“I traveled to Mali with charity: water last year to meet people in rural communities where we work and capture stories about the impact of clean water. One early morning while we were running around and taking photos, I came upon a man sitting on the ground outside his home. He motioned for me to come over.
Normally, I don’t go anywhere without my translator. My local language skills are limited to “good morning,” “how are you,” and “thank you.” But I was merely on the hunt for beautiful photos of people preparing for their day and incorporating clean water into their morning routines — I hadn’t been anticipating conversation!
But here we were.
“Ouh sogoma!” I began, issuing one of the only three phrases I knew to greet him.
“Ouh sogoma,” he replied with a smile.
As I approached and took my seat, I noticed the ground before him. He had dug a series of small little holes in the dirt, and it almost looked like he was cleaning them out… quickly picking up little beans and rocks from each of the pockets.
“What’s going on here?” I said out loud in English.
He looked back up at me and reached out with a clenched fist, trying to share the debris.
“Okaaaaay” I whispered, reluctantly accepting my handful.
Then he motioned toward the holes again, demonstrating that I could add my beans and rocks back to each of the pockets.
“Put these here?” I confirmed. He didn’t understand the words, but watched my hands and nodded.
First hole, second hole, third hole… slowly we filled each pocket with the same amount of pieces. Then it finally hit me.
“Are we playing Mancala?!” I asked excitedly.
He smiled and made his first move.
That was my morning. We played a full game of Mancala, laughing together as the sun came up on this small Malian village. I never knew his name, and he never knew mine. I didn’t speak his language, and he didn’t speak mine. And none of it mattered.
For thirty minutes the things that disconnected us were made insignificant by something that did connect us, and that was all we needed to enjoy the moment.
For one morning, we were just two friends playing a game as old as time.”
092/100 of #100DaysofConfessions Instagram Project
About Tyler Riewer