Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood…..


It’s the start of a new year and once again we get to cast
off the shackles of a year of missed opportunities and broken
promises to make them anew, a time for rebirth and a time to
rethink how we perceive ourselves and those around us. I look ahead
to what’s to come and realize that I’m on the downhill of my Peace
Corps service. I think back to that bright-eyed bushy tailed
boy I was when I first came in and can’t help but laugh at the
thought that I could singlehandedly change Mali for the better.
Instead my service has taken me on a path like that of a sine
curve with really high highs and really low lows. I saw the
completion of a restaurant that Lord willing will continue to
generate a profit for my women’s cooperative. I’ve traveled
around the country and had several moments when I felt like I was
the only person in the world. I’ve made some great friends
along the way who I hope to stay in touch with but really I don’t
know what will happen. I’ve had malaria, several rounds of
diarrhea, and had days when I felt like I was literally going to
die. In a sense life is more “real” in Mali if that makes any
sense at all. I’ve had the pleasure of being in the States and one
of my friends asked me the other day what’s one of the lessons I’ve
learned while in Mali. After thinking about it for a while
one of the things I’ve learned is that at the end of the day we’re
not so different. We all wear masks and we have our
affiliations but when it comes down to it people want the same
things and so despite all the senseless violence and hatred in this
world if we were ever to engage in an honest and open conversation
with one another perhaps this world wouldn’t be so effed up.
It’s not right to think that one group of people is “better”
than another for arbitrary reasons. Yet this scenario plays
out so often every day around the world. Take for example the
whole idea of development in Africa. There are several
countries who have sent/are sending aid to Africa when clearly it’s
not working. Instead of trying to step back and ask why it
isn’t working we just reason “it’s because we’re not sending enough
money” and so the cycle of dependency continues for Africans and
this sort of neo-colonialism goes undeterred because after all “we’ve got to
do something to save Africa!” The reality is that it’s more
like a big game of Risk with conflicting nations/ideologies caught
up in this huge land/resource grab. Those in charge of these
pseudo-democracies (RE: Laurent Gbagbo in Cote D’Ivoire) are the
only ones in these countries who win while the rest of the country
is completely in the dark (both literally and figuratively). So
yeah I’m pissed off, but don’t I have a reason to be? I may
not be the naive boy who came to Mali but at the same time I’m not
a complete cynic yet either. I know my time is running out and I’ll use
it to the best of my ability doing my part to help my community
because at the end of the day as a Peace Corps volunteer all I can
really do is come in, make a connection with a small group of
people, and try to make a difference in their lives hopefully for
the better. In this, the new year I hereby resolve to be a better
listener and to live more in the moment (I also ate way too much in
America so I’ll probably be riding my bike more when I get back
too). Bonne année et bonne santé tous le monde!

 

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One thought on “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood…..

  1. Great perspective Dave. I’ve come to the same conclusion, that it’s difficult for us to make short-term, tangible differences but making those connections and helping Malians to see beyond money and see the big picture has to make a positive difference in the long run. You’re welcome to bike out to Kenieba, I’m sure you’d shave off a few pounds on the way!

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