It was just about the only thing running through my mind during my lesson, I was so distracted by the throbbing ache in my neck and shoulders. They have never been worked so intensely. West African dance involves an inordinate amount of throwing the head up and down, often in conjunction with circling your arms.
Making circles with your arms isn’t so bad, you might think. But try doing it, say, 100 times in a sitting, and get back to me. And do it while swinging your head up and down.
By the end of the session, my muscles were so spent that I literally (literally!) could not sustain the motion for more than 10 seconds at a time.
The timing works out quite well. My head is full of new movement, my muscles are completely exhausted, and now it’s time for a break from dance. Now is the ideal time to head off to Dogon country.
My adventure begins tomorrow with 12+ hours of travel to reach western Mali. From there, I embark with a guide on a hiking trip through rural Mali, visiting the mysterious cliff villages of Dogon country. Days are spent visiting towns and trekking to a new village, and nights are spent with the locals. My guide will hopefully be Assigue, a man who works at The Sleeping Camel, speaks English proficiently, and was born and raised in the area.
Still deciding how many days I want to spend out there. Three at the max, but maybe just two. It’s a conflict of desires, between wanting to learn more dance and wanting a more in-depth Dogon experience. We’ll see how it goes.
All this fun does come with at a hefty price, of course. But that’s why I scrimp and save money throughout the year – to enjoy excursions like these.
One final note: I’m getting fucking tired of mosquitoes. Seriously. Mali has broken me. I think it’s because they’re active ALL GODDAM DAY LONG. What the hell? They’re only supposed to come out in the evening in troves that blot out the sun. Instead, here you are assailed relentlessly by the tiny vectors from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed (and while you sleep, as well).
Perhaps the most aggravating part is when they bite you through your clothes. There is something downright unfair about their ability to penetrate garments. Then you’re left ineptly rubbing at folds of a pant leg in a vain attempt to get on a good scratch. It also confounds the usual follow-up application of hydrocortisone cream. I suppose it’s a good thing; my one tube is nearly spent. Need to make it last just 11 more days.
Wow, 11 days. That’s not long. Hard to believe I’ve been in Africa for three months now, and my journey is rapidly coming to a close.