Bamako, Je t’aime

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Joey Orlando, Director of Nerdy Marketing

July 9, 2014

Well it’s a shame that I only had 20 minutes to experience Canada, it seemed like a beautiful country (at least from my view in the airplane). An impending storm almost cancelled the first leg of my trip, luckily I made it just in time to Montreal with only fifteen minutes to sprint and catch my connecting flight to Paris. I may have broken my own personal record for the mile run, sprinting down the Montreal International terminals dodging luggage and travelers.

On the first leg of my trip to Montreal I met an interesting gentleman, a marketing professor at Emerson College in Boston and we chatted the entire flight about innovation and, of course, iNERDE. The flight to Paris was not as talkative, but I did prime myself a tad for Mali’s famous music scene by catching up on the latest francophone African and French music the majority of the time. While in Paris I had seven hours to pass so I decided for a mad dash from the airport into the city and back. Missing my flight and not getting to Mali was not an option so I did the 30-minute flash tour of Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter. More another time, Mali was expecting me!

The third and final (and most exciting) leg of my journey was to Bamako! Although this was only a 6 hour flight, it seemed to last an eternity, probably attributed to my anxiousness to finally arrive in Mali. After deboarding, going through customs, and grabbing my luggage, I was greeted by Rebecca, Mohamed, and MoMo. Finally, I was here, finally, I was in Bamako! We headed back to Mohamed’s house, where I met his brother Cheick and wife Mariam. I unwound and started unpacking for a few minutes before a late dinner was served.

Afterwards, Mohamed and I went for a walk through his neighborhood. In Bamako, everyone knows everyone here! Lest my travels had left me famished, we grabbed a second, later dinner (chargrilled rack of sheep) at a local barbeque pit which was quite busy at 1AM due to the fact that many people fast during the day in observance of Ramadan. A mere few hours of sleep and, excited as I was, I felt recharged and ready to fully experience Mali.

We went on a road trip, travelling 40km south of Bamako to visit MoMo’s chicken coup. In Mali, a road trip is not just a road trip, our short journey was filled with a spectacular range of impressions. It may be travel does whet the appetite because I can’t help saying that the food here is really excellent. The people are so kind and welcoming. And, not least, the landscape is bewitching.

I am here, however, to work! After getting back from our road trip, we ironed out the final details for the upcoming week of the camp. This week’s activities include an introduction to the design process and several design “challenges”.

Although 2014 has already been a jam-packed and exciting year for me, traveling to Mali with iNERDE, marathons/triathlons, and new jobs, I’ve already started to think about 2015, specifically my goals for the year. Two personal goals that I already plan to challenge myself with in 2015: mastering my French, and helping to turn iNERDE’s single Colonie de Vacances STEM this year into five camps in 2015. Mali is beautiful and it is a wonderful thing to plant the first iNERDE seed in this amazing place.