I was a little hesitant to come back. My year in Bamako was probably the unhappiest time of my life. I was seriously depressed. Mohamed was finishing up his work contract in Morocco. I was alone in the office since all the other staff were in Mopti, 8-10 hours away by road. I was lonely and angry, and this unfairly colored my view of the city. I’m trying to make up for it this time.
I really made an effort to let people know I was coming, and already a couple of former colleagues have come to see me at the hotel. As far as I can tell (second day here) the infrastructure has improved dramatically. No potholes! Highway flyovers! Three lanes on each side! Although the traffic still sucks. When I was here in 2003-2004 the US Embassy was located in the middle of town, where vendors and pedestrians freely passed in front of the entrance. Now my (temporary) office is in a huge fortified complex, just like in other countries. Conveniently it is across from the huge mosque that Qaddafi built. When I lived here this area was a total construction wasteland, and now it’s filled with shiny new buildings, including a vast “cité administrative” for the government offices.
I regret that on the flight to Paris I didn’t snag one of the empty rows to sleep. Surprisingly the plane was only about half full. This was my first trip on the Airbus 380. It was nice – I’m always a fan of USB plugs in airplane seats. In Paris I caught up on the South Carolina primary results and then took a nap in the Air France lounge. Our flight to Bamako was inexplicably delayed because the plane was surrounded by 30+ police officers. I know that illegal immigrants are repatriated on these flights but I don’t know if that’s why so many flics were there. There were quite a few people on the flight on their way to a global health conference – I sat next to a nice man from NIH and then we all piled into the embassy minibuses to our respective hotels.
My main disappointment has been with the hotel. I spent a lot of time in this hotel when I first moved here, and back then it was really fresh and new in the clean Ikea style. Now it’s shabby without the chic. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by my hotel stays in other countries, but I do remember, for example, that when I’ve stayed there before there were really nice folders and menus in the rooms, and sets of matching towels. Now all the hotel info consists of photocopies in plastic sleeves, and incomplete at that – I had to call the reception to find that wi-fi is available. You know things are going downhill when the TV hasn’t been upgraded. I was touched that the staff remembered me though. I’m sure they don’t get a lot of Fil-Am women coming through.
Goodness do you travel. I can never keep up with when you're here in the US and when you're country bouncing.
I think it's kind of neat that you're able to kind of face the demons from your last time there. I hope your trip turns out to be really wonderful to make up for the horrible time you had before.
On January 30th, 2012 11:43 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
What hotel was it? I was in Bamako in 2002 for 4 months during my MPH studies and I have to say I LOVED it. Would consider living there in a heartbeat (while I was busy packing). I hope this trip left a better "taste" in your mouth! Did you happen to try Guido's? If it's still there... two Italian brothers opened it when I was there.