Is A Broken Motorcycle A Waste Of Time?


I don’t think so. But it depends on how you look at it.

Abou, my roadside mechanic, is working on my motorcycle this morning. An oil seal on one of the front shocks is leaking oil.

So, here i am, sitting street side on a bench, taking in the sights, sounds, smells, and the bustling ambiance of Sikasso’s main drag.

I’ve missed just sitting here and watching. I have often thought that interns should be made to sit on Malian streets or in village markets for a week, just observing. Observing the life of the mechanics, the women cooking on the side of the street, the push cart guys, the old men, the old women, the children etc. Make interns sit there observing, saying and doing nothing, but Journaling their thoughts, observations, sounds, and feelings.  Maybe divide it by the senses each day.

The first day recording and commenting on everything they see – what the people are doing, how they act and interact, the animals the traffic.

The second day record and comment on everything they hear – the belching trucks or taxis, voices, conversations, the animals, the sound languages, of a child being chastised, the clanks and clunks of food preparation.

The third day, recording and commenting on everything they smell.

The Fourth, what they taste.

The Fifth, what they touch – who they touch, what they step in, what is on their skin, what lands on their arms, gets in their hair, is on your hands. Who or what they are resistant to touch, and why. Record how they reacted to a dirty, wet, slimy, hand shake of a child or man who just ate with his hand in his mouth but did not properly wash before the shake.

And at the end of each day summarize how their encounters through the five senses made them feel, what it made made them think.

They should do this first, long before their lives descend into the “doing” phase. Once we get there, there is probably few who come back, it is hard to recover from the over importance of our activity. Seeing and listening in silence is learning, it teaches so incredibly much. Helps one to understand the lives of the people a little better, before we set out on a path to change things. Hopefully we learn that most things do not need changing at anyway.

Indeed, it is frustrating to have my motorcycle broken down just when I needed to be on my way out to the village, but I needed this, this reminder, this time to reintroduced myself to Mali through the five senses. Oh the people who have already greeted me, people I have not seen in some time.

So, goodbye. I am sitting here content, as I look, listen, smell, taste, touch, absorb, and observe what we call West Africa. And in my view, I am not wasting any time at all. This might be the best thing to do ever.

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