Have you ever taken a trip, not really knowing what to expect, and at the end being blown away?
That is what happened to me on my last visit to Mali (West Africa).
Being born in Africa, I was not expecting to experience a cultural shock (is there an African culture?), but having been away for a while, I had forgotten some aspects of my “roots” (yes, you can blame me if you want).
Before leaving Toronto, we were told that everything was taken care of by the Koné family in Bamako and that there was nothing to worry about. I knew some members of the Koné family (two of them taking the trip with me). “Taken care of” was really an understatement when we got there. Three cars were waiting for us (there were 5 of us on the trip ; do I hear you saying VIPs?), Abdoul Karim Koné (the one I knew before going to Mali) was waiting for us inside the airport with his usual nice smile, kids were around helping us with our luggages, and above all, there was....the nice weather (what a relief!!!)
Off we went, leaving the airport not even knowing where we were going, but trusting once again in the Konés. First trip, before doing anything else, we had to go and greet Papa Koné (the head of the family). I guess that is the tradition. I was impressed by this man. In his eighties, Papa Koné is still a strong man with incredible intellectual faculties (I wanted to take some extra French lessons from him).
Long story short, our first night was perfect. Before going to our “house” we spent the first night at Abdoulaye “Papou” Koné's villa in which he lived with Abba, a very funny guy who calls himself “Beau Gosse” (good looking guy). His stories were hilarious!!!
We had 3 weeks to accomplish the project (stay tuned for the details in a later blog; and yes I am selling it), but in the meantime I got enough time to spend with the Koné Brothers. There was Abdoul “The Businessman”, Mamadou “The Boss” (also called George only on Sundays) and Papou “The sharp banker” called Matthew on the Sundays as well. What an amazing family!!!!
I was particularly amazed with the respect they had for each other. Just by listening to them talking to one another, you could see who was the big brother and who was not.
I also spent time and got to know Papa Koné. Every time he saw me, he called me “my son”. It was really an honour for me. But it was also a little bit weird for me because as long as I can remember, that was the first time I heard a man calling me “my son”, and above all, me calling him “father” (that is a long story, and please don't ask me to explain, cause you don't ever want to see my face when I cry...).
He even gave us a big hand, when we needed media coverage for our project (we were told it was almost impossible to bring the national TV reporters). But Papa Koné had connections. I went with him at the TV station head office, and all the doors were opened in a second! All I had to do was to look good behind this man (and that is a very easy job for me, as I already look good). He presented me to the reporters as his son. Man!!!
Finally, I asked to be officially part of the Koné Family. At first I thought it was a joke, but they took it seriously. There is even a ritual for this. Papou Koné went through this with me, his brother Abdoul filming everything with his camera. The ritual lasted about 15 minutes, at the end of which I was even given a new name: Abdoulay Patriki Koné. Now I have a bunch of brothers and sisters, but above all, a father. And I am so proud of it.
Moral of the story? Do you want a new family, or do you want to trade the one you have now (lol)? Just take a trip to Mali. There is still room in the Koné family
Always a pleasure