Never Coming All The Way Back – Bored With Me?


“The couple of days that he stayed with us were punctuated with amusing and interesting conversations: one I remember was about his four wives, or rather about polygamy. ‘Well’, said Malick (A professional Malian photographer who photographed the Djenne Djenno Hotel in Djenne, Mali) with just a hint of mischief in his eye ‘ Wouldn’t it be just a little boring to wake up next to the same woman your whole life?’ I agreed that it might be so but I asked him if he didn’t think that his wives might feel the same about always waking up next to him? This he thought was extremely funny…” (


Made the first call to Mali in some time. Seems like two years ago, but I was there only five months ago. When I watch video of us living in Mali, it does not seem real to me. Is that really my life? But the truth is that this context really is our life.

I often put off making phone calling to Africa for days, sometimes weeks. I find it such a heart wrenching and confusing time to hear voices, but not to see the faces of these people in front of me. Commercial fishing is such a demanding job that I have little time, energy, emotional energy included, to just dwell on Africa. Therefore, for several months I have my head down and am immersed, no, totally engrossed in the sea. But here I am between fishing seasons and the calls, ones neglected for four weeks finally had to be made. French West Africa flooded back deeply into my mind and soul.

“You go away for a long time and return a different person – you never come all the way back.”

(Paul Theroux, Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town)

We have Malian expat friends who probably feel totally ignored when we are in Canada. But the truth is until we are in “Heading Back To Africa” mode, we simply are incapable of carrying both worlds at the same time.

I have a heart to heart scheduled with the President of Man Of Peace Development next week. We have some serious questions to answer on security, and the next phase of our activity in the country.  We have experienced one of those rare explosive break-throughs (Of which I have not shared much) where upwards of 10,000 people have rapidly seized on to the information we have been sharing. It is far from complete, and much work remains. But it’s  time for others to take it from here. Im the starter guy. 

It is an extremely rare thing to witness in my field of work. Most have never experienced the likes in their lifetime. We are over the moon, of course. Yet, I am reluctant to share the story because people will grandstand us as some people with all the magic, or at worst,  think we are blowing our horn. When the reality is that I had little to do with it. The Malians made choices, during inhouse village and family dialogue, they made a choice to seized this themselves. No outside help. So we don’t share the story much, because it is not about us. Westerners have a tendency to place westerners at the center of success stories. Nothing could be further from the truth in this case, and i think in the majority of cases.

Right now, it seems like the goals of our work with this people may have come to  full fruition after only five years into a ten year plan, with the results being one hundred times bigger than we ever dreamed.

Our agency directed us to look at new people and isolated regions. I have already identified a few, but need to continue extensive work this term.

The project funding must be moving along, and I must not have been fired, as the MOPD president asked me to order up the needed supplies for the ongoing development work in Mali this fall. So here I am in the middle of sorting and repairing fishing gear, thinking of Mali, making the necessary phone calls to people in Mali, while the faces of each person and village flash through my mind as if seen with my real eyes. It’s poking at my heart.

IMG_20160701_202507[1]We had a chance to take a quick three day trip on the Motorcycles with a few other couples. The day we landed the lobster gear we dropped everything and left that very day. We saw mountains, sea, and fine dined all over the east coast while putting on motorcycle miles. Soon enough I will be back on the seat of that 150 cc Chinese Sanya in Sikasso.

Truth is I can’t wait to get back. Maybe they are growing tired of me, but I am far from bored in Mali.

“Don’t ever discount the wonder of your tears. They can be healing waters and a stream of joy. Sometimes they are the best words the heart can speak.” ~ papa   (The Shack. William P. Young)


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