The African Bush Does Not Seem So Empty Any More

There was a statement I was told by an international worker in Ivory Coast;

He said, “You are never really alone in Africa.”

I was in Ivory Coast at the time, and the statement proved true. No matter how far in the rain forest you go, if you stop, someone hears you and comes out of the surrounding bush to see who’s there. Not to be graphic here, but It is really annoying when you stop your vehicle to have a leak. You think you are alone and then out pops some woman or kids to see who’s on the bush road. That’s embarrassing and it’s happened a lot.

Mali is certainly much more barren of vegetation, and people. However, the proverb still seems to be true. If we stop to think about it, it makes sense. Any little path we are on, is a path made by people, so we are bound to run in to these people, eventually.

These bush road used to seem so long, tiring,  and empty years ago.  Well, they still seem long and tiring, but, they do not seem so empty anymore.

Today I was driving over forty kilometers out in the bush, and I was actually stopped by three different people, in three different places. These were people I know out in this region, and it feels pretty cool to run in to people waving me down for a chat, in the middle of nowhere.

When I was first out in the bush here, I wondered, “What would I do if I broke down out here?”

After a while I realized there is a bush network, and it works. This network is connected, communicates, and looks after people in trouble. If I did break down, someone would eventually come along, and we would find a stranger’s mud house to park the motorcycle to keep it secure. A drive into town or a guide to take me to some village’s Mechanic, would eventually be offered. If it was late, and no one came by for a drive, and I had to stay the night, I would have a bed for the night. It would not be fancy, but they would not see me suffer.

Anyway, today I had to stop and chat with people I know. Then there is the Chief I wave to, of some small village I don’t even know the name of.  I met him one day as I saw him unloading cotton, so I stopped to greet him, and take a few pictures. I don’t even remember his name, but I wave to him as I drive by his small place,  and he has a hearty wave for me too. Who knows, we may be working in his village some day.

One of the other delights was bumping into this tiny young girl in our irrigation project. She saw me coming down the road and she had the biggest wave and smile. She is not in school, but at least she attends the literacy class. This twelve year old worked the hardest the day we set up the gardens. Her smile and big wave made my day.

When I got out to my site, there was no one there. I did my inspections, and then I sat down for a bit, soaking in the sights and sounds. This time I paid particular attention to the sounds. I listened, and soon realized there was no human sounds of any kind. I was alone with nature.  All I could hear were some birds, the wind moving through the dry dead grass, and the leaves of nearby trees.  It has been too long since I just enjoyed that. I was alone in that garden, 2.5 km from the nearest village, and I thought about what a gift it is to be here, and how interesting the feeling is to realize that the Sahel does not seem so empty, and scary anymore. I know some of them, and some of them know me.

Having people stop you on the road is really a good thing.

However, the story told to me on the path today was alarming. You will have to come back in a few days to read about that.

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