What is that famous prayer by some famous saint?
‘Lord give me the courage to change what I can change, the strength to accept what I cannot change, and the wisdom to distinguish between the two’.
It seems that both Mai (Keita’s other wife) and I will have to abide by and take some comfort in these words.
Keita assured me that I could come and spend a week with him in Segou on my way back to Djenne; ‘There will be no problem, he said. All that is over’.
But as I sat in the Tripoli airport under Khaddafi’s oil painting (above) I had premonitions, and my premonitions are almost always right. And yes, indeed, when I arrived back in Mali and called Keita, he said: ‘there has been a change of plan’.
Mai had refused to let me stay with Keita for a week, although I hardly ever see him and I am now going to Djenne for some time. She insisted on the 2 day rule. (It seems as if time does not accumulate in these Muslim matrimony rules. Mai sees Keita all the time, but the two day rule still applies when I arrive after weeks.) After half an hour’s ranting and raving I decided to accept these conditions. I called Keita and told him I would arrive the next day. We would stay in a hotel for two days, then he would go to his home again and stay with Mai for two days, and then, for my last two days we would be going back to the hotel. But I decided to do what the family had told me I had the right to do: I decided to go and stay at Keita’s home too during Mai’s two days, to play with the children, to install myself in his home, and in his and Mai’s sitting room even. This has been my right from the very beginning of my marriage with Keita, but it has been a right I have been loath to insist on out of respect for Mai, and recognition that it cannot be easy for her to have me hanging around her home. However, I have been forced to play by these rules, so this is what I am now doing.
The family has given us both –Mai and me- strict instructons. Ketia’s big sister Tah was supposed to travel for a few days, but has postponed the journey for a few days to jolly things along.
And low and behold, all is well so far. Mai is actually smiling at me, and being a perfect hostess. And I am doing my best to make things a little easier for her: I have now withdrawn for the day and am writing this in the garden of the Auberge hotel.
Keita is relatively well at the moment, although quite anemic. He is no longer using his wheelchair, and walking is getting easier, although he still has to be supported. He is unbelievably patient and bears his illness with real heroism.
On Saturday I will leave for Djenne, and this is now the beginning of the tourist season.
So here goes!