Expat Living, Learnings, Mali
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on upheaval

A good friend used to console me with the words of her father: The only thing constant is change.

There are people who crave change, and others who crave consistency, and then people like me who want both, and neither. If change is on the horizon, I cower in fear; if the status quo is all I see for miles around, I become antsy to the point of agitated. That is to say, i’m not especially adept at riding the Waves of Life. I prefer to be out there on my life raft, hand on one hip in a panic, trying to boss around the tides. As you can imagine, i don’t regularly get my way.


Leaving a destructive job is a big step; doing so in a foreign land with no back-up plan is a bit outrageous. Leaving a long-term relationship is a life-changing choice; going solo in a foreign land is, quite, literally, life-altering. Doing both in the space of one week is….let’s call it bold, shall we? Bold seems appropriately kind-spirited.

Mali Bamako hedge home garden urban city

The biggest urge during moments of upheaval is to make quick demands of gravity that your feet be back on the ground. It’s an urge to get planted, to create new patterns, new rhythms, and to follow a routine. To deny that you’re actually floating around the stratosphere, rather detached from the day-to-day, having Thoughts of Significant Size and craving cupcakes that just can’t be found in this West African capital. Perhaps if you spin your wheels fast enough, making plans and considering logistics and finances, red in the face with the effort it takes to convince others that you’re doing Just Fine, you’ll make contact with the road and set off running.

Alas, what my mind stubbornly refuses to acknowledge, my body tends to insist upon; in this case, the necessity for slowing and quieting down was presented to me via a week-long migraine, wrapped in a bow and delivered with gusto. For nothing says “sit down and shut up for a while” quite like cranial misery.


So then, what to do? I have isolated moments of Doing: of job applications, and mopping, and counting Francs CFA, and half-hearted downward dogs. But I believe the most useful way I can spend my time just now is Undoing. It’s a bit like a birthday, what with the revealing: I intentionally unwrap the moment, like a box of chocolate candies, taking a curious bite and embracing the surprise of flavor. I  unpack the minutes and sit amidst the stuffing and paper, boxes and bows, looking around rather in awe, considering what it takes for the moment to develop as it did.

i stand alone in the eye of the Grand Marché, a gravitational force for eager transactions;

Bamako market souk sougou trade urban women street road scene

I have a slow breakfast, looking for nourishment and just enough, reading the newspaper of an early morning;


I get embarrassingly misty-eyed at friends and the stock of generosity i am fortunate to cash in on when needed; the rooftop cabana where i sleep at night welcomes birds, bats, and a wind that promises change is inevitable and ultimately good;


I breathe deeply in naps and on runs; I try to unclench my fists on purpose, and be open to the spaces that surround me; I consider Found Beauty, in all its possibilities.


And if unemployment is good for anything, it is good for hydration; never have i consumed so much water or spent as much of my day sending it out the other end.

What’s to come, what’s to come? Who’s to say? I certainly couldn’t. Assuredly an adventure, and at least half-assuredly, a fine one. A favorite writer says that so many people live at right angles to the universe, to life, to their purpose. So, I’m doing my best to tuck in and get parallel, to go with The Flow, to decrease my drag and increase my mass, and gain the right kind of momentum. Here’s hoping.



  1. Krystal says

    As someone who is soon to be a newbie to the Mali landscape, your words about the ebb and flow of change is really refreshing. Thanks!


  2. Hi Krystal! Thanks for writing, and glad to hear you’re headed to Mali! Hope to hear more from you on your experience here! Safe travels !


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  4. “… the diminishing of Fears of Unusual Proportion” – an art in its own right. Thoughtful, reflective, I don’t get much time to browse blogs but it is always worth the while when I land on your pages.

    Liked by 1 person

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