Back in Djenne again finally, where Africa has hit me full fathom five in the face.
The worst thing is not the termites that have had a field day in my absence, making horrible holes and dark smears on the whitewashed walls in the rooms; neither is it the fact that the staff, on closing the hotel, left all their uniforms in an unwashed heap in a corner where they were pulverised by those self same termites.
It is not the fact that there is absolutely nothing in the vegetable garden, which has been ravaged by passing herds of goats, who have seemingly been able to just help themselves to whatever there may have been to eat, regardless of the fact that the guardian has been here full time.
It is not that the rubbish of the last few days of hotel visitors has been unceremoniously dumped out the back in a smelly heap, with a total disregard for any of the rules that have been put in place, i.e. the compost-making kitchen refuse in one place, the bits that will burn in another, and the sharp dangerous bits and metal cans etc in a deep hole which will later be filled in with earth. This refuse programme was put in place three and a half years ago but it has never been possible to implement. I mostly avoid the area unless I feel especially courageous, because I know I will have a crise de rage
if I inspect it.
It is not that the new, much vaunted municipal electricity supply was cut for an hour or so both last night and tonight in the middle of the evening dinner service, and that it turned out that noone had bought any petrol for the petrol lamps.
It is not that the main waterpipe which provides all the water to the hotel, which is nestling well protected deep in the earth, suddenly took the decision to burst for no apparent reason whatsoever and we had to do emergency repair tonight.
I is not that I have had no internet connection since I returned and I have had to revert to my habits of early Djenne days and once more queue up at the dusty internet cafe in town to conduct my work with hotel bookings etc.
It is none of these things in themselves.
It is rather my total inability to deal with them in a calm and understanding way which makes me wonder what I am doing here and whether I am actually going to be able to cope. I am an extremely unpleasant boss, and there seems to be nothing I can do to become more patient and kinder, and this causes me remorse. But on the other hand, I have yet again spent two months in Europe without being angry with anyone (except briefly, my mother) but here I am in a continual state of rage!
In Djenné I am most definitely a MUSU KAJUGU. (A bad, angry woman). The Bambara is getting better, but it is severely hampered by the fact that it doesn’t work to be angry in a language one cannot speak properly – so I spend most of my time shouting and complaining in French as usual.
This morning I went to the building site where my own home is finally being built. I spoke to the labourers in Bambara and gave the instructions of what to do- or so I thought. Boucoum, my mud architect has become the new Djenne Maire and is far to busy on municipal business to be able to oversee the building work properly, so I have no choice: the Bambara will have to work from now on. The labourers all looked at me with sphinx-like expressions, then smiled and said AWO, they had understood. So I was very pleased with myself and even phoned Keita and told him the good news of my linguistic progress. But alas, I returned this afternoon and realised that they had not understood a word I had said! Of course this was not at all their fault, so this time I managed to control my temper, just about….
Ah, but are there any light bits nestling in this catalogue of woes? Well, the flamboyant is in full bloom -see Maobi and me above. We went on a great ride when I first got back. I tried out some of the dressage stuff I learned in Spain and he understood me immediately.
One touching but sad thing happened when I first got back : My first horse, the lovely young Zaloc, (see blogsearch above) whom I exchanged with the marabout Haidara for my beloved Napoleon, is tied up during the day about half a mile away. He sometimes escapes and then he comes galloping straight back here, like he did a few days ago. If I call him he will come straight towards me- he gets very excited and clearly remembers me. I recall – and perhaps Zaloc does too if horses have a memory- all the evenings I used to go and say good night to him in the stable and he used to lick my arms – probably for the salt provide by my perpiration.
But he has become quite dangerous and uncontrollable. He neighed wildly and kicked me with one of his front hooves. I am quite sure this was some sort of misplaced display of affection but nevertheless I had to escape behind a parked car before his keeper managed to get hold of him. The keeper wielded a big stick with which he hit the poor horse- no wonder my lovely Zaloc has become wild and dangerous. Malians are very rough with their horses.