Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Bamako Blues

I am sitting by the Niger river watching the little islands of vegetation which dot the river at Bamako float by. These green island formations are of varying sizes : from the size of a football to that of a largish carpet. They can produce a fun illusion: when I look at them travelling past from the vantage point of my veranda here, I can make a switch in my perception to make believe that it is I who am travelling past  and watching the stationary ‘islands’  from my river steamer.
This pleasant ‘river steamer’ is the Swedish Embassy Residence and it is to here I have taken my refuge. Eva is away on business but kind as ever she has let me stay here anyway, and it is here that Keita will stay too when his life saving medicine finally turns up.

And that marks the end of the pleasant communication. We now have to turn to the rest which is a long list of woe. I have been sick since the 14th of August: in Djenné I was treated  twice for malaria and once for typhoid, the two diseases they understand there. Since there was no improvement I decided to leave for Bamako and darling Keita arranged for our friend Boubakar to drive our old Mercedes up to Djenné to pick me up last Friday. Keita joined us in Segou and came down to Bamako to install me at Eva’s and take me to see a doctor. The doctor could not find anything wrong with me apart from a low blood pressure, but I was given a whole list of tests to do at the laboratory. The fact is that I have been plagued by recurring high fever and blinding headaches so there IS something wrong, although as I write this I do feel better and think that whatever it is it may be on its way finally.
I have made my own diagnosis: I think I have been suffering a physical breakdown brought about by a nasty combination of stressful and disappointing events, however much I normally pooh-pooh such ideas. My life in Djenné has had one golden aspect in the last few months: I have managed to find more funding than ever before for the manuscript library and feel immensely proud of what we are achieving there. That is in fact almost the only reason for my remaining in Djenné now: the hotel is certainly not worth it , and MaliMali is not really doing as well as I had hoped. So the library was my life and only raison d’etre in Djenné and I was prepared to see out the next phase.  At the time of my falling ill something happened at the library: the staff went  behind my back and decided something without consulting with me and without warning me that they had changed any plans. It is not the first time this happens: I am a woman and I am in charge of a project involving a lot of men who have never spoken to a woman before except for asking her to bring the food. Nevertheless, I have taken it very badly and see it as a betrayal. I have told them I want a written apology or I will pull the plug on the projects. 

Nevertheless It goes without saying that Keita’s health is over riding all other concerns. This is undoubtedly the largest worrying factor, and the Bamako agents who have been in charge of the delivery of Keita’s drug- without which he will certainly die- had told us it would take around two weeks to arrive from France. The time is now creeping up to a month and still no drug. Keita is complaining of increasing pain from his back which is, as we know, riddled with tumours. Add to this the events in Palmyra and the recent fighting in Kidal  which threathens to undo the fragile Malian peace accord and the witches brew begins to thicken.
Mean while at the hotel our new new employee Al Hadj had fallen ill and spent a couple of days at home. A l Hadj took over when Karim our little Griot decided to leave to devote himself to music full time. His job is therefore to clean the rooms and to look after the animals. I had been ill too for a couple of days but decided I needed to make a little tour to check that everything was OK. I asked Boubakar the old gardener: ‘You are making sure the horse is getting some food of course?’ and then I find out that Petit Bandit has not eaten for nearly three days! Boubakar says: ‘it is the job of Al Hadj to feed the horse, and he is not here’. I think it was this moment that made me withdraw from life into a shell like existence. As a sort of self preservation I have spent about a week thinking about nothing but the plot of Downton Abbey, refusing categorically to approach any subjects that touch my reality, since thinking about anything at all in my real life would immediately trigger the fever and the headaches. I do believe I am on the mend now because I have been able to write about this and I am still feeling OK. The Keita situation is getting impossible: is he going to die just because of the incompetence and bad handling of this shipment? I can’t bear it –feel the head ache coming on again….


Blogger mary said...

You have been under a lot of pressure recently and we very much hope that you are on the mend. Also that Keita's drugs arrive and you both feel fitter and ready to fight another day. Or hopefully many days.
Our very best wishes to you both. Always keep optimistic and imagine the thrill of a drink on your roof terrace as the sun is setting. Magical!

9:08 PM  
Blogger David said...

It is indeed raining woes. Easy for me to say it from a distance, but you HAVE always regained your optimism and I expect you will again. The arrival of the drug, which I just read about, is one cause for hanging on (as indeed is Keita, ca va sans dire).

11:44 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home