Well, it’s that time of year again. The time of year when contracts come to an end, when people look to new opportunities in new locations, to taking vacations and going on adventures here, there, and every where. And I am reminded once again, of some of the sadder sides to my life abroad – the part where most of your friendships have arbitrary expiry dates as people move on to new things.
I am amazingly blessed to have met the people who have come across my path. I have been inspired and challenged, I have laughed and felt frustrated, I have gone through the roller coaster of emotions 100 times over. I know that it is likely that because of our line of work and spirit for adventure, I will cross paths with most of these friends again at some point, somewhere, and in some form. But it still doesn’t take the sting out of the right now.
It’s tiring, the ebb and flow of people coming and going. I consider(ed) myself to be someone who tried to be inclusive and welcoming. But I know that the people I have met who I have had to say goodbye to since coming to Mali has worn this positive, inclusive nature down. The last big round of new Bama-folks who arrived, I wasn’t the biggest cheerleader on the welcome wagon. Instead, I looked for quieter ways to sneak into closer relationships with a few people at a time.
You add in the insecurity considerations that are flying around the city these days, and it is enough to make me want to sit at home. But I know that this is not the way forward, it’s not a way that I can live. So I am trying to find my deepest inner strengths to let down the walls and welcome the new people into this Malian world that is filled with idiosyncrasies and magic. I am trying to re-find my inspiration for it all.
The trickiest part about struggling with the ebb and flow of people’s coming and going, is that you can come across to the outside world as cold. And I guess to some extent that is true. What I think we tend to forget though, is that there is always something going on under the surface. It’s not my first time to have eager new faces just starting their careers, or experienced development workers who are all stars in their field. It’s also not the first time I have had to make space for people who ultimately seem to leave this place well before I am ready for them or myself to go.
I know that I accepted that this transient lifestyle came with consequences – some of them being that I will feel the sting and sadness of friend’s moving on. But I also accepted the advantages too – the impact I make in my work, the adventure of living abroad, the relationships I can make and hold. It’s summer time again, and yes people are leaving. I am hoping though, that as new people come here I can see it as Yeats did “There are no strangers here, just friends you haven’t met.”
Bamako let’s do this. Let’s be friends again.