September 20, 2015

Wow-termelons and Sacred Arch

Dear Family,

It's nearing the end of September in Bamako, and the weather is staying relatively cool (upper 80s) with some days of intense heat.  We’ve been here nearly 8 months, and our air conditioners have stayed on for that whole period.

The rains come every other day, falling torrentially for about 30 mins.  Since the sewers are open, and overflowing with flip flops, plastic bags, remains of rice and bean dinners, broken chairs etc, the rains flow along the roads which become like rivers, and the trash is spread out further and further into people’s dwellings.  Mosquitoes are also pretty bad at this time – we feel bad for our guards who bear the brunt of the stings -- and we try to provide them small relief by buying them anti-mosquito creams, coils and insect-zapping lamps.  Alas, nothing seems to stop those voracious bugs...

A few nights ago, we participated in a fancy dinner hosted by an American and his Malagasy (from Madagascar) wife.  We sat in a beautiful garden, at tables with white table clothes, enjoying Samosas, calamari in ginger curry paste, Coco Chicken, and vanilla ice cream.  It was unusual, and lot of fun to get a flavor of that distant, exotic island.  We were also entertained by dancers performing typically Malagasy dances and wearing Malagasy clothes with weaved baskets. 

Two weekends ago, we got a group together and hiked to see a huge arch rock formation about an hour's drive from Bamako.  It is a sacred place where the king of the city of Siby would predict the futures to warriors wishing to determine the outcomes of their battles.  Our group consisted of our friends, their small children and our pregnant colleague, so we took our time.  Along the way, Malian children held our hand, cleared the pathway from vegetation and kept us company as we sat to eat our picnic.  We didn’t make it to the waterfall, but will organize another outing to see it soon.

A few days before that, we took a 2-hour trip in a covered pirogue around Bamako, and got to see huge mounds of trash burning along the river banks, fishermen drying their nets on bushes, women washing their clothes and children with the same batch of soapy water, and a large wooden boats dragging sand from the river’s bottom to make cement.

We’re definitely adapting little by little.  Dorothee tries to separate work and personal life, though some of her American colleagues are not as successful.  She recently made cardamom ice cream and chocolate ice cream, and is looking forward to making coconut ice cream soon.

Adeel is teaching himself how to swim in our tiny pool, and developing a website to display items for sale from the expat community.  We’re hoping this project will make us Billionaires one day, but in the meantime, it’s been fun to learn a new coding language.

We miss you all.  Dorothee will spend a quick week in October, but otherwise, we plan to spend a couple of weeks in DC over December and January.

Dorothee & Adeel 

 Adeel contemplates life as we drift along the Niger river in Bamako (please note the indigo shirt he got tailor made)

 Arch of Siby, sacred places where warriors got their futures told

 There's nothing better than home-made ice cream in Malian weather

 Hashing in a beautiful place close to our house.  Double bonus for a small waterfall, and practically no trash bags around

 Our friend Sekou making us cavity-inducing sweet Hibiscus tea

 Another fancy tailor-made Indigo shirt

 Starfruits are in season, and grow just outside my office window

Obstacle course to overcome before arriving at a fancy resort/restaurant.  Thank god for Landcruisers --- other cars would be swallowed alive

Trash burning and nets drying on the side of the Niger River

Wow-termelons are also in season and grow to the size of small toddlers

Eid in Bamako, South Africa and Future Visits

Dear Families,

It's been a while since we've sent you an update, so here it is! Dorothee and I have been doing well, and are getting well acclimated to Mali at this point. We've made lots of friends, and are continually involved in many routine activities such as trivia nights, hashing, brunches, getting tailor-made clothes, and so on.

Last month (June) we spent a week in South Africa, and a week in Namibia, and then Adeel a few days in Kenya (due to a canceled flight). 

South Africa was great. Dorothee's aunt, Penny, was gracious enough to allow us to stay for a week at her place, and she even lent us her car for the week! Adeel was happy to meet the rest of the Bonds, and felt welcomed to the family. Penny hosted a Braii (a South African BBQ) for us, which was spectacular. Adeel went to the hospital because he was increasingly becoming deaf, and after getting his ears de-waxed, could miraculously hear again - Johannesburg seems to have good healthcare. Otherwise we explored Johannesburg and the surrounding areas. We shopped (we missed going to proper shopping malls), visited the Lion And Rhino Park, saw the cave of human kind (where some of the world's earliest hominids are found), completed a bike tour of Sowetto, visited Satyagara house (where Gandhi used to live), saw the apartheid museums (which shocked Adeel because the events were so recent), had a lot of good South African Cuisine, and much more.

Namibia was great as well.  Along the Skeleton Coast there are sand dunes as far as the eye can see. We saw tons of critters in the dunes, and were surprised that the desert hosted so much life! Adeel climbed and coursed around the dune in dune buggies, while Dorothee met with her colleagues from Peace Corps. There was a lot of eating, working and socializing there as well, and it has taken us nearly a month to get back to our pre-vacation weight! Namibia and South Africa both reminded Adeel of America or Europe. He was surprised to find parts of Africa so developed.

Last week was Eid. We first celebrated with a colleague of Dorothee, and ate riz gras, french fries, goat meat and locally made yogurt. We then went to visit friends who own a restaurant. The Malian husband built a smoker in the front of the restaurant, and after feeding a fire for hours with wood, we had wonderful roast lamb with 20 other people as our Eid dinner!

Next week Maman/Christine is arriving to spend a week with us, and we are both thrilled. We've planned out lots of activities for her (Dorothee has a long list in her phone). We'll be sure to send you all some updates and photos of what we'll be doing! We're also hoping that Ammi/Abida will come visit us soon as well. We'll plan out lots of good things for then too!

Anyway, we are both arguing about how long or short the email should be. Dorothee thinks it should be much shorter, but Adeel thinks it should be longer. So we will compromise and stop here :)

Hope everyone is doing well, and we look forward to hearing from you too!

Lots of love,

Adeel & Dorothee

Shopreate and Other Wonders of Bamako

Dear Family,

Hope all is well. We decided to take our Sunday to do our monthly update on our blogs, Facebook, and with our families. So here's our monthly update! 

We have been doing well. Dorothee has adjusted a little better now, and is getting more sleep. Her work has calmed down a bunch, though she is expecting about 30 volunteers in June. Adeel has taken to Mali like fish takes to water. He is enjoying it thoroughly. His work is going well, and he keeps himself busy socializing with Malians and expats, and working out. He is learning French, and Bambara. All the neighborhood Malians know us well and always greet us, and go out of their way to teach Adeel Bambara.

It is hot here right now! We are at the peak of the hot season. Even mosquitoes don't survive the heat and are few in number. Most noteworthy consequence of the heat is that the chicken eggs that Adeel eats daily have shrunken in size. We keep ourselves cool by hiding under the AC, or taking a dip in the pool.

A couple of weeks ago we ran out of gas for cooking in our kitchen. Dorothee was wondering if this was a common issue with the gas company... until she realized there are no gas companies and our kitchen is supplied with little gas tanks by the side of the house! We had just run out of gas, and couldn't cook for a couple of days until we got them refilled.

Adeel has been growing his hair out. It is currently the longest it has ever been in his life. He is striving to tie it into a "man-bun". That is his greatest ambition at this time. It is at an awkward phase right now where it cannot be tied, and is just all over the place unless copious amounts of gel is used.
Dorothee's ambition has been to grow edible plants. She recently purchased some at a community event sponsored by the US embassy. She has basil, citronella, green onions, and spinach, and hopes to acquire more. The gardener has planted them and tends to them well.

We have been to many Malian concerts recently, usually at the French Institute. We're generally enjoying life, but missing you all very much,

Please send us some news!

Adeel and Dorothee

Hmmm, papayas...

Carrying stuff seems to be the lot of many women here.  The little kid on the back peeks from behind his mother to see what's happening ahead

 Amazing Malian music concerts at the French Institute

 Taxis give themselves inspirational names.  This one chose the dubious name of Adof (sic) Hitler

Shopreate is an amazing food store where we can find many of our familiar foods,  It's just opened a second floor and we're able to find even more products...