I lived in Mali some years ago. My husband and I have been here before for an extended visit and now we’re here again.
Despite our experiences in Mali, our host Raymond seems to feel a need to be “poule mère” or mother hen.
First it’s at the airport in Bamako and in the crowds his help is much appreciated. We whizz through customs as he seems to know all of the officers. Makes sense since he’s probably the one who taught them their self-defense courses.
Visiting the doctor, we once again appreciate his presence as he helps translate for us. Mind you, I could have done that myself. But the best part is his and the doctor’s glee in meeting a real “Bill Jones.” It seems that a certain Bill Jones figured largely in their English language lessons.
Then it’s off to the market to buy souvenirs and gifts for the folks back home. Raymond takes us to his preferred vendors and shakes a finger warningly as he admonishes them to not over charge us. He leaves us then to meander.
I’ve not forgotten how to bargain, and though it’s been many years since I lived in Mali, I know that 12,000 francs is way too much for the item in question. We bargain back and forth until we’re coming close to an agreement at 3,000 francs. Just then, Raymond walks up. The vendor takes one look at him and says, “1.000 francs, Madame.”
I stifle a giggle and hand the man a wad of francs that he will later discover to be 1,500 for I’ve tried, seemingly in vain, to explain to Raymond that a couple of dollars isn’t a big deal to us, but could be and likely is a big deal to the vendor and his or her family.
Note: Currently the Internet tells me that 10 Malian francs (CFA) equal about 10 cents.