|With Aunt Pam and Mom in front of the Sacre Coeur Basilica|
On this day last year, I sat in a Baptist Missionary guesthouse in Bamako listening to Christmas music, reflecting, and writing a blog entry about the past month full of holidays. One year later, the setting is different (I’m cuddling on the couch in Indiana with our puppy, Echo), the subject matter has evolved to an extent, but the soundtrack is the same! Much has changed in the past year, and I am thankful for all of the experiences I’ve had and the many interesting people who have come into my life in Mali, the US, and in between!
After a great week in Paris with my mom and my aunt, I have finally reached Indiana, where I will stay for the upcoming holidays. The 8 hour flight from Paris to New York seemed like a breeze compared to the “hop” from NYC to Indy- a two hour flight in a small plane that seemed like it took an eternity! Return greetings were sweet- from my dad, my visiting brother, Abe, a younger brother, Griffin, and the 1 year old puppy I got to meet for the first time! Dinner at Chief’s was delicious, as always, and it felt great to be home! The rest of the night was a blur of fun as friends came out to “my” bar (it’s called “Moore’s Bar”) with a banner and a lot of energy to welcome me back.
|Kendi and Anna made me a banner! So sweet!|
The whole week was a busy one- visiting with all 3 brothers who came home for Thanksgiving, seeing my grandmother and other family, running around in Greencastle and Indianapolis, seeing loads of friends that I haven’t seen in ages, and just roaming around Greencastle to take in the changes (certainly no huge ones) that have taken place in the past 14 months. I really enjoyed all of the reunions and activity that took place last week, but it is nice to settle down a little now and take care of “business.” This week means 4 doctor’s appointments in 5 days. It means lots of bonding time at home with Echo, and lots of time to spend organizing my room… though that is taking place little by little. If you’re around Indiana this week or in the coming weeks, please drop me a line- I’d love to get coffee or visit with you!
|Happy to be reunited with 2 of my bros- Griffin and Abe|
Of course, Mali is never far from my mind as I consider the things I’m thankful for. Just this morning I got a sweet e-mail from my good friend, Yaya. I also was sure to facebook stalk all of the Thanksgiving photos from Bamako and sad to miss the birthday of a fabulous Brazilian friend! Aside from celebrations in Bamako, the past week has been eventful in Mali in another way. Last week, in two separate acts, 5 expatriates from Europe were taken hostage in the north of Mali, and a German man was killed as he resisted attackers. I am including several articles explaining things further, but at this point, there are still many questions. My reactions are as follows: 1- I am thankful that all of my friends and 'connaissances' in Mali are safe. Those in Bamako report few changes, and that is a good thing. 2- My thoughts go out to the relatives of the tourists from Timbuktu. 3- I realize how little I know about things going on in Northern Mali and about the politics between Mali and France. The 4th link at the bottom of this post gets into these issues… with so many actors and so many shifting allegiances, it is hard for me to keep things straight. 4- I feel for the country of Mali and for Peace Corps Mali, more specifically. I know that in light of recent events, already low tourism levels will sag even further, straining the livelihoods of many artists, guides, etc. And, I worry about the fate of Peace Corps Mali- already restricted to a small part of the country, but still one of the largest groups of volunteers in West Africa. This program has introduced me to a lot of great people in Mali, and I know that the last thing these volunteers want is to see Mali closed to such a program.
I encourage you all to read the articles above, but also to consult the map of Mali in the picture I’ve included. Please notice that Timbuktu and Hombori are both far from where I live in Bamako. Similar events are not likely to take place where I live. My aim is not to alarm friends and family, but rather to share this information and draw attention to how complicated things have become in Northern Mali. This is another reminder of how thankful I should be about my safety abroad and the lifestyle I am able to lead- both in Bamako and in Indiana.
Reasons to Give Thanks
- My bed- I had forgotten, in my absence, how comfortable my mattress is! I have never been cozier than under my quilts in bed these past few nights. I’m also pretty lucky that this nice mattress is in a warm, happy house!
- Movie stores- since I am pretty incapable of negotiating downloading sites, streaming video, or figuring out IP addresses, I love a good movie rental. I am catching up on all of the “new” to me titles now that I’m back home near a Family Video.
- SunKing Brewery- I know it is a little silly to be thankful for beer… but I am! After a year of struggling to choose between Castel, Flag, and Beaufort, it’s great to be back in the land of plenty when it comes to brew varieties. Last week, I got to go to a tasting at an Indianapolis brewery that is seriously on fire now! The young business started by a couple of Abe’s brewing friends won 8 awards at the Great American Beer Festival and is quickly picking up followers in the Midwest and beyond (the alehouse in Denver where Abe works really wants their beer!). Now it actually is hard to choose what to have when I’m in the store…
- The nice surveyors I met this morning on my dog walk- they didn’t mind when Echo bounded up and nearly knocked them over… all for a belly rub and some slobbery kisses. I appreciate the general friendliness I often find around town. I realized that in a big city I’d never be able to walk a rambunctious puppy on the street the way that I walked with Echo today. Wide open spaces and minimal traffic aren’t always exciting, but they sure are nice to have when you’ve got a black furball straining at the other end of your leash…
- Welcome home banners- or dinners, or drinks, or hugs. Whatever it is, the welcoming responses I’ve had over the past week have been really encouraging and made me feel good to be back in town. After being a little apprehensive about what my return would really be like, I am more at ease knowing that people are pleased to see me. It really doesn’t feel like I’ve even been gone!