Bamako, Mali Report of what it's like to live there - 05/18/10

Personal Experiences from Bamako, Mali

Bamako, Mali 05/18/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

2nd expat experience. Lived in Seoul, Korea before this.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

From Washington DC.It was a 5 hours flight to Paris,and from Paris another 5 hours approximately to Bamako.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Working at the US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most embassy housing include at least 3 bedroom and a small swimming pool. Since the country isn't so nice, they try to make it up by giving us nice houses. I'm not complaining, it's pretty great.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

American club has some stuff, and there's also a few grocery stores in country. They have a lot of things but it's just really expensive

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

windshield wipers for cars, more alchohol, a treadmill, some exercise equipment

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

No fast food chains in mali. The fastest food here is the egg roll shops that sells egg rolls and sandwiches for 50 cents and1 dollar. And they are delicious, and is located all over the city. Other than that, there's no such thing as fast food. Everything is an hour wait.most restaurants that expats go to ranges from 10-30 dollars with drinks.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Very little bug issues exceptf or mosquitos. Make sure you take your malaria meds. I have lizards in my house that keeps most insects away.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO and dip pouch

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

140 dollars for full time maid/cook( not live in) 100-120 dollars for full time garderner (also does pool and wash cars)

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Some hotels have gyms but they are not very good. There's good gym called Budo club that most expats use. The embassy does not have a gym.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATMs are safe to use. I havne't met anybody that has run into any problems when using the atm. However, Mali only accepts VISA cards.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

2 service. Bible study at the american school sunday morning and service at 1800 near the french cultural center.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

AFN for all embassy employees. Malian cable has some english channels

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

none, but it helps. French is very crucial if you want to talk to the locals. Not many speaks english

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Extremely difficult, i dont' think anything about this country is handicap friendly.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

It's affordable but i wouldn't say safe. Theres no seat belts and the drivers tend to drive too fast. However, taxi's are used by a lot of people and 4 dollars can get you pretty much anywhere around town.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

4x4. Although you can technically drive a sedan in country, it is highly recommended against. The roads are horrible. Do not even think about bringing a sports car. A small SUV is the best choice. Do not buy new because there will be scratch marks the first day of driving in country. People do not know how to drive here.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

the fastest the interent has gone for me is 356k. Which isn't horrible, it's not fast but not slow. Can't really stream youtube. Hulu does not work in Mali. It cost roughly 60 dollars a month. It's best to pay a year up front and get free installation which is approximatelhy 100 dollars

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Get one here. They use GSM.There's no blackberry service in country

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Not sure. I bought my dog here. But I don't think so.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There's a vet that the embassy uses. He'll go to your house and give your dog shots. He's good.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

For local economy, unless you've had background with international aid, i would say no. There's some jobs for spouses at the embassy.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

At work is business attire. Dress shirt, dress pants. Public, pants and t-shirts. Malians think that men who wear shorts are boys but sometimes it too hot, so i dont' care what they think.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

The the city, there's very ilttle problems. It's very safe and the people are very friendly. Up north in Gao and Timbuktu, there's more of a security concern. There's been several instances of kidnappings and ransoms.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

For minor injuries, non surgical, there's the embassy docter and as well as the hospital next to the embassy. Basic dental like filling and cleaning can be done here. Anything serious will be a medical evacuation to europe.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Horrible air quality. One of the worst I've ever seen. I'm rarely outside longer than an ho ur.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

There are two seasons, extremely hot and wet season. Rainy season is from June through August. After that, all you get is dry air. There's the extremely hot season around april and may which goes past 120 degrees at times

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There's an american school here that teachers 1st grade through 12th. The school is very small and there aren't many students, but it is there.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I don't think there is accommodations for special-need kids. I've never met any special needs kids in Bamako that is American.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There's french daycare available. I've know people that have put their kids in daycare.there's also full time nanny's which are not expensive.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Soccer is everywhere. The is tennis, volleyball and basketball at the american club. There's also racquetball somewhere in the city as well.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Americans- 100Brits canadian, german, danish- 200?french- alot

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2. Morale among expats:

It's a constant rollercoaster, up and down, up and down but most for the time it's pretty good. People don't love it here but "it's not bad."

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Bars, clubs, hash, house parties, american club events, french cultural center events, live bands.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It is what you make of it. This can be the worst post or could be an OK post. I doubt that anyone would say this is the best post. The embassy community is very small, everyone is great, we have a great team, which is a plus. The Malians are among the nicest people in the world, non aggressive, loving people. It's better for families than for singles I think. However, it may get lonely if the spouse does not have a job. There's not much to do here. For singles, there's a lot of bars and a hand full of night clubs. If thats what you like, than, this post isn't so bad. Other than that, people usually have social gathering often at each other's houses.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

This is a Muslim country but then again, Malians are very tolerant. However, I do not see many openly gay people in Mali.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I haven't face any problems in this aspect. Very nice people.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

I enjoyed the Hash run, the expat community is great, and the chance to see the historical sites of this country such as Dogon Country, Mopti and Djenne

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Dogon country, siby, timbuktu, mopti, djenne, hash runs. The hash runs are great because it's a great way to meet other expats and also see more of the country. The other things mentioned are the popular sites in Mali, they're far and expensive to get to but if you're in Mali, you have to go there before you leave.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Dogon door, tuareg jewelry chest, jewerly and swords. Mask, wood carvings, cloths etc. A lot of african stuff. Drums.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

I think the most beneficial part about being here is saving money. There's nothing to spend money on.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, most definitely. Nothing to spend money on here except for food and housing staff.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Compared to what other choices I have for Africa, this is better than Chad or Nigeria. However, if it was between here and Kenya, I'd pick Kenya. The best thing about Mali is the nice people -- and it's very safe inside the city.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

winter clothes,skis,urge to travel, love of seafood, temper,

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3. But don't forget your:

smile, open mind, patience, sunblock, sunglasses, hats, hiking boots, entertainment system, work out equipment

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

My first embassy post, I'm having a good time, the people are great but if I can leave tomorrow, I would :).This is a very very very very poor country

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