Four hours of waiting went pretty fast. I found a lady who served rice with peanut butter sauce and pumpkin and after filling my belly for less than $0.45, I went in search of some potable water in the shithole that is Bamako.
There is a small group of folks who sit beneath umbrellas near the bus station, selling hibiscus juice, bananas, prepackaged and expired cookies, zippers, flip-flops, Sali-dagas and sacks of water. I quickly made the right friends with the woman vending and the man observing and bought a chilled sachet of water. They giggled and grinned as I sleepily stumbled through thank yous and farewells.
Just a few hours later, the bus now 3 hours late, I returned for two more, sensing the smog and smut that fills the Bamako air penetrating my lungs and drying my mouth. Maybe it was pity, maybe it was appreciation for my continued business, maybe it was out of friendship, she threw in two bananas.
Although I’m almost positive the former to be the true reason behind her charity, I am forcing myself to believe it was a compilation of the three: pity, appreciation and friendship. Even though it is nice to believe that I’ve still got that infamous “I can make a friend anywhere” charm, it irks me to think that I am pitied by a woman, sweat-less in this 110F heat, sitting on an overturned egg-crate, barefooted and toothless, selling sacks – not even bottles – of water from a filthy ice chest.
It put some perspective on my day, to say the least. And in the end, it irked me more to know, deep down, that irked me at all.
I smell a conundrum… or it could just be the open sewer.