I am surrounded by people all day. 14.5 million people are roaming this country that has an increasing concentration population growth in city/town centres. The variety of small economic activity, the social nature of Malian life, and the fact that there are seemingly 1,000,000 donkeys 10,000,000 goats, and 100,000,000 chickens all roaming around make life here a tad chaotic at times.
Sometimes when I leave my house it feels like all of my senses are being overwhelmed at the same time. There’s men, women and children literally EVERYWHERE. Some people are going about their regular business – going to market, visiting friends, going to work. Others take sideways glances as they try to watch what you’re doing as a stranger in their town. And others still will stop and stare because you are new a little unfamiliar.
I know I am not alone in saying it or feeling it, but I can feel so lonely here sometimes. Sometimes I feel like I am being watched at almost every moment but rarely actually seen. It makes me long for human connection in a way that I am unfamiliar with. It places more significance on interactions with others that I would not have searched for before. That makes me read into and overthink and literally gush over the people I am able to create that sense of connection with.
At the same time it is this very experience that makes me love living here. It is always an adventure when I walk out my door. You never know how people are going to react to you or engage you. Navigating the social and culture norms and pushing myself to new limits of discomfort gives a new level of depth to my understanding of the world and myself. It’s the pull and tug of life abroad and I am really thankful for the people I have both in Mali and at home who help make life here possible.
Here’s to the rollercoaster adventure of it all.