Friday, 27 August 2010

Vegetable Orchestra


gotta love creative minds! =)

Thursday, 12 August 2010

More Mali Moments

On the ride back from Timbuktu, I was once again in the boot of the 4 by 4. At least this time, there was the cutest little Tuareg boy, Khalil, on his way to Bamako. He insisted on sharing his cookies with me and when we reached Dounza, we said our good-byes. I got on another bus going to Sevarre. A bit later, I saw little Khalil who took another bus to get there as well en route to Bamako. He gave me a bottle of pineapple soda and insisted I take it. “S’il te plait” he said in the cutest way ever. How could I refuse? I took a sip and tried giving it back. He insisted I take the whole thing and showed me he too had a bottle. Awww. My heart melted. Someone that was riding with us from Timbuktu to Sevarre said to me in French that Khalil has fallen in love with you and I said no, I have fallen in love with him.

Between parts 3 and 4 of the ride back to Djenne from Timbuktu, I was waiting on a bench under a straw roof. I decided to start unbraiding my hair since it was so dirty and I knew de-braiding was no easy feat. A little girl just came up and started helping me, exchanging only a few words. Then she told me she had to wash dishes and she’d be back. She came back with a little “truc” (since everything in Mali seems to be called that) and continued unbraiding. She told me she was from Gao but only here with her dad because of school holiday. After some time, my ride to Djenne was ready to go, so I thanked her and was on my way. In Djenne I was sitting outside and attempting to finish the unbraiding process when six little girls came up and just started helping. It’s this community feel and moments like these that made my trip so enjoyable.

In Bamako, I stayed at the Auberge Sleeping Camel, recommended by the American I met in Djenne. I stayed in the dorm and was waiting for the bathroom. A guy walked out, we greeted each other, and immediately knew we both looked really familiar to each other. I told him he looked really familiar and he told me he recognized my face. I asked if he was from Senegal. It turns out he was my neighbor in Senegal 5 years ago and dated my housemate Claudine. And here we are 5 years later in Bamako at the same hostel. We reminisced about Senegal and our mutual friends. He called my host family in Senegal and I spoke to Marieme, who is now married. (who isn’t married?) He apparently opened up a restaurant in Dakar, but is in Bamako for business. He works in the gold and diamond business. Sounded a little sketchy, but what a chance encounter.

My life is always more spontaneous when I’m abroad. My last day in Mali, which was a Sunday, while wandering through the streets of Bamako, I happened upon 4 French tourists and their Ivoirian friend living in Mali. They were attempting to hail a cab. Finally, they were getting in and Vanessa, who is half Cameroonian, said they were going to a wedding. “Le Dimanche a Bamako, c’est le jour de marriage” (Just like the song!), meaning Sunday in Bamako is the day for weddings. She invited me along. Who’s wedding? Where? When? Questions aside, they were leaving and I joined them. Turned out to be so much fun, with lots of food, music, colorful outfits, excited guests and hosts, and of course dancing. Afterwards, as I was leaving, the Ivoirian took my number and later that night invited me to Soul train, an Ivoirian club with lots of good music. If it wasn’t my last night in Bamako, I probably wouldn’t have gone and if I wasn’t in Bamako, I most definitely wouldn’t have gone, but voila: that was my last day in Mali!


Monday, 9 August 2010

More Moments in Mali

I decided to cook one day so after my “grocery shopping experience” at the Djenne Monday Market, I came back to my residence. This morning, however, was a naming ceremony for a baby girl and a goat was sacrificed. For some reason the head of the goat was left in the kitchen. I let out a little yelp when I saw it, to which the people around laughed, covered its head with a piece of cloth, and assured me it was dead and that it wouldn’t do anything. Somehow I managed to cook my meal in the same room as the goat head.

Sitting across from me, on the way to Timbuktu, was a guy whose pants were now brown and orange. I realized his pants were once white, and I was once excited to go to Timbuktu. But sitting in the boot of a car made for about six or seven people total, instead it held 19—one man rode on top with the luggage, sitting on half a seat, in full body contact with at least two other people, covered in dust and orange sand, sweating constantly, and my body slamming into the window every time we rode over a bump, I was definitely less than thrilled about Timbuktu, never knowing how far we were or if this place even existed. This was now the fourth and supposedly last leg of the trip, the previous three transfers no more enjoyable. How 19 people and a whole lot of luggage managed to make it to Timbuktu, I’m not completely sure..
In the end I did make it there and they stamped my passport. It exists!

Right outside the town of Timbuktu is the vast Sahara desert. And it’s beautiful. During my second night there, I went out to the sand dunes and caught the sun setting in the vast open desert. Afterwards, while coming back into town, I somehow caught myself in the middle of a goat stampede! It was nuts! Out of nowhere, hundreds of goats were running in my direction. I got out of the way as quickly as possible and attempted to catch a picture, but only caught the end bit of the stampede!

During my Senegal trip literally everywhere I went someone asked me if I was Pulaar/Fulaani, especially when my hair was braided and I was nice and dark. The Fulaani people tend to be lighter in skin tone and have smaller frames. The same would happen in Mali. Most of the boys I hung out with were Fulaani. So once again, I was an honorary Fulaani girl. Sorri said I was a member of the long-sleeve family and called me his sister from another mother.
One day we were sitting across the Djenne mosque on a hot, idle afternoon and two very traditional looking Pulaar girls from a nearby village came up and told the boys I looked Pulaar. They were in Djenne that day to sell milk that they carried in baskets on their heads.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Moments in Mali (cont.)

One hot afternoon, I was hanging out with the guys in “the group” in their normal hangout—the straw structure in the main square of Djenne facing the large mud Mosque when Papice saw a girl walking by. Adama yelled out and Papice quickly caught up with her. They stood exchanging some words, while the other guys eagerly looked on. Then he left while she waited and moments later he reappeared with his moto and she got on the back. All the guys hanging out in their straw hangout cheered and clapped. A few minutes later, he came back with a sheepish grin on his face as he told us her feet were hurting and she needed a ride.
…oh sweet romance…

Day 12 in Djenne: Usually when I leave all the kids yell out Toubab and sometimes it’s endearing, but sometimes not so much. But, once as I was leaving, three girls that live near the Residence Tapama yelled out “Rozina”. And then the next day, as I was sitting in the courtyard of Tapama where the little kids come to draw water from the well, a little girl Aminata and a boy were busy drawing water that they didn’t notice me at first. Then Aminata looked up and waved and gave me one of her cute smiles. She and the boy exchanged some words, presumably in Bambara and she said something with Rozina in the sentence. It made me smile.

I descended the staircase of the home of the woman I had just interviewed. I ran into a friend named Mohammed 5. He was with another Malian and 2 toubabs. I shook hands with Mohammed 5 and greeted the others in French. They were on their way to Chez Baba a small restaurant in Djenne. I decided to join them. It turned out that one of the guys was American and the other British. The American is from Batavia, IL (about 10 minutes from where I live in the States). It also turned out that we both ran cross-country in high school, so we were definitely at the same meets, probably at Leroy oaks and we both went to U of I, where we probably took some common classes. And we meet in Djenne, Mali.
Love chance encounters…

I was sitting on a bench next to four little girls sharing couscous, while waiting for my friend. The girls turned to me, starting asking me my name and ca va? Then they came closer and cute little Djenaba touched my hair and amid her Bambara I heard her say “mesh” (in reference to my hair). I replied saying, “C’est pas mesh. C’est le vrai cheveux” … “It’s not mesh. It’s real hair,” to which they all gasped and started touching my hair, never having seen braids as long as mine not made of mesh. Then they each took a section and further braided the braids. The whole event was quite precious.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Moments in Mali

“Celebrate every gorgeous moment” – Sark

I was sitting in the courtyard of the place where I stayed, going through an article for my research. Tanti, the woman who runs the place, had two friends visiting – one was Jenaba, a woman I had interviewed earlier that day. They turned on the TV and exclaimed something about the Ghana match that was about to begin. Adama and I also brought our chairs closer to watch. Jenaba, who started off the interview claiming she knew nothing about the dam in Djenne knew a whole lot about the world cup. Her and Adama discussed what teams were still playing and they discussed the rules and proceedings of the world cup. Then an older man who had just come back from prayers realized the game was on, exclaimed something, brought a chair closer, put on his big glasses and was completely absorbed in the game. He would yell things in French or Fulani like “Penalté”, The best was when Ghana scored, he did a victory dance, his arms in the air circling around his chair as he was cheering. It was awesome. Too bad Ghana lost…

Day 2 in Djenne: I was interviewing Samba, who works at the residence where I am staying. The residence owner has white pigeons in the courtyard and there was a random bird among the pigeons. So, Samba was asked to take the bird outside. So he grabbed it by its wings and rejoined me for the interview. Meanwhile the bird was fluttering and spazzing. I think I was more concerned and scared with what was happening with the bird, than concerned with the interview.

Getting my hair braided was quite the affair. I’m not sure Nana, my “hairdresser”, had ever done toubab hair—aka non African hair. 10 hours, over 2 days, 3 power outages, and a baby peeing on my lap later, I came out with a head full of braids but it looked more like a colorful helmet. They don’t have black hair ties and Nana insisted on starting each braid with a brightly colored hair tie.
We started the process in what would be called the foyer. It was extremely hot, but sometimes the little kids would join us and occasionally fan us with the straw fans. I had some refreshing, but extremely sugary bisap (hibiscus) juice. After it started getting darker, we moved to the courtyard, the main part of the house. The air was still hot and sticky. I realized in the courtyard just how small the house was and just how big the family was. We ate some millet together and then Nana got back to braiding my thick and super long hair.
After the sun was setting, we moved into their one room of a house. Luckily, they had a fan because the sun setting didn’t cool anything down. Throughout all of this, I was talking to Hawa, Fatoumata, and Baba, three adorable kids that lived there – 2 were Nana’s siblings and one was her niece. The power went out a number of times and Nana used the little flashlight I had with me. I wondered how this would affect how my hair was going to look…
The next morning I went back to finish the braid helmet, where I met her older sister and her new born daughter who peed on me while Nana continued pulling at my hair. It was hot, sticky, painful, and at times chaotic.
But there was something about that family that I loved. Their smiles, their family-ness, hospitality, music…

In the late afternoon/early evenings, I usually took my book or my journal and would sit outside. The little boys and girls often gathered around to talk, ask me to take their pictures, or ask for a cadeau (gift). I brought out nail polish one day and that did the trick. The girls were so thrilled, squealing about the nail polish, blowing each other’s fingernails and equally excited each time someone got her nails painted.

I re-met 4 French tourists I met while leaving Bamako. They were on their way to Dogon Country and I to Djenne. They made their way to Djenne 6 days later with Shapé, their Malian guide. The 2 boys went searching for water and drinks to have with dinner. It had been a while since they left and when Shapé came back, he asked where they were. Véronique replied by saying maybe they’ve ended up in Timbuktu. It’s funny because it’s actually sort of a possibility…

8 kilometers from Djenne is the small village Soala, where the dam is set to be constructed. I went there on the back of Adama’s moto. As we approached the village, I was greeted with dozens of giddy children jumping up and down exclaiming “Toubabay! Toubabay!” wanting to shake my hand. The same but to a lesser extent happens in Djenne all the time.