Monday, July 19, 2010


I would dearly love to write an enthusiastic, happy blog about what I wonderful place Djenne is and what fun I am having. Alas I am not going to be able to do that.
I always wondered why I am the only toubab within hundreds of miles- all the rest live in Mopti or in Sevare or in other sensible places. Now I know. Noone else is as completely bonkers as I am, clearly. Noone else wants to live here.

Ali the chambermaid has gone missing for two days. Baba did not write down a telephone booking in the reservations sheet. The people turn up suddenly and no room is cleaned and ready, so I have to scratch around making beds and emptying waste paper baskets myself. It starts pouring with rain and it is the moment when everyone is going to sit down for dinner. Sheets of hard rain sweep in across the assembled guests, one of whom is asking me why I don’t supply WIFI. He is very disappointed, because the hotel has such good write-ups that he is sure we would have WIFI.
If only! I have had a quote and it is going to cost about 6000E to install, and after that 500E as a monthly rate!

I need the help of some good professional people. Our little team has been muddling through surprisingly well until now, but it is becoming too difficult. Tonight for instance. I am having dinner and I taste the salad. I know something is wrong. I go to the kitchen and ask what has been put into the vinaigrette. Fatou says: this vinegar – with that she means a horrible local sort of low grade poison, which I have forbidden. I spoke to Papa just two weeks ago, saying that there is no point using expensive olive oil if it is going to be mixed with that stuff. I fly into a rage again: But MERDE! Didn’t I tell you just the other day that you cannot use that stuff! Papa replies that it wasn’t him. It was Fatou. I say I don’t give a shit, it is his kitchen and he is responsible.

A funny thing happened this afternoon. An earnest young French student girl who is here for a month doing some sort of study of third world tourism came and asked me if she could talk to me. Sure, I said, what did she want to talk about? She said that she was concerned about rubbish disposal. I said she was not alone.
Then she said that she had heard that we had a rubbish disposal programme here at Djenne Djenno, where we sorted our rubbish. I said Good Heavens! Who told such a thing? It seems that our three destination rubbish programme is making the news, although we have never even been able to implement it properly here! So I told her the formula: things that burn- burn them. things that come from the kitchen and will rot- mix them with the horse and donkey kaka and use it in the garden for compost. Things that are dangerous like broken bottles or old tin cans- bury them in a deep hole. She took notes, thanked me and went on her way.

Keita and I went to Bamako for a few days last week for medical check-ups and to buy and enormous amount of electrical and plumbing material for our new house which is coming on fairly well, so that is at least one cheerful thing with which to end this dreary blog entry… See Keita above in Bamako’s bustling great market.

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