After bargaining for our $4 fare to pick up Cassie for lunch, Mom and I step into the taxi. The driver peers back at us through his slightly askew rearview mirror and asks – his eyes resting first on me and then on my Mom – “I koromuso walima I bamuso?” Your older sister or your mother? I laugh before telling the taxi-man that this is my mother. “An ba,” he says, his face lighting up, “a diarra an ye I na na!” Our mother – we're so glad you came!
When I decided to do a third-year with the Peace Corps and move to Bamako my Mom, the dust barely pedicured off of her feet from her first trip to Mali in January 2010, started planning her return. At first I resisted. “It's too far and it's too expensive,” I protested. But moms have a way of knowing what is best and mine is especially patient. I eventually agreed that she needed to come back.
Annie was also curious to check out my life in the big city – and to get a break from village – when she came to visit in May. I told her about Mom's plans to return in September but that we would not be able to come back to village this time – her trip being too short and the journey to village too long. Could she come back to Bamako to help me welcome her? “No problem,” Annie said, “and I could go to airport with you to pick her up?” “Of course!” I said. “And then I could go inside the airplane to see what it looks like!” she added. “That might be a problem,” I replied.
Around the same time as Annie's visit Abdoulaye and I hit a point in our relationship where it was no longer 'let's see what happens in October when my third-year is over' but rather 'let's start planning for a post-October together.' I left for Lebanon to attend Monica and Samer's beyond-beautiful wedding and Abdoulaye left for Guinea to defend his thesis and receive his doctorate in veterinary medicine. He talked with his mom about a trip to Bamako and she was thrilled with the idea. Vaccination card in hand Foulématou Bangoura started packing her Bamako bags.
And so began Bamako Mom-fest 2011. Abdoulaye's mom arrived first by taxi from Conakry, Guinea on Thursday. Annie arrived the next afternoon on a bus from San with Christine, now a very solid three and ½ year old. My mom arrived that evening on the same flight as Axel, my boss's husband. Axel exited the terminal first and as we waited for my mom to emerge with her bags looked at me – his signature ball cap square on his head – and demanded: “Do you know how I found your mother in Paris?” - his German-accented English making his rhetorical question sound more like a quiz. “I saw her in her Malian skirt and did a double-take,” he said, “I thought it was you!”
Doppelganger in tow we headed home with all of our airport companions. Massa and Abdoulaye on motorcycle and the rest of us: Annie, Christine, Foulématou, Jim and me, in the car. After sharing some pumpkin and potato soup (Foulé's commentary: 'It's tasty and I'm glad Jennifer likes to cook for a lot!') we all crashed.
On Sunday Mom and I gave a Sunday school class to some neighborhood kids (lesson: Blessed is he who prefers his brother to himself) before heading to CommeChez Soi for brunch. Bellies full and one of her Bamako to-dos checked off the list, Mom and I headed to market to collect watermelons for our Welcome-to-Bamako party that night. Around 30 friends came together at my generous boss Thelma's home to say 'aw bissimilah' to our treasured mothers. Hibiscus and ginger juice, meat kebabs, watermelon, plantains and french fries – what more do you need to have a party??
On Monday Abdoulaye and I began our routine of mom shifts. He would head over to Thelma's in the morning (where Foulé and Annie were staying) while Mom and I got ready at Sylvaine's (my other generous boss where both she and I stayed and where I've been living the past couple months). Around ten we headed over to collect the rest of the crew and head to the National Park, another must-see in Bamako after the Comme Chez Soi.
The rest of the week included all sorts of excursions and must-sees for Bamako. A trip out to Titibougou to see Abdoulaye's work and give my last English class for the year. Pizza and hummus at the Relax. Close-of-Service obligations at the Peace Corps office. A day trip to visit Annie's sister, Esther, in Koulikoro. Dinner at Sous-Bois with my Bamako-crew. Quality time with Cassie. Drinks at the Zira. A 60th birthday bash for Sylvaine. A few days before our Moms arrived someone told me I must be super stressed with all the preparations. While coordinating all the arrivals and places to stay and things to do was not simple, nor was I stressed about what we would do once they all arrived. Mom is such an easy going companion that I could just tote her along and know, as long as she was watered and fed, that she was happy as a clam just to be back in Mali.
On one of our last evenings together, a friend walked in the door who could not make it to our party the previous Sunday. She proceeded to greet all the guests in Thelma's living room and stopped at my mother while looking at me. “You don't need to introduce me,” she said. “You and your mother are like two drops of water.”
|Zouheirata, Annasoura's little sister, invited us all over for a delicious dinner|
|Lunch in Koulikro. Annie is concerned about Mom and Abdoulaye's technique|
|National Park excursion with Cassie!|
|Tuckered out after a day of play. And yes, we did travel with a suitcase. Accessories!|
|Fatoumata and Christine|
|Mom, you were great with the girls! :)|