Initial notes from Mali
Though – note that I have been traveling for approximately 22 hours and running really rather empty. No pictures yet as I have to sort out getting them off of various electronic sources (my usual email photo to self tactic won’t work here). I arrived after dark so most pictures so far are of the amusing but not really that interesting variety. E.g., of the hotel shower where I need a technology lesson to use it – the jets jutting out every which way scare me!
In no particular order:
* I flew on a small Delta Connect (or something) flight between ROC and Detroit, then on Air France/business class to Paris, then a 5 hour layover at Charles de Gaulle, and another Air France business class seat to Bamako, Mali. Business class is sooooo spoiling. They kept plying me with champagne, wine, and meals – holy cow, these in-flight meals were amazing. Four courses of supremely well-cooked food (a beautiful piece of beef on the first flight, salmon on the second), plus a cheese course, lovely lovely desserts, and a starter course – one had fois grass plus a shrimp/carrot salad kind of thing. I briefly regretted giving up my business class seats for the return home – until I regained my senses and realized that I will no doubt find plenty of really lovely food while IN Paris for four days instead. (By laying over in Paris, my flights are split into two separate journeys – the business class ticket kicks in if the travel lasts more than 14 hours).
* I certainly arrived quite well-rested by flying business class. Comfy seats which expand out so you are practically lying down; room to stretch out, less “frenetic” pace of anything being served – I slept a lot.
* Though it was surreal too. We were kept SO separate from the masses, it felt like we were on an entirely different plane.
* My teenaged French? 33 years later – it’s still there, somewhere, buried in the recesses of my brain. Though, it’s getting me in trouble. I SOUND good (excellent accent when learned at a young age and in an immersion environment), so I get into trouble easily – folks don’t realize that I’m a bumbling Americaine beneath the accent.
* I packed a denim jacket for the cooler air-conditioned rooms (warning from my contact at the embassy). I’m wishing I had brought a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt – this hotel is chilly! Though it keeps the mosquitoes and malaria-potential at bay, so….
*There’s a really kinda suspect painting over my bed. A single huge eyeball on a slant – corner to corner on the 3″ by 5″? frame. Someone’s watching me. Not sure who…
* I’m boiling my first batch of water for consumption. Wish me luck in avoiding gastric distress. I have figured out how to keep the kettle button from popping off so it’ll boil for 5 minutes not 5 seconds
* I have no idea how much the 1.5 L bottle of Evian costs which they have conveniently left in my room. It could be worth it though. the price list has a price for the half litre bottle in the fridge but…
* The drive from the airport was interesting – albeit after dark. I’m looking forward to seeing more tomorrow.
* It’s a cash economy here. The hotel accepts Visa (though not MC). I don’t expect anywhere else to though.
* 1 US $ = 460 CFA (currency of Mali). Figure that out in your head (1500 CFA for small bottle of water….um, I’ll be using that currency converter app liberally). (Ok, a guesstimate is close – a little more than $3).
*Euros are easier. 7 Euros=10$. 7:10 is easier than 460:1.
* I haven’t figured out how to text home from my phone. Supposedly I can for 50c a pop, which would be convenient for saying “hey! Get Toby on Skype!” although it appears that Skype doesn’t play nicely with the hotels “private” internet network. Gmail video chat will suit just fine. Once we figure out how to all be there at the same time. Calling home is just not feasible – it costs $5/minute.
* I finished reading David Lebovitz’ My Sweet Life in France on the plane – a totally awesome book. And excellent preparation for a food tour of Paris next week.
*I started Mali Blues by Leive Joris, and got about half way through on the plane too. It’s interesting – and also a good read upon arriving here, although it was published in 1998 so not necessarily a current view.
*I started knitting with Kidsilk Haze – for the first time. You know, the yarn more often referred to as crack. Now I know why. It’s really lovely to knit with. This particular skein has bits of sparkley silver spun into it also – Kidsilk Night. Shockingly this yarn has been discontinued (seriously??? it’s lovely.) This is a deep deep nearly black purple color called Macbeth – it’s totally yummy and is en route to becoming a Scarfuffle (ravelry link).
* I have been surrounded by friendly people all day and also seen a number of women wearing their babies. I think I saw them using a kanga – there’s a picture and a video of how to use one here. Toby was a total sling baby – he’d probably still love to be carted around in one though at 104 pounds or whatever he is now it’s so not happening. It was very cute to see the babies’ little feet stick out though
I’m off to sleep – there will be some sightseeing tomorrow – squee!