I somehow thought that being friends with a Malian would help me understand the culture of Mali. Or that because I loved the music and could hum along with Habib Koite or Salif Keita, I would feel at home in West Africa.
I should have known better. My own experience told me that this was not the case.
In Vietnam, standing on the bridge in Nha Trang, not only did I not know Vietnam better for having been married to a Vietnamese for 20 years, it was, in fact, the opposite.
On that bridge, I realized that even after 20 years of marriage, 2 children, countless rolls in the hay and late night conversations, there was a part of my husband that I would never be able to fully understand. And until I was standing there looking at the South China Sea, I didn't even know that part of him existed.
So why did I think that a friendship with a Malian would be a cultural passport to another world? Why did I think that playing a drum, or soaking a goatskin or eating sauce and rice would give me an inside scoop on this other world?
I should have known better. Really.