Monday, September 21, 2015

Turbulent Times...

A turbulent time  has passed. It is merciful how in the middle of disasters and tribulations providence arranges things to be just about bearable, or at least manageable: let's take the last ten days. Keita had been bedridden, in pain, on morphine, unable to move or even go to the lavatory on his own. I was able to help and we pulled through- towards the middle  of last week he was more or less back on his feet again, and on Thursday he was able to have his forth all important treatment.

Meanwhile I plummeted. I had not fully recovered from my own illness and suddenly I was very sick again with severe diarrhea, fever, extremely low blood pressure (70/40) strange palpitations, bref, I was so weak I could hardly stand up. Last Tuesday I was admitted to a private clinic here where they rehydrated me with a drip, and put me back in reasonable shape again as well as taking plenty of tests  including a coloscopy with biopsies the results of which will be winging themselves hither from Germany in a couple of weeks only.
As if this was not enough drama, Eva flew off to Burkina Faso last week (where she is also ambassador) and arrived smack bang in the middle of a Coup d'Etat. She managed to  get back here again a couple of days later (the same day as I  was discharged from the clinic) and played us the recording she had made with her mobile phone from the balcony of her hotel in Ouagadougou featuring mortar fire and machine gun salvos.

Today Keita will leave for Segou and Tabaski with his other family. I am staying here until the weekend when I will return to Djenné if I am strong enough.  This week is more or less a long holiday beginning tomorrow with the Malian Independence Day and on Thursday it is Tabaski.
People are leaving  Bamako on trips to what is regarded as safe areas: Sikasso, Kayes; south to Kangaba etc. No Embassy staff are allowed to travel to Djenné of course.

Eva has never been to Djenné and it is unlikely that she will be able to go on a private trip since she cannot herself do something she tells her staff they are not able to do.
So I came up with what I believe to be a wonderful  idea which I  suggested to Eva: she should travel incognito. She and I would dress up in full black burqa, and Denis her cook and sometime driver would be disguised as a gulf potentate who would  be driving his two wives  to Djenné to worhip at the Djenné Mosque for Tabaski. This suggestion was received with  a lot of laughter from  both Eva and Denis. I guess I must also clarify that my inspired idea was sadly not accepted .The thing is: I was really serious. My friend  Karen of Toguna Tours, one of the only still operating tour organizers here has a client who wants to go to Timbuktu. Karen has said that she is prepared to arrange a trip to Djenné, Mopti and the Dogon country but that she cannot help her to get to Timbuktu. That trip, along a lonely piste through the desert between Douanza and Timbuktu is considered to be too dangerous. Now, if I wanted to go to Timbuktu I would take one of the local taxi brousses that travel that way every day, but I would travel in full burqa. I believe it would be a safe way to go.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

A Haven at Eva's and Kindness from the Sleeping Camel

‘Keita has just had his 2nd treatment and is feeling good” I wrote in the entry below. Here he is that same evening with Eva’s cat Sotis on his lap (the cat loves Keita). But that picture marks the the end of the plain sailing days alas...
 For four days he had been able to drive our car to the hospital called Point G, receive his treatment and drive home again; have dinner with Eva and me in the dining room and all seemed almost rosy. But suddenly, overnight, he developed severe pains in his lower back and he became almost unable to move. His lab tests also showed signs of an infection, so his doctor decided not to go ahead with the third treatment but instead to give him a week’s rest with antibiotics. So here we are: Keita finally started on the Morphine after all since he is in severe pain. He does not leave our bedroom anymore and our friend Dr. Guida Landouré passes by with a nurse in the evenings to tend to what is needed. I felt I had to ask him if he thought we shouldn’t call the rest of Keita’s family? He relieved me by saying he didn’t feel it was at that stage yet.

Meanwhile he has to have blood transfusions and here in Mali one has to bring a donor to the blood bank when one needs blood. On Saturday I decided to go back to my old haunt the Sleeping Camel and see if I could find some volunteers. And lo and behold, there were not only one but three volunteers from the staff: Djenneba the cook (who modelled MaliMali’s new collection last September when I took pictures at the Sleeping Camel) and Bintou, also from the kitchen staff as well as Abdoul from the garden staff. Here, in a bad picture are the three heroes at the blood bank, having given their blood. I wanted to give them 5000FCFA each but they refused categorically. ‘OK, but take the money anyway and  give it to someone else who really needs it’ I suggested. ‘In that way you will have done two good deeds!’ They still wouldn’t hear of it.

So, what do we do? I stay here at Eva's with Keita all day since I too am not totally well- still taking tests and suffering from extremely low blood pressure (80/60). We watch Fela Kuti or Johnny Clegg or Phil Collins (favourites of Keita’s and the latter of all Africans I know) on You Tube; we snooze; I try and keep  in touch over the phone with the studio, the shop, the library and the hotel. Eva comes and says hello before she leaves for some glamorous diplomatic reception. I stay up sometimes to see her for a night cap when she gets back. Certainly, in this sorry business, there are golden aspects: Eva does not mind our staying here and we could not dream of a better place to be.

Next week will be deciding of course: can Keita go on with the treatment? I must finally leave for Djenné again and his other family will have to pick up- but that is next week. Much can happen: he can get better for instance. Sometimes  I feel certain of that and then I am able to cheer him up a little: we make plans; we talk of getting the old Mercedes in shape again, ready for  the lovely trip we will make to the Ivory Coast when Keita is back  on his feet. But sometimes of course I am not so sure... an enormous question mark hangs over our existence.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

A New Trip Advisor report for the hotel!

 One of the few hotel guests who stayed in August , Imri from Chicago University who was studying at the library just wrote this review for us! (and he did it without prompting from me or the staff!)
This was of course a cheerful bit of news for Keita and me to come across  this afternoon  as we are resting at Eva's! 
 Keita has has his second important treatment today, and he feels good.

"A Wonderful Place to Stay in Djenne”
Reviewed 1 week ago

Djenne-Djenno is a top-notch hotel with beautiful decor, great cuisine and drinks, and above all the very authentic (and unique to Djenne) adobe architecture. You are guaranteed to have an enjoyable time as Sophie (the owner) and her dedicated staff work hard to make sure you will have an excellent experience. Despite the occasional unrest in northern Mali, Djenne is located in a safe part of the country where the locals are very happy to welcome foreigners. Therefore, I would say that in Djenne you will feel very safe. Of course it must be said that no trip to Mali would be complete without venturing to Djenne, and once you do make sure to stay at Hotel Djenne-Djenno where you could relax after exploring.
  • Stayed August 2015, traveled solo