Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I feel I need to write a whole novel to try and put into some order the momentous events of the last ten days or so.
Keita and I arrived back to Djenne last Wednesday- a week ago tomorrow. As we arrived into the court yard of the hotel there were at least 20 of Keita’s friends waiting and watching as he was taken out of the car and put into the wheelchair for the short journey to my rooms. This was of course a difficult moment for him- when he left here three weeks ago he was still walking.
His friends crowded around and pushed their way into our rooms wanting to talk and to see him. I was irritated and would have preferred some peace. One of the reasons Keita had wanted to go to the hotel was because he also wanted some peace- this proved an impossible dream. During the next few days I were to make many enemies while attempting to keep not only his friends away, but hoards of well-wishers, a large number of whom only came out of curiosity to see Keita in a wheel chair. The African tradition is always to visit the sick- the idea of privacy or that someone might need rest is not very current.
This coming and going created high tension and meanwhile the hotel was pretty much full. Fortunately Birgit is still here, but she was supposed to hand over the responsibility to me once I came back. She, just as I have so many times, had found Beigna more or less impossible to get on with so in our absence he had been suspended. Once I came back I recalled him, and within a day or so he was at daggers drawn with Birgit again.

Birgit, meanwhile, had told me that she thought she was missing some money. She had been carrying a considerable amount of money in her bag including her own and the hotel’s. Often in the mad rush of things the bag had been left for a moment or so. She told me she was missing around 500E of her own money. I finally managed to sit down and do some accounts, and found out that the hotel accounts were missing in the region of 900E! An emergency meeting was called with the High Command , which now includes not only Keita and me but also Ace, who should have featured much more in this blog, since he has held an important position for a long time here- he is my right hand man at the hotel, the driver of our car and the overseer of the continual work on the upkeep of the hotel etc. He also loves Keita and is fiercely loyal to the hotel and to both me and Keita.
It was decided that it was appropriate to call in a Marabout for a bit of magic and maraboutage. I was not adverse to the idea, since last time it had worked marvels. I had lost my amber necklace. That time we didn’t actually get as far as calling in a Marabout, Keita just called a meeting to say that IF the necklace didn’t turn up within 24 hours he would call in a Marabout. Ali the chambermaid turned an interesting shade of grey and three hours later it mysteriously turned up in my room again, poking out under a cushion!
This time however, it was felt that more draconian measures were needed, and Ace said he would call in the Marabout Haidera, my riding companion and last horseman of Djenne, before whom the whole of Djenne trembles. (see blogsearch above for entries- often misspelt as Hadjira)
Haidera went to collect some earth in a special field some distance away from Djenne. A meeting was called at the hotel at ten this morning at which all staff including me and Birgit was present. Haidera’s earth was presented wrapped up in a handkerchief, opened up and put in the middle of a table, then each and everyone in turn had to put their hand on the earth and say the following: I swear by God that I never took the money and if I am lying then God will strike me down and show my shame before all men before the month is out’ Then the dirt was scattered around the hotel in a certain prescribed manner.
After this exotic morning interlude the hotel business continued as normal, or as normal as is possible these days.
For the above is but a fraction of goings on here at the moment, and a pretty unimportant fraction in the scheme of things…


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