Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Despite last week’s rallying of the troops, and despite of David’s kind and inspired efforts on his blog (www.davidnice.blogspot.com thank you dearest!) of course things are looking bleak, and of course more than half of the reservations have been cancelled. There are some consolations, mainly in the shape of my dear friend Birgit’s arrival, in combination with Christmas plans forming.
We WILL HAVE A GREAT CHRISTMAS, damn it all! My friend Ann will come with her children from Bamako. I have invited all the Djenné Christians from Pastor Felix’s inter denominational congregation –about 35 counting the children. I am working on a Christmas crib with the inspired recycled metal worker Vieux who makes cute angels etc from aerosol cans etc. See above his Christmas tree which already twinkles with little solar lights at night. Boubakar my old gardener will be Father Christmas, distributing goodies to everyone; we will sing Christmas songs , perhaps eat some Christmas ham if I can find a pig- not easy in Djenné!; watch Walt Disney videos and dance to the Bobo balafon players. Pictures to follow at the appropriate time.

We have had some hotel guests inspite of it all. Some very fun and interesting, such as the hugely glamorous Belgian former Ambassadress to Pakistan, Burma, Argentina Morocco and lots of other exciting places. She recently retired to Buenos Aires She uttered the quote of the week: 'You have absolutely no idea how difficult it is to travel with a Parrot'. She bought lots in the shop and saved Dembele's payroll for a couple of weeks.

In the mean time I am having run-ins with arrogant guides. Guides arrive here together with a driver and sometimes only one or two hotel guests. For some reason they believe that they are entitled to a free air conditioned room! I really don’t know where this idea comes from: when Keita and I went to Ghana through Burkina Faso with a car and our friend and driver Patrice, there was absolutely no question of his being given a free room anywhere! I used to ask if there was any accommodation for drivers, and the receptionist always looked blankly at me. ‘Yes, you can take a room for him’ was the only alternative, and that is what we invariably did. And there was never any question of the driver getting a free meal. Here guides are given a three course meal for free, at the table of the hotel guest even if it is only one paying person! The driver also gets something to eat for free. I have never ever had a guide say thank you. All I seem to get is a wall of hatred from certain guides that come here. They are very cross that I don’t give them a room! Then they are fed-up because they are not allowed just to hang around the bar and take up all the lounge area seating so that the hotel guests have to go and find some place on the edges of the seating area with out fan! When I ask them to move to make place for the hotel guests I am accused of racism. I tell the guides that I have myself moved out of my seat, and that we are all here to serve the tourists, and that includes both them and me! This makes no impression, and the response is that they (the guides) are the clients since they are the ones paying the bill! They should therefore be treated in the same way as the hotel guests! That is not all. This sort of guide is likely to phone up and complain to the Tour Operator‘s head quarter if they find me talking to the hotel guests! They want complete control of the poor tourists who are often too weak-willed and shy and worried about accusations of racism if they oppose in any way the wishes of their guides.
This is my home and of course there is no way I am going to stop talking to my guests. In fact, I believe, if it is not too immodest, that the fact that I talk to my guests is one of the reasons my hotel has become successful!
But believe me, these guides hate me with extreme venom. It is not only they: the Djenné guides continue to hate me because they still cannot hang around here asking people if they want a guided tour around Djenné etc. This is taking its toll and I sometimes wonder what I am doing here….


Blogger David said...

The attitude of the guides (and I would often use inverted commas) is a chief drawback - one of the great pleasures of independent travel is to be able to walk round a town or city with only intermittent, usually humourable, hassle. It certainly used to be the case in Mali, that you either took as safeguard your guide, who didn't have much to tell you about what you were seeing, or put yourself at the constant mercy of others.

It's a tricky one, isn't it: this is one of the few ways Malians can get the income they need from tourists, but they would probably do a lot better if their attitude, as you say, were less aggressive. I don't usually find it so in places like Morocco or Egypt where people complain the most of hassle.

But courage, chin up, enjoy what sounds like a delightful Xmas!

4:29 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

I only wish that you and Jeremiah could be here!

4:35 PM  
Blogger David said...

I wish so too - it was quite a tough trip for several reasons but looking back on it I do see the impact it left. If we could but be there in a trice, without having to negotiate Bamako and the long journey, we would! But I'm happy in the knowledge that your Dutch rock to lean on, if I may so describe her, will be there for you.

4:40 PM  
Blogger Gilliane said...

Dearest Sophie,
Since it is the season of goodwill to all men.
Maybe Santa Sophie should give little Christmas presents to the obnoxious guides I KNOW YOU BE SCREAMING AT THE COMPUTER. But a small gesture may be the beginning of a change in attitude.
"Christmas is coming
The goose is getting fat
Please spare a penny for the poor man's hat
if you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do
If you haven't got a ha'penny
Have a BRILLIANT CHRISTMAS, dearest Sophie

9:38 PM  
Blogger Gilliane said...

Dearest Sophie,
As it is the season of goodwill to ALL men, maybe Santa Sophie should give a little present to these obnoxious guides. I KNOW YOU'LL BE SCREAMING IN RAGE AT THE COMPUTER BECAUSE OF MY NAIVETY :)
But who knows, an unexpected gesture of kindness on your part may change their attitude :)
YOU ARE BRILLIANT and what you are doing for the local community is WONDERFUL !
"Christmas is coming
The goose is getting fat
Please spare a penny for the poor man's hat
If you haven't got a penny,
a ha-penny will DO
If you haven't got a ha-penny

9:48 PM  
Blogger Gilliane said...

I don't know why it published it TWICE !
Have a lovely time :) Gilliane xxx

9:50 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Ah Gilliane, you are of course right.
But can I muster up this Christmas Spirit in me? I will do what I can...

6:25 PM  
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11:06 AM  

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