When I arrived in Bamako early in the morning of 1 February, I was met at the airport by Robin, Allan and Kalifa, and what a delightful sight they were. I'd been traveling for three days in communication limbo - the internet was only available from the Parisian McDonalds if I sat in the lobby right in the front window and it wasn't until the travel agent at Point Afrique dialed an international call for me that I realized I'd been inept and in my own way. I was not quite sure they knew when I was arriving and in fact the plane arrived an hour and a half late. Robin's beard and Allan's and Kalifa's smiles were all I needed to see at the end of the terminal walkway to feel relieved and re-invigorated.

I stayed, with Robin and Michelle, in an extraordinary house in the "smart" section of Bamako, near the US Embassy complex, on the north side of the Niger River. This is the home of Robin and Michelle's long time friend Carol Hart. The house has a rooftop patio --lovely at 2am--beautiful Malian artwork and a swimming pool. The neighborhood is being built upon the layout of an unfinished airport - sweeping, paved avenues with monuments in round-abouts; the closest one included a statue of Kwame Nkruma. I'll need to find someone who took a good picture of this monument, mine is hazy and distant. Robin provided me with a cell phone, HURRAY! I'm delighted to have the chance to get to know Michelle better.

Allan and me, well-fed and contented. The restaurant is San Toro, 
owned by Aminata Dramane TRAORE, "world-class feminist leader".

Red dust. I met the Harmattan around 3pm that afternoon of 1 Feb. The harmattans are the dry, dusty winds that precurse a season of downpours, runoff, meningitis, malaria and yellow fever in Mali as well as an extraordinary greening of the world. I understood them instantly. I grew up in Los Angeles and we have the Santa Ana winds, the winds that precurse a season of fire, rain, mudslides and home destruction accompanied by some of the slightest brain activity in southern California. But oh how I loved them. Those winds let me know I was alive. They swept the air, making it ready for February showers that made it sparkle and pulled flowers from the sands of the foothills of the San Bernardino mountains. And in Bamako, it was no different. My body exhibited familiar responses - smooth, dry skin, straw-like hair, bleeding dust-laden nostrils and yet the clarity of molecule-to-molecule awareness. I just felt happy. felt good. intact. right.

We drank quarts/litres of bottled water 2-3 times a day to avoid dehydration and migraines (me). Once home in Virginia, I discovered I'd lost 9 pounds.That won't last long...