Friday, July 03, 2015

Die Frist ist Um?

Heavy clouds hung over us on the journey back to Djenné, the dark portents of the violent storms of the early rainy season, when it is impossible to see more than a few yards ahead, and when great trees may snap like twigs. And just after passing Segou this is just what happened, so we crawled along in our old Mercedes while the heavens unfurled their pent-up ire on us- 
But there are other, more sinister  storm clouds gathering in the sky over Djenné…
 Although our homecoming was joyful once we had been through the trials of our stormy ride -the staff was all well and seemed happy enough to see us back; the gardens and the animals looked well tended -  I feel a premonition that  stormier rides and far greater trials lie ahead…I fear   what this year may bring. Was my happy holiday in Europe this year a sort of golden moment, a gift to give some respite before what lies ahead?
I sometimes hear snippets of forgotten poetry or lyrics that correspond almost frighteningly with  the situation in which  I find myself : they seem to be dragged involuntarily from my subconscious. Lately I have heard Die Frist ist Um- (The Respite is Over….The Time is up) the words from the Flying Dutchman when he returns with his ghost ship in the seventh year. It is now in the seventh year since Keita fell ill so dramatically- see blogs late December 08 –February 09. 

Keita has  been in partial remission from his incurable disease multiple myeloma (a type of bonemarrow cancer) since our  successful trip to Tunisia where he received  a bone  marrow transplant and also witnessed the beginning of  the Arab Spring. 
He has lived a normal life although he has continued to take the drug Thalidomide*.  But now his blood count of white blood cells or plasma cells  has suddenly shot up to very high levels  which means that the cancer has finally found its way around the thalidomide treatment. We knew it would happen one day of course… His oncologist in Bamako  has put him under a treatment for 45 days after which we are supposed to have a meeting to take stock of the situation. But today he felt so tired and had such vertigo when he went to work in the Djenné hospital that  instead of working he took a blood test- which made it clear that he needed an immediate blood transfusion. He now feels much better, but that is of course temporary only.

Keita’s health is the most disturbing aspect of my homecoming but it is not the only one, alas.  I walk around the garden with Boubakar the gardener mindful of Martin Luther’s dictum: ‘If the world is to end tomorrow I will plant an apple tree today’. We plant new mango trees and a lovely new yellow bougainvillea, we look at the little dill  seedlings, soon ready to be  planted out so that I can offer ‘Capitaine à la Scandinave’ to my hotel guests. But which guests? There are no reservations in the hotel and no one is travelling it appears. Although the peace accord has been signed finally by all the concerned parties, there is anything but peace in Mali: five UN soldiers from Burkina Faso were killed yesterday closed to Timbuktu by Jihadist rebels: the attack has been claimed by AQIM- Al Quaida in the Maghreb. This group made up  part of the Jihadist forces during the twelve month occupation of the north of Mali in  2012. And the threat is creeping closer: even Djenné Carrefour was attacked about a week ago- no casualties, but it is close to home and it puts an end to my theory that the Jihadist attacks only happen on the west side of the Niger…
there is a theory that there has been a slow infiltration by Salafist elements over the whole of Mali, some say because of the presence of certain organizations  based in the Gulf who have been using an insidious technique to gain ground here: they have spread their influence through the ‘gifts’ of cement mosques which are now dotted all over the countryside, slowly replacing the precious, tiny mud mosques that  has adorned all Malian villages in this area. 
So, am I at risk? I should be worried for my safety, but my biggest worry is that there will be no hotel guests and we will therefore be forced to close eventually…

Well those are some my concerns and they are not even all, alas…ALA K’AN KISSI (may God protect us)

*  called Nevrosedyne in Swedish and going under different names in different countries. It is the drug which caused so much suffering for so many in the 1960 's  and 70s by producing severe handicaps in the babies whose mothers had taken the drug to prevent morning sickness. The drug is now used successfully in two diseases: multiple myeloma and leprosy.


Blogger Laurent said...

Do take care and keep your eyes and ears open to what is going on around you.
Best Wishes.

7:07 PM  
Blogger mary said...

Sorry to hear about Keita but I am sure that he will feel re-charged now you are back in Mali and despite the uncertainties I cannot doubt that the charm and delights of Mali will hit you in the days ahead. Sorry that again your visit North did not happen and we will continue to hope for calm and peace throughout Mali, the return of visitors to your delightful hotel and perhaps another visit for us. Did your fashion show experience in London reap any rewards.

7:14 PM  
Blogger Tabor said...

So much for you to watch and wait and I sympathize. I hope it all goes well, but like you, I think that a greater challenge with darker political ramifications lies ahead. This global battle is long and hard and not like other wars and will not be won speedily. Please stay safe and do not give up hope, but do not be unrealistic. I also hope Keita feels better with you at his side.

12:31 PM  
Blogger David said...

News both sad and alarming. An adventurous spirit I met this weekend in Scotland wants to come and stay at the hotel in September but read very alarming reports (and he's not one to be put off easily). I told him you were fine, insh'allah, but the Foreign Office advice, apart from the usual alarmism, did give chapter and verse on why even Bamako wasn't safe.

May Keita and Mali triumph over these insidious diseases.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Gilliane said...

Sophie, my best wishes to you and Keita. I'm sure your presence will give him strength.

11:36 AM  

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