HEROISM ON THE FORECOURT
A large orange sun set over the watery landscape last night as I was having a cocktail in the sunset bar with my only guest: an American/Iranian woman painter from a famous artist town in Texas, the name of which now escapes me. She lives in an adobe house with her painter husband. I believe the American adobe houses must be more water resistant than ours- she said there was a final layer of special plaster. Oh, how I wish we could have such a final layer here! My poor buildings are crumbling and with every large rain more houses fall in Djenne!
I tempted fate by remarking to her that everyone now thought that the rains were finally over, Inshallah. We later had dinner in the garden together, chatting amiably when we were suddenly disturbed by large, fat raindrops, accompanied by a sudden gust of wind so violent that it whipped our napkins from us and turned over our glasses.
We moved in under the ‘hangar’ and continued our dinner with banana icecream, while I pretended nothing was happening, hoping it would go away. The wind was howling and the rain increased. The power was cut and the oil lamps brought out. Finally I decided I could no longer ignore it. I needed to go and check out the situation. ‘ I’ll be back shortly’, I said optimistically and as it turned out, erroneously, to my painter friend. The situation was already well out of hand. An enormous pool of water had once more formed, and the skies were throwing the ire of the Gods upon us.
Once again every available bucket and vessel was emptied of its contents and the long laborious task of pumping and carrying water buckets commenced. We worked for several hours, at first blinded by the rain which continued to fall. We didn’t speak, just worked like animals. This time I thought we were losing the battle. Despite our superhuman efforts the water seemed to be increasing rather than disappearing and was mounting towards the walls of the mud buildings. Suddenly Boubakar the gardener was there, emerging out of the darkness- he had come walking from the town to help, through the whipping rain and wind. Then soon Ace was there too, and together we all worked to save the hotel.
About 1 am there was a fine drizzle of rain remaining only, and we finally saw the muddy earth appearing once more on the fore court, illuminated once more courtesy of the municipal electricity which had finally returned. We had done it- the hotel was saved, at least for this time. I asked Maman to go and get everyone a drink- a coke or fanta or whatever they wanted. The staff finally had their well deserved dinner, while I hobbled slowly back to my room where I collapsed and slept the sleep of a galley slave.
This morning my American friend left and was pleased to have witnessed a real African drama.
The garden is inundated, and today we all take turns with the pump on the garden side of the hotel. The rocket seeds Boubakar planted just a few days ago will be washed away alas…