Friday, March 06, 2009

I have never had much faith in the Mali postal system and don't pay much attention to B.P. 40, our post box, since I never expect there to be anything. But lo and behold, there was quite a harvest the other day, including a key for the Bobo room,kindly sent from Bamako from a hotel guest who had put it in his pocket. But best of all this parcel sent just before Christmas from Kathy and her family in London with lots of seeds and other goodies.
Just before Christmas- how different everything was then...
I have been doing some book keeping, looking through accounts for the season which is now coming towards its end. It is a melancholy task- or it is I who make it so: everything has now become BI or AI: Before Illness and After Illness. When I look at the week of the 15th to 21st of December, just the mundane entries of what was bought and what was invoiced, I can hardly concentrate on the work before me because I think that it was during these days that Keita started to falter- he had to suddenly hold on to things to steady himself. After this moment it all went so fast..
But even when I look at the entries of the beginning of January when we were back here for a while I think how different things looked then. Keita could walk- slowly but he could walk if he held my hand. And we were sitting here for two weeks waiting for test results while all the time the cancer was eating into his spinal chord and day by day destroying the fine remaining nerves.
And now he is in the Djenne hospital surrounded by hundreds of well-wishers, not one of whom have the faintest idea what this desease really is, and all of whom thinks that he will be up and walking soon. Noone, including the doctors here it appears, seems to understand what a severe spinal chord injury means or indeed what multiple myeloma means.
I see Keita for half an hour in the morning at the hospital with about ten people in the room including his wife glaring at me. Keita lies there, kind and gentle as ever, telling everyone he is getting better: 'A Ka f'sa',his poor legs suppurating with the terrible burn from the witch doctor medicine that his well meaning misguided friends are applying on him.
He has a terrible thirst always he tells me. I just looked up on the internet that this very probably means that he has one of the common symptoms of myeloma-overproduction of calcium. This can be very dangerous and cause kidney failure. There seems to be noone here at the hospital among the medical staff to reach any such conclusions.
There is instead plenty of movement on the 'traditional healing' front, and people say things along the lines of: 'I had an uncle with Keita's problem. He went to see this old man in Diabolo who applied something at midnight on the night of the new moon and my uncle could walk within a week.' And more and more of these cures are brought to Keita's bedside. He, of course, is too kind to refuse.

I am completely isolated without a soul to talk to. Keita, who always was my only friend, is now public property. There is not one person here who would understand that Keita needs peace and he needs to start exercising the remaining healthy parts of his body- or even if they would understand, they would shrug their shoulders in that terrible African way which says 'what can we do about it? That is the way things are here'.
His friends are all around him. They carry him as if he were a suitcase. When Keita was with me he was able to move from the bed to the wheelchair by using his arms. Nothing has really changed since then, his paralysis has not progressed to his upper limbs. But now he doesn't even get a chance to move. He is no longer there somehow, and in this traditional African way of behaviour he seemingly has no longer any say in anything. He has become a parcel, a Thing, a focus point around which turns a Catherine Wheel of misguided good intentions, petty jealousies and ignorance.


Blogger Nathalie said...

J'avais passé le 1er décembre dernier une nuit dans votre hôtel, et une journée de visite de Djenné, tellement peu pour vraiment découvrir cette ville. Avec les autres personnes de mon groupe vous nous aviez montré vos vêtements et accessoires en Bogolan de votre petite boutique. J'aimerais tellement vous souhaiter de belles choses pour l'avenir.
Voici l'adresse de mon blog si vous voulez le découvrir, il regroupe mes carnets de voyage en aquarelle, et il y a celui réalisé pendant mon séjour au Mali :
Bon courage à vous.

9:28 PM  

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