aid. I just look back at that bright-eyed, bushy-tailed young’n I once was with Jeffrey Sachs’ The End of Poverty in my hand thinking I could save the world by myself and laugh. The point isn’t to save the world singlehandedly but it’s to help the world save itself. There isn’t much time left for me here in Mali. Sure I have over a year left but for all the things I want to do I don’t know if that will be enough. I was talking with my country director who told me that being here is like a time warp, the days seem like they drag on forever but the months just fly by. It’s true. It really doesn’t feel like I’ve been here for ten months but I have. Play time’s over, time to get serial. Watch out Mali, here I come!