The walking man is on the only highway of this country. A straight strip of asphalt, two lanes, paralleling the course of the Niger. Along this road, villages enjoy the benefits of what one could call development.
The walking man is not an unusual sight in these places; here everybody walks, unless they have a donkey cart.
And nobody, but nobody has cars - cars carry the toubab, the toubab's guide, maybe a bureucrat from Bamako. But not the village people.
The walking man walks in the morning sun, and crosses a village. The dust is red - he knows that if it were the rainy season the dust would be a sticky red mud, splattered on the houses, on the trees, on the passing cars and on him. But now, in November, it is just dust that sticks to the clothes and the skin.
The walking man is almost out of the village, when a little kid runs up to him with a little plastic bag. The plastic bag contains some fried plantain slices. "Les plantains, monsieur, les plantains, c'est 100 CFA". The kid wears shorts of an indeterminate color, mostly dust red and faded army olive drab. The kid wears no shirt. The kid is the color of bitter Swiss chocolate.
The walking man digs in his pockets. No CFAs. "Silly little currency", he thinks. In an inside pocket, he finds a small, curiously heavy, yellow coin. He gives it to the kid. The kid accepts the coin and runs away. Later, his parents will berate him; that coin is not a good coin. He has been tricked, and he keeps the coin as a memento. Ten years later the same kid suddenly realizes why the coin is so heavy: it is solid gold.

The walking man munches on the fried bananas and exits the village. The road goes on, all the way to Gao.

Walking Man 5 -o- Walking Man 7

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