Wednesday, December 24, 2008

HOTEL DJENNE DJENNO wishes you a HAPPY CHRISTMAS with this picture which is quite unrelated to the present circumstances: an unseasonal snow spell in Leksand, Sweden, during my holiday in the middle of May covered the cherry blossom with powdery snow for several days...
But that is quite some time ago and quite some distance away from Bamako and Hotel Colibris which will be our home during this Christmas. Keita is undergoing lots of tests, has been seen by a specialist and has more appointments on Friday.

Djenne Djenno is running if not entirely smoothly, at least it is running, and that is with a continual invation of THE BEAST.
Judging from the 'mishaps' reported, all is well in the great scheme of things. The worst 'disasters' are the following: A group of Dutch people stayed at the hotel last Sunday and had both lunch and dinner at the hotel. But horrors beyond all imaginable horrors- what happened?? They were served fruitsalad for dessert for both meals, and complained, quite rightly so.

The next disastrous mishap was that the SAURAI 'superior double' didn't have any hot water, and since it was inhabited by a difficult Mexican trio this circumstance was magnified and the Mexicans got angrier and angrier, especially when they were told that they were wrong, and that the SAURAI most definitely had hot water. They stomped off in a huff and the water situation was checked. Indeed, there WAS plenty of hot water! Let me now quote Birgit, my guardian angel in situ, who sent me this text message:
'the hot water in Saurai is the blue one, the cold red. Never underestimate the stupidity of people, toubab or farafin!' Indeed.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Keita is here seen eating the same custard apple as I am enjoying below. This our first 'fruit of paradise' seems to me now to have been sent as a gift to remind us how precarious life can be- we have, for the moment at least, been banished from paradise and we are on the way to Bamako tomorrow morning, on the very day when the hotel starts its Christmas season and we are fully booked for about two weeks.

Keita had a bad cold about a month ago which affected his hearing and gave him bad earache. He has also had a very bad back recently, the result of an accident about a year ago, getting steadily worse. Suddenly about ten days ago he started developing vertigo and he is losing his balance and has to hold on to the walls to be able to walk.
A guardian angel in the shape of Keita's friend Guida, a neurologist doing a PHD at Uiversity College Hospital, London, just happened to be here visiting his family. Guida told Keita to get himself down to Bamako without delay- we will see him there and he will try and arrange an appointment with his professor of Neurology at the Hospital in Bamako. Undoubtedly there will be tests to do, waiting for tests to be analysed, there is now the Christmas holiday coming, whatever happens we will have to stay in Bamako for Christmas.
So things are looking a little unsettled- I will go with Keita of course, leaving the hotel on the eve of mass invasion of THE BEAST (the full hotel...)

But in the middle of what could potentially be a very difficult situation Divine Providence had already been working behind the scenes and sent help in the form of another guardian angel, this time from Holland, my friend Birgit. She arrived about a week ago to stay at the hotel for the third year running on her yearly trip through West Africa to stock her Amsterdam jewellery market stall with African beads. (See blog entry February for our sunset pirogue trip around Djenne with my friend Neville)
Only this time she intended to stay for two months in the hotel, helping to develop the vegetable and herb garden and to work on new recipes in the kitchen. As it happens she may be helping in more ways then anticipated, and she has been given the authority to run the place in my absence, a task I am sure she will fulfil with both charm and Dutch efficiency.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Our first custard apple was proudly brought to me this morning by Boubakar the gardener. Custard apples have always seemed to me like fruits of paradise. They are very rare- I can see no other fruits developing on our three little custard apple trees. When I lived in Papua New Guinea I had a custard apple tree too, and it only ever produced one fruit a year..

Monday, December 08, 2008

'Listen, Sons of Manding, children of the black people, listen to my words. I have taught Kings the history of their ancestors so that the life of the Ancients might serve as examples, for the world is old but the future issues out of the past.'

'I will tell you of Soundyata, Father of the Savannah, Father of the Bright Land the Ancestor of those who wield the bow and arrow; Soundyata the Son of the Buffalo, the Son of the Lion: the man of many names, against whom no evil spells could work. I will speak of Soundyata the Master of a Hundred vanquished Kings'.

A thousand years ago when the great epics of Europe were told; Beowulf, the Nibelungen and the Chanson the Roland, an epic was formed in West Africa too, that of Soundyata Keita of the Manding who united the warring tribes and created the Malian Empire. This epic is still sung by the griots of Mali, as well as existing in written form. It was penned down at first in Arabic a few hundred years ago and finally in French and many other languages.

I spent a lovely quiet day at the hotel today reading this work in total solitude and stillness- the whole staff had gone off for TABASKI prayers, and I gave most of them the day off since there was only one hotel guest here.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Dembele, my first friend in Djenne, and now my bogolan assistant, has been losing weight lately. I only noticed it today- he is not well. I have also discovered the cause of his affliction- it is unhappy love for Nana, his first and only love, who got married to someone else last Saturday.
For an insight into the beginning of this tragic love affair, please look up the very first blog entry, under July 21st 2006.
I told him, in a grown-up boring old way that he would meet someone else and that all would be well. But then I thought- would it?
Nana's wedding was not the sort of wedding we understand in the West. Dembele was invited, there were big celebrations, Nana wore a lovely boubou and lots of amber in her hair and big gold earrings. She smiled and danced to the flutes and the drums that went on for three days. There was something missing however: the bride groom was not there. He emigrated to The US many years ago, and has not been back since. Nana is his cousin, and the last time they saw each other Nana was twelve years old.
An old man represented Nana'a husband. It was in fact his father, a former member of parliament for Djenne, who had decided twenty years ago with Nana's father that their children would wed. He were to take her to the States to meet her husband, but unfortunatelty he passed away yesterday.

There are rumours about Nana's husband: some say he refused to come back to Mali to pick up his bride- he is in a well established relationship with a girl from New York who will presumably not take kindly to a young bride turning up from Mali...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A hotel guest, Olivier Verstraeten, who lives in Bamako has kindly sent these aerial shots of Hotel Djenne Djenno, taken about a month and a half ago, when the water was still standing high around the hotel. He delighted the Djenne population by circling around the town in a flying machine, sitting strapped into a little chair under a wingspan- no doubt this sort of flying machine has a name too, but I don't know what it is called.
The long building to the right houses most of the accommodation- it is possible to see the airconditioners on the roof. The large free standing building to the left of the hotel compound is the MaliMali studio, and the smaller one below it is the generator house.