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Saturday, July 3, 2010


Ever since I got to Bamako, I've been bothering Kankou the svelt secretary (who has a car) to bring me shopping. Not only because the colors here are so bright and the patterns so ridiculous, but because the only way you can get clothes in Bamako is to have them made for you. There's no such thing as window shopping -- you pick out your material/"pagne," your design usually as a top/skirt combo, then get measured up. A week later, you've got yourself a unique piece of clothing.

Her nephew came to pick me up this afternoon for the big event, yet strapped into the adult-sized seatbelt in the front seat was Kankou's little 18 month old girl Fatu. Before I even made it to the car, she was wailing at the sight of me. Baby girl had not been exposed to many TUBABOU/"blanches." The nephew picked her up to bring her to the backseat, and she calmed down considerably, but once she was strapped in back with me within full view in the front, she would not stop bawling. I gave up and traded seats with her, allowing this tiny fraction of a person to sit in the front seat. After all, so many babies and infants are squeezed freely inbetween drivers and passengers on motorcycles everyday here in Bamako! Mon Dieu.

Fatu still fighting to get away from me after the car ride, and can't bear to look at me for the group picture!

At Kankou's mansion of a house, she made a special meal for me which included 2 whole river fish in their skins. She looked disappointed when I passed on #2, and even more distraught when I told her I didn't care to eat the head of the first. The best part came after the fish endeavor: the exotic juices. While the "bissap"/hibiscus juice was delicious, the "pain du singe" = monkey's bread/baobab tree fruit juice was amazing. I've found a new love.

Thankfully, it is custom to "faire un repose"/take a nap after lunch, so I rested up and let my belly go back down before the big fitting.

It took me close to an hour to pick out just two materials I wanted, then another hour to sift through stacks of photo albums at the tailor's to decide on the designs. The tailor's husband then comes in for the big test -- the measurements. Thank goodness they're in centimeters and I can't really gauge what they mean!

All was fine going from the neck to the shoulders to the arm circumference to the chest to the waist to the hips and butt to the...and then there's some snickering beside me. I turn to them, "grosse fesse, n'est pas?"/"big booty, huh?" and then Kankou starts busting out laughing, "c'est exactement ce qu'elle a dit! Quelle grosse fesse pour une blanche!"/"that's exactly what she just said! What a big butt (but in slang) you have for a white girl!"

Well at least I got my butt some new clothes!


  1. Hey Sali,

    Just read about a company called Toms Shoes. For every pair of shoes that they sell, they give away a pair - and have given 600k shoes away to needy children. They travel the world and donate thousands of shoes at one time to different countries.

    Just thought of that since one of the pictures on this blog post has a small child with no shoes. Toms is big into public health (so I thought of you) and just gave away 7k shoes in Ethiopia, so maybe Mali could get on the list of countries that they help out if it's not already.

    Here's their website:

    Just a thought, don't know where to go from there, but wanted to put the idea out there for you.

  2. The shoes issue is really something I've been thinking a lot about lately, especially watching all the kids here playing soccer everyday in their flip-flops and, more commonly, those jelly shoes us girls used to wear in the 6th grade...boys and girls alike in these things! They're like the preferred cleats alternative. Still have got to be horrible for protecting the feet, being so flimsy and open.

    I think the Toms idea would be perfect for Mali, anything close heel and toed. Plus one of my friend's dad actually does his daily run in Toms, says they're great for an active lifestyle. I'll definitely look into them now!

    Thanks for the inside scoop, Bob!


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These blogs are written on personal accounts and opinions of my near and far away adventures, so far. They do not in any way reflect the thoughts and opinions of the organizations with which I work.

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