Friday, July 26, 2013

Thank God for Night and Day

One of the loveliest things about life is that is starts again every morning. Can you imagine what it would be like if it didn’t have the break of a night in between all that happens? If everything just carried on and we didn’t need to sleep? Suicide rates would sky rocket.
The best thing about the night/day arrangement is that it gives one the opportunity to reinvent oneself every day. There is always a hope that things may improve and that one might be more organized, smarter, more successful, kinder tomorrow...

Yesterday was a Bad Day. As usual I got up with the best of intentions, glad that it was a new day in which to have another go at being kind to my employees and those in the library team. But this plan invariably breaks down. It is harder just now since it has been  full moon which affects me badly, and I am also rather stressed out because I am leaving in less than a week and have a lot to get done. The Library project is in its final days. I went in to check the progress and found that one detail on the excel document describing the manuscripts- the physical measurements-  had been totally ignored by the team. They have less than a week to fill in the whole lot! Two years of measurements!  ‘Oh, but it is not very important, is it?’ ventured Mohammed. ‘You bet it is.’ I snapped with some emphasis.

‘ If you don’t do it, I will have to spend the whole of September at the British Library filling it in, and I have other plans!’

I went back to the hotel and the studio to check on the progress of the MaliMali team and found to my utter horror that Alpha, my new tailor, had drawn in RED BIRO on the front of a white dress decorated with black bogolan lines- a fabric that I only can make and which I had spent at least a day working on, including visit to the river to wash it. It is an order for Bamako, and I have no time or wish to redo the fabric.  And Alpha decides to draw on it in red biro! He made a mistake, he said. I HOWLED at him to get outta  there and that I couldn’t even abide the sight of him. Then I decided I could not even bear staying in the studio so I  wandered back to the hotel, where my fortunes changed again- living in Mali is, in the well-turned phrase of my Dutch friend Birgit ‘the square root of emotional roller coasters’.
I sat down in the bar to calm down and nurse an ice cold beer when the hotel guests turned up. Yes! We had hotel guests yesterday, three jolly Frenchmen who had nothing to do with the elections or the crisis. They were here making a documentary about the French explorer Rene Caille, probably the first white person to arrive in Djenne in the first part of the 19th century,  about 30 years after  Mungo Park’s famous voyage which brought him close, but not quite to Djenne.

One of this threesome was an actor, playing the part of Rene Caille! The explorer had travelled in disguise and pretended to be an Arab. When I found this out I pleaded with him to get dressed up so that I could be pictured with Renee Caille!  And here we are... M. Caille I presume?
But after this uplifting interlude I ventured back to the studio, where I found poor Alpha lying on a mat in the corner, quietly crying... How dreadful am I to cause this gentle man such pain! He might not be a very good tailor, but he doesn’t deserve to be treated with such contempt as I just did. So, unnoticed,  I quietly took the red stained garment and went to try and remove the stain. This turned out to be fairly simple, so I went back and told Alpha that all was not lost. It would all be OK, and tomorrow I would show him how to mark the garments without using biro. And Alhamdilullah, the next day he did come back and all is now well once more! Isn’t it great that night follows day, and that day comes back again all new and shiny and full of possibilities.

Take tomorrow  for instance: the EU Election Observers arrive to Hotel Djenne Djenno- one from Italy and one from Sweden. Election is almost here and this time it is really quite exciting and full of possibilities.  I have given my guesswork below, but there could be enormous surprises!


Blogger Andrew said...

Glad it all turned out well in the end. Red biro, indeed. That's awful. But OK in the end!

3:20 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

hello darling see you soonest! Arriving London Tuesday- you around?XX

7:46 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Incidentally, there's an article in today's Guardian about African textiles:

Headline: Homes: African graphic textiles
From catwalk to cushions, African graphic textiles are having a moment

8:01 PM  
Blogger David said...

Sophie Sarin, my o my, raged at the boys and made them cry. I laughed, though. And I'm relieved the costumed one turned out to be an actor and not an embarrassing tourist thinking he was going vaguely native...See you soon. xx

8:41 AM  
Blogger Marianne said...

I seriously don't know how you do it. I would have killed at least one person by now. Am loving your updates on life there. I am sitting in a coastal village in australa watching whales swim by and marvelling on how I feel connected to a little corner of Africa through your blog.

4:59 AM  

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