Sunday, September 09, 2007

Apres moi, le deluge?
I left Djenne this morning, and I am writing this on the Bani bus, Keita asleep beside me. We will stay two days in Bamako, then I fly back to London.
The water stands at approximately 20 cm from the hotel entrance. The lowest points have been shored up with old rice bags filled with earth. Djenne has now run out of both bags and earth- Hotel Djenne Djenno is not the only place in trouble.
So we have taken alternative measures: since we are going to dig a big hole in the garden anyway for the proposed swimming pool, I decided to start digging straight away, and the earth is used to fill our old rice bags.
However, it continues raining. We have had to block all the normal escape routes for the rain water, which normally runs through a hole in the mud wall at the lowest point of the garden. But where the water can run out, it will also be able to enter. So we have closed the escape routes, thus causing another problem- what to do with all the rainwater which gathers in the daily heavy rains?
Yet again, the intended swimming pool comes to our aid. I have been too busy with other things to tell you of a beautiful Heath Robinson set-up which will be our totally environmentally friendly swimming pool:
We have bought two foot pedal pumps of American make, sent here to be used in grass roots agricultural projects. The pump has a hose pipe attachment with a filter that is inserted into a well. The pedal pump then transmits the water by another hose pipe in a radius of up to 50 m and a height up to 10 m. The idea is that I get up in the morning to do my morning exercise for about three quarters of an hour- (after all it is more or less exactly the same sort of machine I used in my gym in Notting Hill) or, more probably, Ibrahim the gardner will do the pedalling, (or indeed , who knows, perhaps this is the beginning of the Djenne Djenno Health Spa?) Anyway, it is possible to take out approximately 2 cubic metres per day. This water is pumped into the swimming pool. At night the other pump, at the other end of the pool, gets rid of the same amount of water, throwing it onto the banana plantaton just adjacent. It is flawless! Thus no water is wasted at all, and one of my problems with a swimming pool in Djenne has been removed: i.e. I have not liked the idea of wasting a lot of tap water on the somewhat decadent fun of a swimming pool in an area which is normally suffering from droughts.

Normally, yes. But in this exceptional year, my new swimming pool pump is being used for another purpose- we have inserted a cement cylinder left over from the well digging on the new land (see March entry) into the ground at the lowest part of the land where the water gathers in the rain, to form a one metre deep receptacle at ground level. Last night we tried it out- It works beautifully- the rainwater is thrown out beyond the rice sack barricades. But the water comes quickly- one has to pump under the rain, otherwise it becomes overwhelming.
Africans think that is is impossible to work in the rain. Beigna told me, 'yes the pumping is a good idea, but we'll wait until it has stopped raining. '
'Oh no you won't' I thundered, like an evil panotomime Dame. You will goddam pump in the rain if it is necessary! And you will pump in the nice yellow rain outfits I have bought for everyone!' To illustrate my point I started to pump frenetically in the pouring rain and there was no stopping me for about three quarter of an hour, when I more or less fell off the pedals- but the water had gone.

As I am looking a the beautiful and uncharacteristically green Malian country side speeding past I remember my friend Kathy's offer to pray to St. Christopher, patron saint of travellers and floods. Although a Catholic by conversion, there is too much Swedish Lutheran still lurking in me to have taken saints very seriously. But mind ful of Pascal's wager, I decide to have a little talk with St. Christopher:


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