Recuperating in Mopti
Alaskan Klezmer, Nancy Metashvili, continues her travels in Africa, heading south into Mali:
Sastipen, mes amis;
Am back in Mopti regaining my stomach after a visit to the pays Dogon. Animist villages, clinging to the steep escarpment rocks, tiny thatched grannery huts on little stone Baba Yaga legs, unreachable cave dwellings high up the cliff, Anasazi style, and modern fetish-selling Dogons who have refocused their former witchcraft skills onto the newfound lucrative niche of encouraging tourists and then very competently stripping them of their money. This didn't take long in my case! and then I had to climb back up the cliff, vomiting and fighting heat prostration. Ah, don't we love travel?
Now in the delta town of Mopti, contemplating tomorrow's proposed journey up river to Tombouktou, by pinasse (motorized dugout). Low water no towns or settlements the 3 days (with luck!) between here and there, sleeping in the desert by the river, eating god knows what... even by African standards, where flexability, stoicism and an Insh'Allah mentality are needed
this one seems a bit iffy.
Mali has been really difficult travel—the heat, the hassle, the filth... but much of interest.
I really love the ingenious wheelchairs they make for the many crippled and legless. They are like three wheeled bicycles with a verticle, hand pedaled chain, so their occupant can cycle along with dignity and good cheer, instead of the usual 3rd world dragging along the ground on stumps protected by rags or an old pair of flip flops...
Recycling I'm all in favour of, howsomever, drinking from a filthy container which turns out to be a brake fluid container gave me pause!
There are the posters urging an anti-AIDS lifestyle (SIDA here), which don't seem very effective given the number of homeless begging children- AIDS orphans? I also saw one 'Stop Excision' anti Female Genital Mutilation poster.
Children? hoards and swarms and seething conglomerations of them. Overpopulation grabbing you constantly with dirty little hands, chanting 'Bonjour, ça va donnez moi cadeaux donnez cent franc CENT FRANC ( give me a gift, give me 100 francs) cadeaux cadeux caduex.... '
Madame, ça va I just want to be your friend I have a pirogue, just 10,000 F on the river, just look Tuareg bijoux, just look, Madame...
Classic African vignettes
herds of long horned cattle fording a river in in the heat hazed slanting rays of a blazing sun finally descending....
vultures tearing at the body of a dead goat ( and rich tourists in their 4x4 stopped to take photos)
women and girls pounding grain, women and girls pulling water out of the well and carrying it home atop their heads ( in the Dogon country this also means carrying it up the cliff), women and girls carrying babies, selling food in markets, gutting fish, carefully portioning things out into little plastic bags ( peanuts, water, soft drinks, little cakes etc) things that used to be sold in cones of goat disposable newspaper are now in plastic which is then thrown out and mounts up into ankle/knee deep drifts and covers the earth like a hideous plague of 'progress'
men work as tailors, woodworkers, mechanics, salesmen, hustlers or just hang out til they spot $$$ coming down the street. 'Madame!!!! ça va where you go I show you....' or the ever so sly ' You remember me!!!!'
But where else would you see a sandlot football game with some boys in shoes, some barefoot and one couple of grubby little guys sharing a pair—one got the left shoe, the other the right... and everyone reveres (David) Beckham.
the markets with piles of golden mangoes
Carts creaking home at night under a clear somewhat cooler starry sky
A country whose vernacular architecture is surreally beautiful mud—from tiny thatched roof square houses, sinuous walls, compounds and villages designed to create shade for man and beast, to the stupendous Grand Mosque at Djenne, with its towering smoothly mudded walls and protruding rafters; well deserving its World Heritage status.
And the little old Dogon man squished next to me in the taxi brousse, who spotted Paddington (Niko's teddy bear) and was agog! Fingering Paddy's ears, buttoning and unbuttoning his jacket and putting the hood off and on, flapping about his little legs his deep set old tortoise eyes twinkled with an ' o my god now I've seen everything' glee, and maybe a mystical belief that the little bear was perhaps a kind of white man's fetish, magic talisman, a link between this world and another
And maybe he's right?
Ciao, Ferenji Naan