I witnessed the smile of a Malian man who became the proud owner of his first bicycle. Yes, the bicycle with the smooth balding tires, torn seat, two broken pedals with only the solid steel spikes remaining to pedal with, a frame welded back together in several places, with little of the original blue paint remaining, and a set of Malian feet shod with worn out flip-flops.
But it is his bicycle.
Now, he will save considerable time and energy over walking the seven kilometers, each way, to and from his field every day. He can now bundle and haul sacs of maze and millet home to fill his earthen storage grainery for the long and rapidly approaching drought season.
Maybe that worn out bike will save the family enough time and energy that he and his wife are able to pedal, while giggling, that twenty three kilometers (one way) down a rough path through the hot Sahel, to see dear friends in another village they have not seen for over a year, because neither had money for transport to visit the other.
But not anymore, he has time, he no longer needs money for transport, because he has a bicycle.