Saturday, August 12, 2006

Ah, a trying few days, which is why I have been quiet…
Allah has been kind and sent some much needed rain for the worried cultivators of Mali, and I am pleased and relieved for them. However, for an incipient hotelière of a hotel built in the venerable architecture style’ Soudanais-Sahelien’ the results can be somewhat alarming…
I went to the site this morning to find that parts of my lovely mud hotel had quite simply returned to mud in last night’s heavy rain and large chunks of the walls had slipped and slid to the ground. It was a little like seeing a sand castle disintegrating at the arrival of the tide…
‘Not to worry’, I told myself, availing myself of my finest adopted British upper lip, and taking heart at the thought that my mud architect Boucoum (in pink above) was about to arrive for our 9 am site meeting. He would undoubtedly explain all and all would be well.
Boucoum failed to materialise at nine however. We spoke by mobile at ten and at eleven and at twelve. He assured me he was arriving imminently.
At one pm I called his mobile and it was switched off. I kept calling all afternoon and had no reply apart from his irritating message.
I paced up and down the melting corridor of my melting hotel while my ten labourers were lolling about in the mud waiting for instructions from the missing architect, enjoying themselves at my expense and grinning at me- or so it presented itself to my by this stage failing patience. In fact they were of course only trying to be encouraging, throwing me their kindly meant but infuriating ‘ça va Madame?’ every two minutes. I only just managed to suppress what I really wanted to scream at them: ‘non, ACTUALLY ça ne bloody va pas! what does it bloody look like! and stop bloody grinning at me!’
About this point I started calculating my losses. If I were to return to England now, how much would I have lost? It is obviously going to be impossible to get anywhere here. How could I possibly even get this place built when Boucoum my architect, thus the key figure, proves so totally unreliable? How dare he keep me hanging around like this, and all his workers too???
Finally I told the workers to leave, went back to Keita’s where the pelotte card game continued in the courtyard regardless of the fact that my world was –literally- disintegrating. And then, NINE HOURS LATE, the wayward architect saunters in to PLAY CARDS!!!! if you please. I try out my most withering and glacial ‘bonsoir Boucoum’. My fine irony was totally lost on him, however and he smiled back happily and returned my greeting just as if nothing had happened!!!!
It appears that his transport had broken down and that he had been outside the mobile network so couldn’t communicate, and had only just arrived. Of course all this is plausible and indeed almost certainly true.
‘Calme-toi, Sophie’ said Boucoum with his quiet and soothing phlegmatism. ‘calme-toi, c’est l’Afrique’. Posted by Picasa


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