Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Enough seriousness! Let’s see what fun news there might be to announce to cheer up the last message of this year of tribulation... Hmmmm, oh yes! I have not yet even told you that my Dutch friend Birgit is here for a few weeks again (see blog towards end December 2008).

Another newsworthy item is that Max lost his virginity the other day. A farmer from a neighbouring village arrived with a little mare and asked permission to have Max mount her, a request we readily agreed to of course.
Veteran readers of this blog may recall that he already showed encourageing signs of potential in this field when he first arrived:(see blog of 9 July 2007). And indeed he did not disappoint, but lived up to his promise.
He threw himself into this new task as if he was born to love, spending quite some time on foreplay, gently nuzzling her behind with his nose and giving her plenty of time before he finally did the deed, which in itself was over quite quiclkly. But then they grazed happily for half an hour or so side by side before doing it once more; and finally even a third time. It all took about two hours. We have asked the farmer to bring the foal if all went as planned.

And finally, the cactus in the garden has started to bloom!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hotel Djenné Djenno wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Life goes on, (or rather it limps on. The last blog post with its cryptic message of doom is still valid and the outcome of the present crisis is not clear. It all has to do with the difficulties created by polygamy, a tradition which I think is extremely cruel. Mai, Keita's first wife, is seemingly unable to accept what her mother and her grandmother have accepted, and what I too have had to accept, i.e that she has to share Keita with me, his second wife. Although it all seemed to be resolved in September, new difficulties has surfaced yet again, and she is doing everything she can to try and separate us, with some success, although Keita's visit here for a few days, ending yesterday, has brought us together once more.

But let's touch lightly on this heaviness and instead concentrate on the Glad Tidings!
This evening I put op the garlands of fairy lights around the bar whilst listening to Handel's Messiah. By coincidence it happened to be prayer time at the Mosque, and as usual the Muezzin's piercing call carried across the dusty plain to Djenne Djenno. Now a sort of duel ensued, with a contingent of Spanish tourist egging me on to turn up volume of the Messiah:

'The people that walked in darkness hath seen a great light'

'Allahu Akbar!'

'And they that dwell in the land of the Shadow of Death upon them hath the light shined'

'Allahu Akbar'!!

'Unto us a son is born, unto us a child is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called wonderful councillor, Almighty God; the everlasting Father the Prince of Peace!

'Allahu Akbar!'

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bambara is a very poetic language. The word for fruit, for instance, is JIRIDENW, which means 'children of the trees'. N'dusu ka sira, means 'I am sad'. But in literal translation: 'my heart is crying'.

The Aga Khan Foundation’s scaffolding to restore the collapsed South tower of the Great Mosque takes the shape of a medieval battling ram. The last unseasonal rain in the beginning of November seeped in to the very fibre of the tower, and silently destroyed it. In a parallel just as destructive there are deadly silent powers working their way into the core of my life here in Mali.
Despite wanting to keep this blog a light hearted causerie on my life as an an ex-pat hotelier in a remote Heart of Africa destination, I am finding myself compelled to plunge, once more, into melodrama of a personal kind. I do not yet know the outcome of the present crisis, and I will refrain from going into it just now. It will be resolved by next week in one way or another. Let us just say that it is very serious and existential even. Let us also say that an African family is a 100 tonne bulldozer,or, why not? a battling ram, demolishing everything in its wake. There is no place for personal likes or dislikes. One simply does what the family consensus decrees. A European tip toeing gingerly into this environment will be squashed and annihilated. A European, with our namby pamby post enlightenment ideas of justice and egality will certainly always come out the wrong side of any argument, however much we try and conform and understand.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The water has now receded and once more the view from the sunset bar is one of football players rather than fishermen in their pirogues. This peaceful scene belies the increasing rumours of unrest and Al-Quaida activity coming from the north. A Frenchman has been kidnapped and the French Government has issued a red alert on the areas north of Douanza, and are recalling all French citizens from Timbuktu.
At the same time the hotel has been more or less fully booked for some time now, and we have just had our best month ever. The email bookings are coming in avalanches, and fortunately most people seem to understand that the troubles do not affect Djenné or the Dogon country at all. Many European governments have issued warnings about Mali travel however. But Mali is very big, and unfortunate events in remote desert border areas should not deter people from visiting the normal tourist areas of the country.

Keita accompanied me back to Djenné after Tabaski, just for the day’s journey in our new car. He has not been back since the terrible events of early last March when he left with Mai in the Djenné ambulance bound for Bamako. The idea of returning to Djenné , where he is a hugely popular figure, while he was still in a wheel chair was too difficult. But now he is well enough to have attempted to put his toe in the water so to speak, and his brief visit was perhaps symbolically important, a sort of van-guard action in preparation for his eventual return to Djenné.
And finally, to continue my recent self-congratulatory trend, I feel compelled to tell you that Ann-Marie, a recent Dutch visitor, was so enarmoured of Djenné Djenno cuisine that she suggested I write a Djenné Djenno cookbook! (yes, Jeremiah and David, I do think the food has improved since your visit..) And then there was the group of French guests the other day who enthused about the hors d’oeuvres of the day: sweet and sour okra with olives and sweet potato leaves in yogurt, which they said was merveilleuse. I , of course, had to ruin everything by naively gushing that I had found it in an English cookery book on Middle eastern cooking (Claudia Roden). This had the effect of visibly and instantly dampening their enthusiasm. Of course one should never reveal to the French that anything to do with food has anything to do with England! And furthermore, no self respecting restaurateur should reveal that they use recipe books!