The office of RMCR, the Kiva Partner in Mali where I’m serving as a fellow, is about 2 km away from my home. I’ve made it a habit to walk these 2 km. It should never take more than 20-25 minutes. Yet, usually it takes me 45 minutes to 1 hour to get there. And here’s why I love it.
There are some things about living in Mali that can be uncomfortable and stressful. There is a rebellion going on in the north, and occasionally they will provoke things in Bamako, the capital, as well.  But as soon as you’re out in the street, talking to the many friendly people that you undoubtedly will meet, you’ll realize there is so much more to this country than war and poverty.

First I meet my new friend Mohamed. Every day he offers me to come sit down and drink tea. He’s always eager to tell me something about the great ancient kingdoms in Mali, and he knows all about the different regions and the people who live there. He’s very proud and passionate about his beautiful country.

After Mohamed, there is this group of older men, who are usually playing cards. Every day they insist on asking me the same questions. How I’m doing, how my family is doing and if I enjoy my stay in Mali. It’s important for them to hear that I like their country, despite the difficulties. Usually, this is followed by some jokes, because I’m a Traoré (my local family name) and they want to convince me to become a Coulibaly or a Diarra to be part of their family.

By now I’m half way home, and there is a huge happy smile on my face. Next, it’s time to start thinking about dinner. I might get some skewers form that street stall, where the kids are always laughing when I say a ni wula, “good evening” in Bambara (the local language). And I should also get some mangos from the lady by the gas station. She doesn’t speak French, but always wants to talk anyway. And even though I don’t understand at all what she’s saying, it’s funny and we’re laughing, so it’s good. Or maybe though, I should go to the bakery. The shop assistant is always so happy to see me and teach me a new word.  One new word a day, I promised her, and she’s keeping me to that promise.
When I finally make it home, I can’t help but feeling very grateful for all that happiness I experienced along the way. Yes, there are some things about living in Mali that can be uncomfortable and stressful. Yet, the people that are affected by these struggles in their daily lives, they remain proud and positive. It’s an absolute pleasure to be surrounded with so much optimism. I could probably do it in 25 minutes or less, but I definitely prefer the long way home.
If you’d like to support a loan in Mali and help to create opportunities for these wonderful people here, check out these borrowers profiles.

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