## Monday, 4 February 2013

### ... and we're back!

To be finally back from Mali is kind of weird. It's good, of course. In fact it's great, because I think we were all ready to be back to our more "normal" life. But it's also strange, because it's being such an amazing experience.

Not just because of XY, although of course he's the star. I suppose it doesn't have to be like this (perhaps it's even unlikely to be like this!), but it's incroyable that we've started this journey together with people we barely knew, who by the end have become friends for life. May be for XY and the other two babies it won't be the same and they won't feel like this for each other. But in a sense it doesn't really matter. This is not necessarily about them, just the 6 of us, I think. And the many other people we met in Mali, who we didn't even know when this all started, but share the same special place for us, now.

It feels strange to think of the girls at the check in desks at the airport in Dakar, last night, who were incredibly nice to us, because they thought it was great that we were happy that our babies had la même couleur que leur peau. And that the nanny who spent the time of a dinner with them, cried her eyes out when she had to say goodbye.

It's odd to think of all the frustration for the malfunctioning of the bureaucracy and at the same time of the kindness of the people at the Italian embassy in Dakar, who went way, way beyond the call of duty (the Chief Counsellor and his wife even had us for dinner, on a Sunday) to help us out.

It's definitely strange to think that we've lived for the past month and a half in a country at war. It's strange because we've never felt threatened or in real danger where we were; but since the situation in the North of the country got worse about a month ago, so did many other things, even in the capital. I suppose I hadn't thought about this at the moment, but of course the immediate effect of the war has been to increase the price of many basic goods (eg gas, oil and $-$ probably not as much $-$ food). And the indirect effect of this has been to exacerbate corruption, making everything much more difficult to work.

It's weird to realise that I now (nearly) understand and accept excuses for things not working, that at first I thought were outrageous. I guess it's difficult to accept that you can't have a passport done because tomorrow people aren't working to celebrate the Prophet by eating mutton all day long, and so much that they need to take the next day off sick. But for some strange reason, it makes sense when you're there...

Now Marta and XY are in Italy dealing with the relatives and the final bit of (hopefully much smoother) bureaucracy, while I had to come back home to go back to work (and come to think about it, it's really, really nice to look back and see how brilliant and supportive the people in my department have been). Right now, the plan is:

1. try to climb the mountain of emails in my inbox;
2. take all the stuff out of the suitcases;
3. prepare my lecture for tomorrow;
4. feed the cat, who's still a bit mad at us for being away for so long (but couldn't resist purring when I was cuddling him earlier);
5. go to sleep and try to wake up on time tomorrow morning.