Sunday, July 09, 2006


3 April: Baba's restaurant- breakfast.
I think I have managed to cause some trouble already- oh, dear and I was trying so hard to be tactful. The ‘guides’ and ‘friends’ are swarming around me. One of them, Mareshal, walked me to the only internet ‘café’ in Djenne, by the radio station on the outskirts of town by the hospital last night before nightfall. We walked through the market gardens on the way back, all well-kept and tended by the local women’s cooperative. These initiatives have sprung up all around Mali since the great drought of 1984, and now vegetables are grown here which had previously been unknown when the diet was mainly made up of rice and millet.
We wandered through the plots which were teeming with women and children as well as men- but the men are actually employed as labourers by the women. These women’s cooperatives have done much to improve the lot of the women of Mali. A proud cultivator showed me her varied range of vegetables: beet root, pumpkin, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, and lettuce. The latter had suffered some attacks of a local pest and the leaves were pitted with holes. She wanted my advice. I wish I had paid more attention to Gardener’s Question time when I was exposed to it recently working at Cressida’s studio…I admitted I couldn’t help her. I said that we used pesticides, but that it was becoming very unpopular because it was considered harmful, and that people were prepared to pay much more for organic produce like hers. Nothing was used here in Mali, but the majority of the produce looked well-developed and healthy nevertheless.

But back to my present predicament. I am sitting in Baba’s restaurant surrounded by my luggage. It is half past twelve. I had arranged to be collected from here at midday to go to my new flat which I will rent for £3000 CFA (ca £3) per day, an arrangement I arrived at last night through Marechal. But I have clearly run into a problem. I sensed it earlier- I said good morning to Baba, said I was leaving after breakfast. He seemed a little surprised: rumour travels fast here, and although I hadn’t spoken to him about how long I intended to stay, he had got wind of it. Now he didn’t quite scowl, but he was clearly not pleased: why had I not asked him to arrange a flat for me? He has flats too- good ones! How much was I paying for the one I had arranged? Who had arranged it for me? I felt uncomfortable for many reasons: Baba is related to the chief of Djenne and a figure of some importance here. If I stay in this town it is advisable to get on with him, and not a good idea to fall out immediately. On the other hand, I can’t see why I have to use his services to the exclusion of others. To mollify the situation, and also because I felt it would be a good idea, I suggested I would come to Baba’s every morning for breakfast. It cost 750 CFA, but I managed to get it down to 500 (50 p per day )since I would be staying for some time. He agreed, and I felt that a good compromise had been reached.
But the fact is that I am still sitting here in Baba’s restaurant, and the two people who were supposed to come and help me with the luggage and escort me to my new abode have not turned up.
To reach me in Baba’s restaurant they will have to cross his court yard and help me with my luggage. This task is too fraught with difficulty : Baba is sitting in his chair fanning himself surveying the comings and goings in his courtyard with particular interest. Oh dear. . In addition, the hoards of ‘friends ‘ who have normally pestered me have all mysteriously disappeared…What am I to do??? I am not intending to be bullied into staying in Baba’s flat! I am using this unusual moment of ominous peace to write a little.
To be continued… Posted by Picasa


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