Friday, January 23, 2009

Mali

I have tried to start this post several times, but get halfway through the first sentence and abandon it.

Maybe it is because there is too much to tell. Maybe because I am still processing. Maybe because I am still grieving a little for having left Bamako.

I cried on the plane ride home. Not because I wasn't happy to be coming home, but because I was overwhelmed at how much joy I felt while I was in Mali. I expected to have a great time. I did not expect that I would experience such miracles. I would be going about my business, enjoying myself, when suddenly, I would be struck by what an absolute miracle was taking place and was inevitably (and embarrassingly) reduced to tears.

It happened in the night club at 2 am when I looked out at a dance floor stuffed to the gills with Africans dancing to 'Obama Obama' by Lil' Wayne.

It happened when I finally figured out that I was in the middle of a surprise birthday party.

It happened in the cab, always in the cab, when I looked out the window and thought about how I would describe what I was seeing and realized I didn't need to describe it... I could just experience it.

It happened when I took Sidy's mom aside to tell her that no matter what, he has family here in the US. And that now I feel I have family in Mali. We just held each other's hands and knew that some kind of miracle had happened to bring us together across oceans and continents and the big wide Niger river.

It happened everytime my teachers washed to prepare for prayer. Nose, ears, eyes, mouth, feet, hands. Then, facing East, the prayers. I imagined God smiling at such devotion. I smiled too.

It happened when the fruit bats came out at dusk. Huge, like winged foxes, silently crossing the darkening sky.

And when I got a rhythm right on the drum and knew that, even though he didn't show it his face, my teacher was thrilled for me.

And when I walked through Sidy's neighborhood in the dark and felt completely at home.

Showing a friend my rosary and explaining how it worked.

Sharing a loaf of french bread and some coffee with my teachers every morning.

It happened when I realized that my teacher's drum fit perfectly into my bag... and that yes, I was bringing it home with me.

Lying in my darkened room, under the mosquito netting, listening to Malian music drifting through the window.

Hundreds of moments which were little miracles, each of them.

I cried on the plane home.

2 comments:

Singing Owl said...

What a lovely and moving post!

Rachel Nguyen said...

Oh Singing Owl,

I still have to pinch myself when I think about it. It was such a dream. Such a miracle.