Friday, October 17, 2014

Betty's Birthday

Goodness! Even more excitement today: Dollie has given birth and  sometime early this morning Betty was born. It is amazing how clever donkey babies are! They take to living as if they don’t need any apprenticeship at all. Betty has been walking around the land quite steadily with an air of total confidence since she was only a couple of hours old, and she already head butts me in a friendly way just like her big brother Boubakar does.

She doesn’t need to be told where to go for milk of course.

Although sometimes even clever donkey babies get it wrong...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

TABAWOI

 
I was woken by drumming in the first light of dawn. There are often sounds drifting across the water which separates us from the island city of Djenne, but these are normally either the chanting of sacred texts from the Koran schools at certain times of the year, especially at Maoloud, the festival which celebrated the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, or else the flutes from a Fulani wedding which can go on for several days. Both these sounds are a part of my soundtrack for what I consider the essence of Djenne . There is not normally any drumming though, so I shook Keita awake to ask him what was happening. ‘Oh, it is Tabawoi today’ said Keita and  turned over and went back to sleep.
A little later we went up on my roof to picture the first canoes  leaving  town. This year the Tabawoi (so called in Djenne only), the traditional festival at the end of the rainy season which is celebrated all over Mali, had a different flavour. The festival is normally a competition in two parts between the youths of the different neighbourhood of the town: first thing in the morning they all leave by canoe from all the different ‘ports’ of Djenne to go to the bush and hunt for wild life. In the afternoon they return with the day’s hunting trophys.  Other years I have seen snakes and iguanas, bush rats and the occasional small deer  displayed proudly on poles from the canoes  on their return from their hunting trip. The successful hunters will  parade their bounty in front of the dignitaries and all of Djenne’s population who congregate in the afternoon on the Djenne side of the river for the second part of the day’s competition: the canoe (pirogue) races.
 This year there has been a televised message from the government: No hunting is allowed. There were to be no killing of wild animals in the bush because of the risk of ebola from bush meat. And indeed the message was adhered to: I saw no one displaying anything on the pirogues  at least, and everyone I spoke to said that people had stopped eating bush meat anyway for this very reason.
 


This evening I decided to sit on the roof of my house instead of the sunset terrace- it gave me a privileged front row view of the last races  which continued  as long as there was light, making Tabawoi a spectacle from sunrise to sunset.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Rainy season sunset for the people of Ukraine

Yes. I was amazed, once more, when looking at the statistics of who reads this journal of mine, to find that Ukraine tops the list, with 70 people today who have looked in!
I am very intrigued and very flattered that you are interested in what goes on in tiny Djenne, so far away... Perhaps you are escaping from your troubles and now I have reminded you again! Sorry! But I would love to know something about you: are you pro-Russian or Ukrainian patriots or both? Please send me a message in the comment section- and you don't have to talk politics at all by the way- I don't care whether you are Patriots or Pro-Russian, really... I just want to hear from you. And thank you so much for taking the time to read about us...

Friday, October 10, 2014

Ebola psychosis deepening


I suppose we had better talk Ebola again, to get it over and done with. The entire world seems to be obsessed by this disease, and on every news site  I look no one seems to want to talk about anything else.
Now, don’t get me wrong: this is of course a very serious disease. It was billed to kill aroung 90% of its victims to start with but the latest figures show that it kills not quite  50% of its victims:
8,399 cases and 4,033 deaths since the epidemic started in the beginning of this year WHO announced last Wednesday. Yes, it is certainly a gruesome epidemic, and the international aid that is arriving is definitely needed and much appreciated in the worst hit areas.

BUT, nevertheless the disease needs to be put into perspective. My dear friend Ann has three children who are still going to school in Conakry, Guinea. She had no hesitation in going back to the capital of this ebola ridden country after her holiday in Belgium, and she is the best mother I know.  Virtually none of her toubab friends and acquaintances in Conakry have any problems about remaining in Guinea  either. The  fact is: if you don’t eat bush meat or get into physical contact with people who are sick, you are not going to get it.
The people in Conakry simply make sure they don’t touch anyone they don’t know. They wash their hands and they supervise their children at all times. There are hundreds of Medecins sans Frontiers and other health workers who have worked since the beginning of the epidemic who have not caught the virus. The very few that have caught it, and the unfortunate case of the nurse who contracted it in Spain (‘The First Case In Europe!’ gloat the gruesome headlines greedily, as if there were going to be hundreds and thousands following in her wake!) have simply not followed the rigorous rules of conduct demanded in the treatment of an Ebola patient.

The media circus about Ebola is way out of line. I know that I have a vested interest in playing it down, because I run a hotel in Mali and we have had several cancellations because of Ebola. We were hoping to slowly re-emerge after three years of deep crisis which included  the Jihadist occupation of the north and war in this country- (none of which ever touched Djenne in the slightest, by the way) and now we are the victims of Ebola without even having had ONE case in Mali. But if I thought this disease was really a seroius threat  here, I would have left, just as I am sure Ann would have done, for the safety of her children.
Rest assured dear Europeans, Americans and Australians etc. You are not at risk here. Please do not believe all the junk that the media is throwing at you. Tonight a ridiculous headline took pride of place and opened the evening news on France 24, my purveyor of international news. ‘Woman found NOT to have ebola’. A woman had arrived from Liberia and had fallen ill in Paris. Therefore she was put in quarantine, but found to suffer from a common cold I believe.

My old sparring partner Joe Penney from Reuters (see blog September 9, 2012  and in particular comments ...) is reporting on the difficulty of surveying the southern borders of Mali and Guinea in the artisanal gold mining areas, where people just cross the border avoiding the official border posts.  (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/04/us-health-ebola-mali-idUSKCN0HT0D320141004 .) This is true and I don’t accuse him of sensationalism exactly.
But the border has been porous since the beginning of the epidemic in March. Why have there been no cases yet? And even if there was a case or a few of ebola in Mali, what is to say it will develop into an epidemic here? It did not in Nigeria, who only presented a few cases and then nothing for the last month or so, or Senegal where  case or two was declared  a couple of weeks ago, and then nothing else. The fact is, Malians in the border areas are very  alert to the danger of Ebola. The Malian health personnel I have spoken to here are quite optimistic as to the success of the Malian media’s  effort to highlight the danger: Malians are informed how to avoid contagion by hygiene measures; how to spot a suspect case and how to recognize the first symptoms, and if they do, to alert the authorities. I believe this is actually working.

Interestingly, when I went to mass at Bamako cathedral several weeks ago the priest told the congregation in the packed cathedral not to shake hand as is customary when wishing each other ‘Peace’ after the Lords prayer. These sorts of saftety measures and many others are put in place and adhered to in many contexts in Mali and elsewhere in West Africa, and this will help to ensure that the epidemic, however devastating, will begin to abate without the apocalyptic scenario envisaged by the international scaremongers of the press and media.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Djeneba at Real Madrid

The most fun  news I have had for days came when my MaliMali assistant Djeneba called me today from Spain. She was invited by Jose Manuel Herraiz, the film maker who made a charming little documentary about her when she was seventeen year old, and who came here in April to make a sequel to this first prizewinning documentary. (look up 'Djeneba' in blogsearch above) He filmed everything that was happening and one shot was of  Djeneba and me in the MaliMali studio cutting out fabric and talking football. She is a real aficionado, and can talk knowledgeably about football for hours. Malians are all football mad, and they follow in particular Spanish football and are firmly divided into Barcelona fans and Real Madrid fans.
The  culmination of this documentary sequel was to be Djeneba’s visit to Spain. I knew Jose Manuel  was trying to get her to meet the players from Real Madrid, her favourite team. And here they are! Above Djeneba with Ronaldo and below with Benzema,no less.
She arrived at the  club cool as a cucumber apparently. She takes everything in her stride, and although she has never been abroad before, the idea of meeting her heroes did not faze her in the slightest. I think she was very happy about it of course, but she accepted it calmly as if it was some sort of birth right that she should meet Ronaldo and Benzema if she happened to be passing through Madrid... When she arrived to meet the team she did not see Ronaldo with the other players. She was told he was at home resting because of an injury.  ‘But I have brought him a present!’ she said disappointedly. And she must have charmed the whole team to such an extent that they called Ronaldo who came over especially to meet her after all! I must remember to ask her what the present was that she brought him...He signed one of his T-shirts and gave to her. And then she started talking football with them and no doubt gave them several tips about how to improve their playing strategy!



Sunday, October 05, 2014

Tabaski

 
It is 6pm on the day of Tabaski. I am sitting alone on my sunset terrace watching an unremarkable sunset. The above sheep, on the roof and in the luggage hold of the bus I saw in Bandiagara last week will all be dead by now, slaughtered by the paterfamilias of Bamako, which was the destination of their last journey.

I went to Bandiagara with my dear Austrian friend Elisabeth (above with her car mechanic in Bandiagara) who lived there a couple of years ago with her husband Hinnerk. She was on a two week return to Mali and visited  Djenne, staying at the hotel for a few days which cheered me up hugely, especially since she let me practise my German on her without complaining. My head is whizzing with German, which is my favourite language in the world- because of its great poetry, of which I am no expert at all, I hasten to add.  My taste for German poetry is quite narrow and old fashioned and limited to Goethe and Schiller. Elisabeth and I  did not read poetry together, but deep down old memories were stirred and ever since she left I have odd bits of German poety floating through my head which I cannot at first place, but eventually I google the phrases that pop up, and I find they almost invariably come from Goethe. Sometimes these fragments are quite obscure, like the one that haunted me all day yesterday: ‘wir werden uns wiedersehen, aber nicht beim Tanze’ (we will meet again, but not by the dance). That one was too obscure for Google but I was determined to find it, and today, as always on Tabaski, I sat alone in the hotel bar guarding the place since the staff was all at home celebrating. This year I read through Faust again. And there it was of course, in the heartbreaking last scene with Gretchen in the prison.

It struck me that to read Faust in Djenne is quite appropriate: it is the ancient city of the marabouts and of magic. ‘Drum habe ich mich der Magie ergeben......das ich erkenne wie die Welt im Innersten zusammenhalt’ (Therefore I have given myself over to Magic....so that I will discover how the world is held together in its innermost) says Faust.  He has exhausted all usual means of research and his thirst for knowledge is not quenched, on the contrary, the more he knows the more he is aware of how little he knows. The  marabouts of Djenne, what is their reason for using magic and for trying to cunjure the spirits? Often, if I believe the manuscripts in the library, the magic performed by the marabouts of Djenne tries to satisfy more common pursuits: ‘how to be loved’ how to become rich’ etc are the reasons to engage in magic in Djenne. I will ask Yelpha if the thirst for knowledge is ever a request...Mind you, once Faust entered into the pact with Mephistopheles, his objectives were no longer so lofty, and all he wanted was Gretchen, his driving force  became a case of ordinary lust, after all!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Lost Blog Entries

I am very upset! I feel as if I have been burgled!
 There are whole sections of my blog that are disappearing! For instance, in July I have lost several entries including the entry  about the Bad Grandmothers of the Island of Mayotte, (which was a personal favourite) I have also lost all the entries about the Prince Claus Foundation and the tree planting, and most of the entries about my bogolan adventures in Diabolo in August! They have simply disappeared from the blog unless one taps in a special search word in the blogsearch, then these entries appear again.
And of course, it is impossible to write to the blog people. I can only vent my ire in a forum! I know it is only a blog, but I feel quite possessive about this- it is mine and it is my creation, just to be a little pretentious about it...but there is nothing to say that it will not be just wiped off tomorrow, just like that!