For this post I’ve provided a few observations regarding the similarities and differences between the “Elon Bubble” and my new “Malian Bubble.” If you haven’t been to Elon you probably won’t understand some of this.
Both bubbles have populations hovering around 5000; if you included all of Elon you would roughly have the size of the town where I live. Both have similar population dispersions, with lots of people present in certain areas at specific times of day.
To get around my site you travel mostly on small dirt paths amongst buildings made of bricks (mud bricks). There are the also the main transportation arteries, roughly the width of a road but are in actuality creek beds that flash flood in heavy storms (really cool to see).
The oaks of Elon have become giant palm trees. Equally picturesque, these trees dot the skyline of my site. There are no cushmans to vigorously clean at night, however there are giant fires of trash that ultimately serve the same purpose. While Elon spends great amounts of time on their pristine lawns, Malians sweep their dirt concessions at least three times a day and make it look exceptionally clean (not joking, you can make a dirt floor look really nice).
Greeting here is much different from Elon. Instead of staring at the sidewalk or your cell phone or straight ahead in the most unnatural way possible, you must greet everyone here. I literally have to make an effort to greet every person I see, every place I go; sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s exhausting. But if I don’t greet everybody I hear about it from everyone else for the next 24 hours. Add to this the fact that Malian greetings are much longer and intricate than Elon nods (“Hi, good morning, did you have peace last night? And your family? And your friends? Peace, Peace, Peace, are you good, what is new, may you have peace, May god give us a good day, you eat cats, peace be”).
I’m a minority here, so frankly that’s different from Elon. And instead of living by the popular bar (1/2), I am by the popular mosque (1/2). It should be noted that the Christian church of course fills the roll of Lighthouse; though it offers some great weekly specials (equal-ish social status, monogamy, the divine right to consume beer) it only seems to occasionally draw a marginal crowd at best.
Instead of BMWs there are NGO Toyata Land Cruisers that pass on the way to Mopti. Former family sedans become mopeds, motorcycles, bicycles, and the occasional horse drawn cart that offer a taste of the local people (Bamanan, Bobo, Peuhl).
My roommate (concessionamate) is Banta, an older woman who is hilarious, awesome, and slightly crazy. The other day she came out and slapped a chicken to the beat I was butchering on my guitar (chickens make a very amusing noise when you hold them upside down and slap them). We jammed for a few minutes, then killed and ate her instrument.
In general music here is always played too loud to a point that you can’t actually make out many of the words (similar to Jiggaman).
There is peanut sauce, but no Dan Thai; To, but no Harden; The market butcher on Saturdays, but no roast beef from Acorn. All of these similarities and differences have been amusing and I’m sure there are many I’m forgetting to list. If you are in the former bubble, have a beer for me; I don’t frequent the church.
More specific stories to come soon-ish.