Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Moder Svea

The two last months in Bamako have been high drama with elements of a life and death nature: only a month or so ago we thought that Keita was slipping away, and then, not to be robbed of the limelight I added my own on-going health crisis. And throughout all this the Swedish Embassy Residence with Eva as its lovely chatelaine has been our privileged setting- a great consolation in the midst of our tribulations.
Eva has, without being conscious of it, reintroduced me to my Swedishness. I left Sweden when I was seventeen years old and have never lived there since. I call her ‘Moder Svea’ which is something that only Swedes will understand: for Brits it might be Boadicea and for the French Marianne? The ‘Mother of the Nation.’ I am sure the many Swedish UN soldiers that pass through here and partake of her lavish receptions for Lucia; Valborgsmassoafton and other Swedish events would agree with me happily with this choice of nickname for Eva who is warm; friendly; generous  as well as a passionate believer in Democracy, particularly the Swedish type.
We watched Swedish films, including a biopic of Olof Palme -our great albeit flawed national hero- as well as a whole plethora of excellent and very violent thrillers set in glorious Swedish landscapes, such as the two films ‘Jagarna’ (the Hunters). When Keita was with us we sometimes watched films about Algeria where Eva was ambassador in her previous posting.  Then Sotis, Eva’s majestic black cat would sit purring on Keita’s lap.
Eva is a great cook, a gourmet and a gourmand.  She has seen to it that I am reintroduced to all the great classics of Swedish cuisine: Biff à la Lindstrom for instance was one great dish that I had forgotten all about. In the picture above she is showing something Algerian though: Orange au Sultan.
We have drunk wine in lovely glasses with three crowns etched  in the crystal while we have listened to Swedish folk music in jazz interpretation; we have talked about just about everything: often about our childhood memories of Sweden in the sixties and early seventies. 
.We have floated around in her beautiful swimming pool at the weekends where we have talked, planned interesting parties and laughed a lot. There seemed to be an inexhaustible fountain of  stimulating, fascinating, important and even just ordinary fun things to talk about.
There was only one sensitive subject matter: Eva is of course, as she should be, wholeheartedly behind the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA)-with over 200 Swedish UN soldiers in the Camp Nobel just outside Timbuktu. The Malian people however are to some extent skeptical of the UN’s presence and there reigns a sullen mistrust of intentions: to the extent that there have been anti MINUSMA demonstrations in Bamako. ‘What are they actually DOING?’ asks the ordinary Malian. I have been in Mali long enough to be almost an ordinary Malian... The one and only argument we had during the whole two months related to this subject and to recent Malian history, a painful area for me. 
 I have now finally left Bamako and both Keita and will treasure that two months interlude at Eva’s, even though both of us, by some strange twist of fate, have been through serious illness during this time- it is a very good place to be sick...

So here I find myself in London, still unwell but armed with some optimism and faith in the National Health Service’s ability to sort me out. It seems that my hopes are not unfounded. I listened to the advice of several friends who suggested that I go to the walk-in clinic at The Hospital of Tropical Diseases in order to rule out any possibility of some sort of parasite still lingering. They have taken me on wholeheartedly. The young doctor ( “Hello! I am Emma”) looks about eighteen but is certainly keen and energetic:  all tests possible have been taken and a CT scan is booked for tomorrow.  Emma called me the day after my consultation and told me that they had found a parasite: entamoeba, (which means that I have amoebic dysentery) so I am now yet again being treated with more or less the same sort of antibiotics that I was  treated  with when I was told I had guiardia.  Oh well, I do think I am in good hands and that they will get to the bottom of it, if anyone will. And all of this is for free! God Bless the National Health Service. I get very upset with people who complain about it...
Meanwhile Keita is still doing well,  going to Bamako again in a day or so for his third cycle of Velcade treatments. The hotel has actually got some guests and  all to do with activities at the manuscript library: an American conservation expert has flown out for four days of intensive training of the staff as part of the new project- I am trying to let all this happen without worrying.


Blogger David said...

Told you! When the National Health Service works, as in my opinion it certainly did from my similar experience with the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, it's incomparable. And all the people I've met who have come to live in Britain for a long or a short time reeled in admiration when they arrived - even if that admiration has in many cases been tempered since.

We expect a recreation of one of your Bamako godmother's delicious-sounding dishes on Sunday. Good luck with the scan.

2:05 PM  
Blogger Laurent said...

So nice to hear your news and of your excellent Ambassador. All my best wishes.

3:19 AM  
Blogger Pascal et Monique said...

On espère que tu seras bientôt sur pieds et que tu retrouveras vite ton élan auquel nous sommes tous habitués. Il nous manque! Bon courage.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Kim Hart said...

I hope you are enjoying your time in London Sophie, and also recovering your health!
I half hoped we might bump into you on Sunday at the African Film Festival event at the British Library, that was before I realised it was sold out aeons ago.
They showed the film They Will Have to Kill us First about the musicians from Timbutou and Gao and what happened to some of them during the 2012/recent/current 'troubles' (hardly know the right words to use)
Afterwards the fabulous Songhoy Blues, who we first saw by chance very, very late one night at WOMAD in 2012, did a lovely session talking about their lives and songs and singing some as well. I realised it was sold out ages ago so unlikely you would be there. Interesting the head archivist (I think it was) talked at the beginning of the BL help for the manuscripts in Timbuktou... Are you going to any of the other films and events?
Wishing you well!

6:38 PM  

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