Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Things are looking up.
Fatou has made a new batch of our yummy lime marmelade, and last night was a lovely evening: Keita and I invited various single people staying at the hotel, as well as our two Belgians Lucas and Walter to eat with us in the garden under the light of the waning full moon and a paraffin lamp. The table was made up in an exciting mix of nationalities, which included a South African lady working for Unesco and a most glamorous young lady from Cameroun. The Belgians spent a long time telling us about the difficulties of being Belgian which was most entertaining...
And although our election candidate Baber Gano didn't make it to local government, his august features grace the breakfast table at Hotel Djenné Djenno in the form of napkins so it was not all in vain.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Things are exceedingly difficult here, and everything is made 10 times worse by the full moon which affects me badly as usual.
But normally I can escape to my sunset bar and tap away on my laptop, and this blog becomes the crucibel which turns the impossible and the awful into something bearable. The act of writing out my experiences saves me. But now I am writing this at the internet cafe, a long queue of people waiting to get to the only computer which is working at the moment. My stricken lap top is still undergoing open heart surgery after the water board official infected it with his virus.
So I am left to stew away... I suppose it is still possible to write long hand, so might try that.
I tarted up the bar again yesterday afternoon- it was one of the areas which had been chosen for renewal in my absense, and someone had been going over my work in new colours and slapped the paint on with an old toothbrush I think!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The dashing Marabout with whom I did the horse exchange last August suddenly turned up last night on the lovely Xaloc who has put on lots of weight and who looked very grown up and splendid, decked out in full Saurai ceremonial regalia.
I hurried to saddle Napoleon, and the Marabout and I went galopping off into the sunset, apparently providing the tourists who had gathered for drinks on the roof top bar with a worthy camera subject.
Here the two stallions are making their first aquaintance just in front of the hotel gates.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Just found the below report on Hotel Djenné Djenno on Trip-Advisor, which cheered me up somewhat, (apart from the mention of powercuts.) The person stayed a night just before I arrived back and it was the only night when the electricity played up since we bought our new generator in June- it was a question of a faulty fuse-box and the problem has not recurred. The electricity is not the problem at the hotel at the moment!

'The Djenné-Djenno is a lovely hotel literally just outside of Djenné (5mins walk to the city center). keeping with the UNESCO protected sudanese style architecture of Djenné, the rooms are arranged around a spacious courtyard. Our room was tastefully furnished and decorated, with a basic ensuite bathroom and air conditioning. After the bustle of the town it was a great place to relax and enjoy the view of the city, with the great mosque poking out above the roofs. We didn't meet the owner, but the staff were very attentive, friendly and helped us find an excellent guide to show us around town (a good guide is what really makes Djenné worthwhile in my opinion). The only drawback was that the generator couldn't quite cope with the energy needs of a fully booked hotel and kept cutting out, so reading was not really an option once the sun had set.'

Ce membre de TripAdvisor :
Qu'est-ce qui vous a le plus séduit dans cet établissement ? The atmosphere of the building/courtyard/views.
Qu'est-ce qui vous a le moins plu dans cet établissement ? The powercuts
More trials and tribulations at Hotel Djenné Djenno...
Last night, just as Keita and I were sitting down for dinner, an official of the Djenné Waterboard arrived. Normally what followed would provide excellent material for a farce. However, it is quite hard to enjoy the humorous side of a situation at the time of living it.
The Djenné Waterboard is not my favourite institution at the best of time, and especially at the moment, since we are provided with a pitiful trickle most of the time and have to keep the pump going to fill up our water tower. But that didn't prevent the official from asking if he could use my laptop and my printer (and my paper!) to print out the last three invoices from the Water board to Hotel Djenné Djenno, since the computers and printers no longer worked at the Waterboard! And that was supposed to happen just as Baba was bringing the first course to the table. I gritted my teeth, as it transpired that it was Keita who had asked the gentleman to come along. It was the kind, generous Keita who had said: ' Oh, no problem, we'll do the invoices at the hotel!' and then he forgot to tell me.
The official comforted me by saying it wouldn't take long, because he had everything on his 'key'( or perhaps memory stick in English?). I had to search around for half an hour to find the key to the cupboard where I had put the new printer ink brought back from England,then I realized that I had in fact put it in another cupboard, the key of which I had lost during the afternoon. So we had to break the cupboard door open, finally get hold of the ink, crank up the computer, and get the printer ready. Then we finally inserted the memory stick which promptly transferred a deadly virus onto my computer. A virus of such strength and such venom that we are are still, 16 hours later, trying to remove it. But it is worse than that: we are in fact trying to save the computer itself, because I can't find the CD with the hard disk to restart from the beginning again...
And the poor official and poor Keita!
At first I just wandered into the banana plantation in the darkness, where I stumbled about for some time not giving a damn if there were any snakes. Then I dragged myself to the bar and told Beigna to pour me a triple rum. After which I finally returned to Keita and the Official, who were still tinkering helplessly with the stricken laptop.
Nevermind! I said. It happens all the time. It is not your fault, Monsieur.We are not going to die from it!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The banana trees that we planted in August 2006 have begun to yield fruit, and yesterday morning I let one of our guests harvest the bananas himself for his breakfast table, to the great delight of his friends. But all was not idyllic in Djenné...

Djenne itself had no power and no water. As far as the electricity goes, Djenne Djenno could put two fingers up with some glee to the authorities who haven't done anything to help us out. We are doing just fine, thank you, with our generator, and nothing changes on that score.
We were fully booked yesterday. A new tour operator, with whom we have had no previous dealings, arrived with his two elderly Americans about lunchtime. They had been booked in to a twin room for some time - there had been no more doubles left for them. The exceptionally arrogant young guide took one look at the room and announced, haughtily, that his clients needed a double bed. I said that I had been unable to offer one, since the doubles had been booked for a long time already, and that I had made that clear at the time of the booking.. The young man decided to swan off into town, and the elderly couple didn't even get a look in to what in fact is our best twin room- the Serakolle, newly decorated by Dembele, and very pretty indeed, with a fan AND an airconditioner. The arrogant guide took the last remaining room at the Maffir, and his poor elderly clients had to spend the night not only without electricity, but without water too, since Djenne had a water, as well as an electricity cut.
Ha! what concern is electricity or water cuts to us? Djenne Djenno galvanised itself into the spirit of Dunkirk. We ordered a 50m long new hosepipe, attached it to our marvellous pump (see entries September) and pumped our well water into our reserve water tank, which was then treated with the required amount of bleach. (triumphantly displayed above by Igor.)The same night I drank our own well water, well chilled, and I am alive to write this. All our guests had showers and their air conditioners ran all night, if that is what they wanted.
I couldn't sleep however, so I went wandering around at about 3 am. As usual there was no Boubakar to be seen. (The night watch man). I walked around shining my torch into every possible nook and cranny to try and discover the hide-away of my illusive guardian. Finally I found him, soundly asleep on my bogolan printing table, well out of the way of any possible thief's progress.
I have never so far EVER woken up in the middle of the night, gone out into the garden and found him awake.What is more I have to scream at the top of my voice and shine the torch directly into his face in order to arouse him.
That reminds me of my friend Clare's father. When she was a little girl her father was the Colonial Governor of St. Lucia. He came home one night after a party and found three watchmen asleep at the gate. He shook them awake and demanded to know why they were all asleep.
One said he was just coming on duty, the other that he was just going off duty and the third said that he was in training...

Friday, November 09, 2007

7th November.
Yesterday there was a change. Quite noticeably the new season arrived with a drop in temperature accompanied by the first gusts of the Harmattan, sweeping down from the Sahara, enveloping the surrounding mudflats in a pale yellow haze and saturating the bright colours which has recently been the unaccustomed palette of Djenne. Once more we return to the earth colours of the Sahel. The water is gone, more or less, and soon Baba and his friends can start playing on the football field which has lain submerged under the recent floods.
I am sitting in the bar. There are no guests tonight, so we have not put on the generator. The laptop screen is the only light, apart from some petrol lamps on the tables and in the garden there are the new solar powered fairy lights I brought back from England, making acquaintance with their elders, the venerable Charlie Dimmock Woolworths solar lights which have served so well from the very beginning. The newcomers are draped across the branches of the banana trees, and in the pitch black they are taking on the shape of unknown constellations from another universe perhaps.
Unknown insects the size of small mice are throwing themselves kamikaze style at the laptop screen.
I went riding tonight in the soft ochre evening on Napoleon who was on great form as we galloped across the fields which have newly emerged from the floods.
All this may sound idyllic, and it probably is. But I am ladened down with the enormous tasks that surround me. We have to rebuild and raise the level of the land for next year.
I wanted to start building the MaliMali studios where beautiful things would happen and work would be created for the people of Djenne. I have had to postpone it- I am so sorry for Kadija the jeweller and the others. I have to sort out the hotel first of all. And of course I am grumpy most of the time. Things are just so trying here. It may of course just be my character flaws playing up- lack of patience and short temper. But I am not so sure- I spent six weeks in England not being angry once, I believe. But here I spend 50 % of my time being angry!
I am waiting for Keita to arrive to have dinner- yes, here he comes, I hear the sound of his two stroke trail bike arriving, so speak soon!
Next day.
To cheer myself up I have bought the staff new uniforms. Traditional embroidered boubous for senior staff – Beigna and Baba, and the same thing but without embroidery for those of less elevated ranks: Igor and Ali, and our new gardener Ibrahim. This caused general hilarity as they tried on the traditional big pants which goes with the outfits. Baba is refusing to wear the uniform in town. It doesn’t fit with his idea of cool: he is a modern Malian man as is evident by the mobile phone which is more or less permanently fixed to his ear. I am not quite sure if there are actual conversations going on or if he is just pretending..

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A few days ago I had to go to Mopti on various bits of hotel business. For research purposes I stayed in the brand new La Maison Rouge, and said hello to Amadé, its French architect creator.

La Maison Rouge is exquisite, and very different to Hotel Djenne Djenno. Amade spent 4 years perfecting every lovingly crafted detail while Hotel Djenne Djenno was slapped together in a mad mud frenzy lasting 6 month- it shows. Djenne Djenno is rough and ready, but, I believe, still an hotel de charme, as the French call it. But la Maison Rouge attains levels of refinement about which I can only dream. I had breakfast in the morning with Amadé, to the accompaniment of Bach’s cello suites. Meanwhile I have grave difficulties at Hotel Djenne Djenno trying to prevent Beigna from playing rough hip-hop from the Ivory Coast at full blast. I went back to Djenne Djenno and cried for two days.
Especially since Keita, in my absence, decided to surprise me and had all the bathrooms painted white.
Now, my bathrooms were what the French call brut, but they were in good, honest cement, and the idea was to have Baji the potter doing tiles which we would slowly add, room by room. But no, Keita has had someone slap white paint on, thereby ruining that possibility, and necessitating constant upkeep from now on. I have kept my nerve, and I have not been angry. I have said, sweetly, Thank you darling, that is very kind. But please would you talk to me before you decide anything to do with the interior decoration? You wouldn’t really like it if I came and told you how to do blood transfusions, would you?
And then I smiled, went away and cried some more.
Above you see Amade at breakfast, with his mason presenting the hue of the day’s new mud, to be plastered somewhere.