Thursday, November 30, 2006
Tomorrow we are going to plant all the seeds that Kathy and Dan gave me. Among them are asparagus seeds. M. Tiecora says they ate lots of asparagus on the Kolchos, (can't have been that bad..?)and we should have no problem growing them- how about that Cressida?
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
To read Mungo Park's Travels into the Interior of Africa today with access to comments from a modern day Malinke is entertaining and revealing. All Keitas are of the Malinke tribe, descended from the great Soundiata Keita, the father of the Mali empire which in the thirteenth century became one of the richest nations on earth, awash with gold from the gold fields of Buré, stretching from the Atlantic coast to Gao in modern day Mali.
The Malinke is the same tribe as Park's Mandingoes, of whom he wrote: 'The Mandingoes are, generally speaking, of a mild, sociable and obliging disposition. The men are commonly above middle size, well-shaped, strong and capable of enduring great labour, the women are good-natured, sprightly and agreeable.' If this description seems patronising and raises a few heckles, let it also be known that Park had a genuine empathy with the Malinke. He enjoyed their company and was grateful for their generosity , kindness and hospitality without which he would almost certainly never have survived during his first journey through these regions 1796.
I continuously pester Keita with bits from Park's diaries. Although Keita is a modern city dweller he can still relate to many of Park's observations and seemingly little has changed in some ways in the last two hundred years. I read him an excerpt the other day in which Park describes the African village justice system. The village elders met under the bentang to discuss and pass judgements on disputes in the village. The day's deliberations were normally adjourned to the following day before a judgement was reached. Keita said that custom still continues, and told me the reason for this. I should imagine that even Mungo Park would have liked to know, because he would probably not have been told: the court session is adjourned at night so the men can go home and ask the advice of their wives!
Monday, November 27, 2006
what you see before you is a Chaise Anglaise, freshly installed and functioning in one of the eleven bathrooms in Hotel Djenné Djenno. Never did I think that such a prosaic object could produce such joy in me.
I am not quite sure why the French call it an English chair. Perhaps because until quite recently the French used the oriental or African method and it is in fact still possible to find the sqatting down version in old French cafés. Rather a good idea really, and the oriental and African method of using water rather than loo paper is really much more satisfactory. However, there will of course be loo paper as well as water in Hotel Djenné Djenno, and it is hoped that the Chaises Anglaises will be of service not only to English, but a selection of Malian as well as international derrières.
This it THE spectacle of the year: and what did we do? Lured by the bright lights of Bamako yet again we spent the weekend in the city buying yet more air conditioners, pillows and kettles..
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Once I finished with Monsieur Guindo I caught the ubiquitous public transport of Mopti. In other words I was paddled across the harbour in a pirogue bound for Bar Bozo, where I am now sitting in the heat haze of the early afternoon with a cold Castel beer, digesting my omelette lunch and enjoying the gentle breeze which always cools this great spot.
Down below in the glittering waters of the Niger little wet liquorice boy bodies are diving and splashing around like dolphins or shoals of fish, reminding me of never ending summer days by the lake in a very different place: children laughing and diving endlessly into the deep dark water amongst tall pine trees- the same joy and I suppose the same suspension of time. Those days never seemed to end.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
I have a very robust health and have never been ill here, not even in August when everyone was dropping all around me with malaria. I eat in places in the market where the fastidious Keita would never set his foot.
When I tried to publish the entry below the other day, it wouldn't take for some reason. I went home and started feeling rough. Soon I was shaking uncontrollably, vomiting, more or less delirious and crying like a baby. Keita was called and I was finally strung up with the full anti malaria treatment and today I feel weak but much better. But I obviously shouldn't be so nasty and Beigna was undoubtedly ill: see my reprehensible entry below.
All men are hopeless crybabies when they are ill. African men are, although it is scarcely possible, even more pathetic than European men.
The comely Beigna above will be the barman at Hotel Djenne Djenno. He is at the moment doing an apprenticeship at the Campement Hotel, but the last couple of days he has been off ill. He has been dragging himself around rolling his eyes in a manner worthy of the finest Victorian thespian, suffering with some unidentifiable but clearly potentially terminal ailment.
And Keita, to my mind, seems far too keen to string people up with intravenous anti-malarial serum at the first sign of what could possibly be malaria.Every time I complain about a headache he is ready with the full blown anti malarial treatment. I have just brushed him off so far, with a 'don't-be-so-silly-it's-just-a-hangover' attitude. But on the other hand I do know that malaria is not a joke, and one day sooner or later I will be pleased to have him string me up with the serum....It is inevitable that I will get malaria too one day. And that Italian tourist last August with cerebral malaria was certainly a scary sight...
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Friday, November 17, 2006
Thursday, November 16, 2006
I think I am going to call the rooms after the different tribes of Mali, by the way... Peul, Bozo, Dogon, Saurai etc. Are there enough tribes? There need to be 11. Will do some research....
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
But people have started shivering and complaining about the cold. Keita thinks it is too cold to sit on the roof at night under the stars, and people are bringing out their wooly sweaters and furry hats! Little Esther is wrapped up rather as if she is setting off for a polar expedition.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Yesterday I looked at all the workers finishing the hotel; at Baba's Great Gate, at my dyed fabrics drying in the hot African sun, at my little banana plantation which is beginning to flourish and realized that this is a dream that is coming true in front of my eyes, and that whatever happens next, right now at least I am very happy.