Tuesday, August 1, 2017


Dancing in Bamako

Don’t you love the scenes in period films where they dance the quadrille or some other stylized dance so beautifully? I always wish I knew the steps so I could join in.

Driving in Bamako is a little like one of those dances, and I’ve actually learned to enjoy it! For one thing, one is not limited by nuisances such as red lights. Oh, they are there, but they don’t always mean Stop, like in America. Sometimes they mean, Turn left now that oncoming traffic has to stop. Or turn right now that the motorcycles have to stop. (There’s not a blanket “Turn right on red after stop” rule like in America; do this at the wrong intersection and you risk getting a ticket)!

I most enjoy the intersections where the traffic lights are not functioning. That’s where you really learn to dance, edging forward to look for your opening and then plunging gracefully through.

It’s not all as graceful and perfect as it sounds, of course. Remember the scene in BBC’s Pride and Prejudice when Lizzie Bennett had to rebuke Mr. Collins for his missteps? The local minibuses which provide public transportation to the masses, called SOTRAMAs, are the Mr. Collinses of Bamako traffic. They go where they will and as they will. Most of the drivers have not learned the correct steps to the dance (I’m not even sure if most of them have actually learned to drive), and they don’t care to, either. They plunge willy-nilly into traffic as if they didn’t even know it was a dance!

Finally, imagine again that scene in P&P. What if a prankster had released hundreds of cockroaches onto the dance floor, and suddenly everyone had to dance La Cucaracha at the same time as the minuet or the scotch reel? That is what it’s like dealing with the myriad motorbikes of Mali, massing and merging like a swarming horde of maggots, making the dance miserable and maladroit.

If it weren’t for them, driving in Bamako would be perfect. Almost. [To be fair, Bamako traffic was evidently the worst part of my daughter's-in-law trip here last year, so not everyone sees it from the same perspective.]

1 comment:

Emilio Fernandez said...

Good morning, how are you?

My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys travelling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of used stamps because trough them, you can see pictures about fauna, flora, monuments, landscapes etc. from all the countries. As every day is more and more difficult to get stamps, some years ago I started a new collection in order to get traditional letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately, it is impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are very small countries with very few population, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

For all this, I would ask you one small favour:
Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Mali? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Mali in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and an original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

Emilio Fernandez Esteban
Avenida Juan de la Cierva, 44
28903 Getafe (Madrid)

If you wish, you can visit my blog www.cartasenmibuzon.blogspot.com where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

Finally, I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

Yours Sincerely

Emilio Fernandez