05 January 2021

Ruth@Bamako part 2

Ruth Wijland participates in the Young Expert Programme (YEP) and is working for World Waternet and our Malian partner SOMAGEP-SA. Find our more about her experiences in Mali.

Christmas in Bamako

In this blog I will shine a Christmas light on my second month in Bamako. Actually, I totally lost sense of time, it just feels like any other month and not specifically December. The temperature does not help. As for the Dutch the weather is one of the favorite subjects of discussion, I talk about the weather during the calls with my parents. Lying in my hammock, I explain that it is the 'cold' season now. I do not use my AC, and only use the fan when I go to sleep. However, during the day it easily gets 35 degrees, so these are not really ‘winter’ temperatures. While I explaining this, I feel some sweat building up in my knee pit, proving my point.

Stroopwafels at the university

A reoccurring topic during my phone calls are my driving adventures here in Bamako. This not only shows the challenges, but also how friendly the people are here. In each situation people do not hesitate to help. It’s a Thursday, together with AJPEA (the youth association of the water sector) we have a stand on the introduction day of the new master GIRE (integrated water resource management) at the technical university here in Bamako. I brought my waffle maker and I am baking stroopwafels to entice the students to come by our stand, where my SOMAGEP colleagues Thierno and Aboubacar explain everything about SOMAGEP, our WaterWorX project and the AJPEA. It took a while to get electricity at our stand and it slightly affected my schedule. So during the stroopwafel baking, my online meeting with the Dutch project team starts. The hotspot I make with my phone works quite well and the multi-tasking is also going well, if I say so myself. For the next meeting, I have to be in the office, though. This is good to keep in mind, to understand the state of mind before I step into my car. Just driving out of the parking lot, I take a wrong turn, so I need to back up with the car. However, I do not see the little reversed curb and one of my tires goes over the edge and I am stuck. A helpful guy tries to explain me how to get out of this situation, but I do not get his point. So, he asks someone who can drive a car to help me. After some trial and error and input of multiple bystanders my car is freed and I am able, after expressing my gratitude, to hurry to my next meeting.

Stroopwafel baking at the AJPEA stand

Adventures on the Road

In this case Google Maps works well and leads me to my destination, the office, without a problem. This is not something to take as a given. Google Maps recognizes streets, though streets in Bamako have a different definition than we are used to. The larger roads and the smaller streets have both their own challenges. Maybe good to mention that I drive a Toyota Yaris, and not a Rav4 or other four wheel-drive car, before diving into this topic. So, back to the challenges of/on the roads. Imagine, everywhere there are cars and scooters that pass left and right and there are quite some holes in the roads and often street bumps. In rush hour, the rule is to just go, go with the flow, drive slowly and you will reach your destination. This makes me in a sense less stressful than in the Netherlands while driving. Sometimes however, navigating through the city, Google Maps sends me ‘off road’. A lot of the streets are unpaved or gravel paths. So when I drive my car, I need to go slowly or the bottom of my car gets a really good scrub. The nice part is having the ‘off road’ experience inside the city, there are not a lot of places outside I can go anyways. On Sundays, there are a lot of weddings and other festivities, which are happening in the street. One Sunday, I take a different road and miss a branch and before I know it I am driving on a market. There are other cars, it just feels I drive through a shopping street in the middle of Amsterdam, a no car zone. Google Maps has no reception, the people however point me helpful in the right direction and I am back on the road I know. Most important thing to remember is to just go with the flow slowly.

Stands at the Technical University Fair

Always expect the unexpected

Taking time is a good motto to keep in mind anyways. Most of my days don’t go as expected. It’s a Friday morning and the plan is to pass by an ethical code workshop, where they discuss the corporate culture with SOMAGEP employees. We get a place back in the room, taking social  distancing into account. There are different presentations by the participants on how they can implement the ethical code into their daily work. Thierno indicates at 11h30 that we have to leave. I have another call at 12h00 and he will go to the mosque for the Friday afternoon pray. There are only a few participants left, so we decide to stay. I app my Waternet colleague Bas ten Haaf and explain that I will probably be a little late for our call. It is really interesting to hear the discussion about the implementation of the ethical code in the daily work of the participants. After the presentation everyone briefly reflects on the session. I also give my contribution in my best French. In the end, we need to hurry at 12h30 to get back at the office, so Thierno will still be in time for the 13h00 prayer.

What have you done this week? What happened with work? Such simple questions but every time I have a lot to tell my parents. Never a dull moment, live itself is an adventure. And I am glad that I may experience it.