Thursday, 26 April 2012

First Day in Mali

So my first day in Mali went something like this:

5am: wake up, finish packing.

6am: lift arrives to go to airport

6:40am: drinking coffee in airport having got through passport control ridiculously fast.

8:am: plane leaves. Spend plane journey praying for safe arrival, and reading the history section of the Lonely Planet West Africa. Discover that Burkina Faso means 'Country of Honest Men', which is a Good Fact. Then talk to the steward about his recent holiday to the UK and try not to throw up my Doxycycline.

9:45: arrive. Someone is there to meet me with a sign. WIN. Mali has the same currency as Senegal (the CFA) so I've stocked up on cash before I get there, so nothing to do except get in the car and go to the office.

10:30: leave stuff at guesthouse (nice room, normal size, has a cupboard and a fan and a/c and a bathroom and enough space to do skipping with the fan on, which is useful given that heat = not running so much)

10:30-12:00: emails

12:00-12:30: preparation for visit to EU. This is scary as at this point I know nothing about our programmes or our contracts in Mali.

12:30-1pm: lunch

l-2:30pm: start handover

2:30pm: get in car to go to EU delegation

3:00-4:30pm: 90 minute meeting with EU delegation (development people not humanitarian people) in French to update them on how our programmes have been affected by the crisis. Head a bit sore by the end, especially when the EU technical experts start asking our programme managers technical questions and I desperately try to follow. Ouafa says 'I'll send you a letter' a lot, for which I make fun of her later as 'I'll send you a letter' obviously means 'Laura will send you a letter'!

4:30pm: find fruit seller outside EU delegation. Buy bananas and mangos. Can now feed myself - WIN. The fruit is a lot cheaper than in Senegal, and the mangos are if anything better, but the bananas aren't as good and they won't sell me less than a kilogramme, which is a bit of a pain. Still, I don't have any other food at the moment, so I'll likely be eating a lot of bananas until I can fix that.

5pm-6pm: back in office, figuring out if it's humanly possible to submit three concept notes next week. Answer: only one way to find out!

6pm: leave office. Go back to guesthouse, then go out to try and find more food, with limited success. There are lots of very small shops around the neighbourhood, which all sell roughly the same stuff - some kind of flour, sardines, eggs, sometimes bread, tea, matches, powdered milk, and a few other things I can't identify. End up with bread and eggs, which combined with the bananas and mango is definitely a balanced diet, so counting that as another win.

7:30pm: get home, cook. Discover that the kitchen doesn't have any knives, so it's lucky I didn't buy anything I needed to cut. It also doesn't have a tin opener, so it's lucky I didn't buy a tin. Poached egg sandwich though is fine. Discover from other guesthouse residents that there is a supermarket called Azar that's a 1500 CFA taxi ride away - so can stock up on things they don't sell in the little shops (e.g. vegetables, pasta, salt) at the weekend. Also discover the gueshouse has wifi. Very Win.

So at this point I've sorted out living, starting to get there with work, and food and drink also on track. Next tasks: acquire phone, work out where in the city we are (at this point I know the quartier, but not sure how it relates to anywhere else), and find somewhere reasonably nearby where I can eat out and get a beer. And it's definitely bedtime.

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