Sunday, February 27, 2011

Malian tradition

Overlooking Dogon Country, Mali

I never knew upon my entering Mali I would return home with a new name. What's more surprising is that I was in the country less than 24 hours before shedding the name my parents spent nearly 9 months deciding upon. Naming your own child must be an arduous process... after all, it is (most likely) the name he/she will be known as for the rest of existence. But naming a stranger-- that can be done in seconds.

Bremen, the friend I visited, and I had stopped at a fruit stand near his home the afternoon of my first day in Bamako.  One of the locals at the stand asked my name.  After introducing myself, she looked at me, smiled and then told me my new first name.

Later in the evening, on the way to a dinner party, we entered a taxi which was already occupied with 3 other women (besides the taxi-man, which is what all drivers are called).  We crammed our way in and made small talk. One of the women asked the taxi man his name and discovered their last names were the same.  They began laughing, then asked us what our names are.  Once Bremen stated I had no last name, they offered me theirs.  I smiled and accepted the offer.

It was as simple as that, and was the only name I used during my stay.

So you too can decide whether you'd like to call me by my birth name or my new Bambara name, Awa Sangare.  Because I now answer to both.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You're going where?

- I'm going to Mali!
- Oh nice, I love Maui.
- No, no... not Maui, Mali.

- I leave on Friday for Mali... can't wait.
- Wow, world traveler! How long are you staying?
- Just one week.
- You're going all the way to Bali just for one week?
- Oh, no, not Bali... Mali - West Africa.

- You're going to Mali? You're not scared?
- Not one bit!  I'm counting down the days.
- Claire!  Haven't you seen Sahara??
- No, why?  Should I? 
- Well, probably not now.  But I think you're crazy for going.  Just be careful...

- I really don't know how I feel about your going to Mali, Claire.
- Mom, I'm going to be fine.
- Well, what about all the advisories warning people not to go?  I tell you what, I'll reimburse you half the price of your flight if you promise not to go.
- Thanks but no thanks, I'm not passing this up.
- But what if you're abducted and turned into a sex slave??
- Haha... one could only hope.

Small Market in Timbuktu, Mali

Sunday, February 20, 2011