Right now, I’m in Burkina Faso, and not entirely thrilled to be here. It’s nothing serious; just feeling a little lost and lonely again, and regretting my decision to leave when I did. I thought I should go back and see more of Burkina, but in reality, I would have had a better time if I stayed in Bamako, where I was actually making friends, and getting to know more about Mali life. Because I did happen to make a really good decision a couple weeks ago, which changed my experience completely. Now I’m back in Burkina and don’t really have the energy to do it all over again.
As was clear in my last couple of posts, as hard as I was trying to “embrace the expat culture” in Bamako, it just wasn’t really working, and I was really frustrated. I had 4 weeks left to kill, and I really felt like I was doing just that. Killing time. Sitting idle. I wasn’t learning anything, or having any valuble experiences, and didn’t know what to do about it.
Until I decided to go to Siby. It’s only 45km from Bamako, but it was like heaven to me. Out of the city; no noise, no pollution, or congestion. Just a regular West African town, but one that happens to have some sweet vibes due to the nearby waterfall and natural arch. Tourists come for that reason (and so did I), providing that little bit of infrastructure, but it was really the town itself that I loved. I meant to go for a weekend and ended up staying for 8 days.
There are some nicely developed hotels and campements along the main road, but I chose to stay at one at the end of town, which is a work in progress, but was exactly what I needed. No power and no running water (yet), but an amazing host, and a really chill atmosphere. Lots of tea, cards, and jokes (yes, I can even land jokes in French now! Albeit slowly, and poorly constructed).
As a rule, the best experiences I have are the ones where I’m not treated as a guest, but more like one of the crew, and that’s what happened here. Communal meals, which just sort of showed up at the appropriate times. I didn’t have to find it or decide what to have, it was just there. People floating in and out; everybody welcome.
The property backs out onto the farmland: peanuts, rice fields, and mango trees. Donkeys and sheep and chickens everywhere.
The most amazing boulangerie ever, just down the road: warm, fresh bread, baked with fire in a traditional oven. It’s specific to Siby, and is so deliciously soft, dense, and chewy. Very different than the bread of Bamako, which is dry and light and hard.
As we initially planned to go for just a weekend, on our second day, we rented a couple motos (with a guide) and headed for the sites. The waterfall we went to is 17km from town, and there’s literally NO way I would ever be able to find it again. But it was lovely. The water is super clean and refreshing. And there’s even a campground there (or at least I saw the sign for it) if you wanted to stay, which would have been awesome.
The arch is quite stunning, but essentially impossible to capture in photographs. There are routes for climbing, but I had no gear, and my guide had no knowledge of where the bouldering routes were. But you can definitely find guys in town to take you for a climbing adventure!
The rest of the time, we just chilled. And it was perfect. I did yoga (which still hurts my knee a bit, but I’m willing to make that sacrifice), read lots, and most importantly, reminded myself of exactly why I’m here. Exactly what I came for, and what I love about west African culture.
After 9 months, I now realize that there’s plenty of things that I don’t love about it here, but it was really great to have that reminder of the things that I do. And for that I’m so thankful.
When I got back, I saw my friend hank, in Bamako for his project, Wings4Farmers, who said I looked totally refreshed. I was so much more at peace than when I left. And my stomach even settled itself out! Though it did give a slight protest again upon arrival back in Bamako, which has thankfully subsided again.
So anyways, here I am, back in Bobo-Dioulasso, killing time again until I fly from Ouaga in 10 days.