Friday, July 14, 2006


Felt completely alone and without a friend in the world as I walked down to the internet café through the hot dusty back streets at about 6. I sadly reflected that even Kansaye, the only person I know, appears to inhabit another planet. He tries to make me buy a PINASSE for goodness' sake! Even the little children in the street, normally so lovely, had seemingly turned against me, and one little boy picked up a stone which he threw at me. His friends joined in and little stones rained on me until a very angry father appeared from one of the houses, grabbed hold of his little brat and clobbered him very hard around the ear to my immense satisfaction. I was crying I am afraid, and my head was pounding . I was suddenly keenly aware how precarious my position is here and what I am trying to do seemed totally impossible: I felt a fool for even trying.
I had vaguely made an arrangement to see Oumar Keita, the hospital doctor for a drink at night- I didn’t hear from him, so I went on my own to the Hotel Campement and had a beer, feeling even more miserable, thinking I must look sad sitting there on my own- am I becoming one of those awful sad women who end up in some God- forsaken dust bowl in the world, sadly nursing some never-healed wound of a distant past? I walked home, dejected and a little drunk, because I had forgotten to eat today. Had a shower and prepared to go to bed - it was only 8 pm and the chants from the Koran school next door had not even started. Every night between 8.30 and midnight I have been lulled to sleep under my mosquito net serenaded by the melodious and rhythmic incantations celebrating the birth of the prophet Muhammed.
But Keita did call just as I was crawling in under the net. He suggested he came to my place, but I said I had nothing to serve him here- and I also thought to myself that I can’t have a never ending stream of men passing by , it doesn’t look good. So I suggested meeting at the Campement. He agreed. This arrangement brings fresh problems: who pays? I would have to pay most probably, because a beer costs 1000 CFA and that is nearly half the day’s salary for even a doctor in Mali. But what happened was surprising and very endearing: when Keita finally asked for the bill the garcon came up to me and asked for 1500CFA. I said: but I have had two beers, and Keita has had two cokes. Yes, the bill comes to 3000CFA he replied. You are splitting it in half. I realized that Keita’s two cokes came to 1000CFA and my beers cost 2000, but he had not only paid for himself but as much as he could of mine.
Such things may seem irrelevant and petty, but they are essential in a place like this and they establish the relationships between people. I was extremely pleased by his demeanour. In fact I was extremely pleased with him altogether, and we had a lovely evening talking. He is tall and big and calm and has a lovely African simplicity about him- he has never been to Europe, and the only time he ever saw the sea was when he went to Guinea at the invitation of a Norwegian aid worker here. So there is no sophistication about him in a European sense, I mean he has never heard Schubert’s 'Winterreise', but on the other hand there is certainly plenty of ease and dignity about him and he commands respect and knows how to comport himself. He is not really good looking but he is attractive and by the end of the evening I was quite drunk and when he asked me why I was in Africa I replied truthfully, albeit only partially: it was because of a broken heart. He laughed and said that it would certainly be healed...
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