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September 1994
Bamako - 14 Sep 94

Second night in Mali. Today we DID things. Wandered downtown with Hawa and/or Sambaly guiding and guarding us at all times. Hawa's father is the president of the Bank of Africa in Bamako, so we exchanged some traveller's cheques there. Later, Sambaly told me that all Bamako banks draw from a single monopolizing bank, le Banque Central des États de L'Afrique de l'Ouest (BCEAO) with a new multi-billion CFA building near the Maison des Jeunes. In the street I was hassled less than I expected, but more than I could have coped with without Sambaly's watchful eye. Thanks to Hawa's bargaining help I bought a single mosquito net at a fair price in local terms, and an excellent one in dollars (4,500 CFA francs at about 500 CFA per US dollar, 400 per Canadian dollar).

The paradox of poor huts and vendors, and finely coiffed and dressed people in the streets is much more marked than I'd seen in Canada, even in a metropolis such as Vancouver or Toronto. Always plenty of action, movement, sounds, smells of food (corn, cucumbers, roasted chicken, peanuts) and earthy dirt, variety shops-in-a-wooden case all around selling cigarettes, batteries, candies, loose tea, bic pens; everything, but nothing too intriguing (read "distinctly Malian"): mainly yard-sale or dollar store stuff. We went to the Canadian consulate (the actual embassy for Canadians in West Africa is in Abidjan, Ivory Coast), got welcomed, informed, warned and oriented.

I got duped in an embarrassing way, me trying to play the street-wise tourist, and the small "l" liberal cosmopolite, by a young Dogon man. I jumped in playing football [soccer] (cut myself slipping on the sandy pavement), and this guy joins, scores a bunch of goals and then goes into some long speeches about Dogon country (le pays Dogon). Eventually he comes out with it and says he's a guide; with family all over the Dogon region, and wants to give me (privileged one) a "friend's price" (prix d'amis) on a tour. He shows me photos of him (or a twin) in around Bandiagara with tourists white and black and sounds convincing (that he was what he claimed to be) if a bit melodramatic. I leave to clean my cut saying, "I'll be back in a minute" to which he says we'll talk more about him guiding me through his homeland le pays Dogon. On my way to my room to get a bandage I run into a handyman hanger-on at the Maison, a friend of the manager (who is on the committee with Sambaly), who warned my not to trust the guide at all. With this knowledge I avoid returning to the football game, and only venture to the ground floor to fetch some peanuts for the gang congregated on the balcony-walkway in front of our room. I'm evasive and dishonest with the guide at our second meeting (not sure how to discourage him effectively, but not provokingly) [an interesting (though very minor) example of how the female crossroaders felt a lot of the time]. At this his previously friendly tone turns more urgent and demanding. While I'm haggling with the peanut-seller (tigatigi muso) a friend of the guide's approaches and is still less friendly and more demanding, if not menacing. SAMBALY SAVES ME. His conversation was in Bambara, but he gave the gist of it afterwards. He had said that to get to me the guide would have to go through him, and the guide said sure thing, old man, any time. Sambaly ignored him, and I was let out of a tricky situation. It's been strange to be always the one out of our group who gets approached, the one whom the vendors and charlatans think looks the most gullible. Maybe it's because I'm the only man in our group, I'm easier to spot, single out and set sights on.

There is a gullible look,
a talent through which fame is easy.
Soon I am noticed and approached
by many different people
who speak as if they know me,
as if we are forgotten friends
from old glorious days.

Had evening Malian tea with the Crossroads gang. The tea is espresso-tea, Chinese gunpowder tea cooked and served three times over, with more sugar added at each pouring. The first is strong and bitter, the second, less strong and sweeter, the third is almost like syrup. The tea is boiled in little pots over a small charcoal furnace, and poured into a froth in little shot glasses and served. Later, Sambaly, Kristen (from Toronto, Ontario) and I went for a walk accompanied by two "guides", not for guiding so much as protection, two white people, at least one very naive about the big city. We wandered down to the main strip people still selling, mainly food now. Sambaly and I had a good discussion about the politics of waste, Malian, Canadian and worldwide. Waste in bureaucracy, foreign embassies, the new BCEAO bank building.


Quartier Sogoniko, Bamako - 17 Sep 94

We were welcomed and feasted at the house of Bourama Silla, the father of Hawa who is on the Mali Crossroads committee. I could live a lifetime in the rich Mali with no trouble at all. He is president at Bamako's Bank of Africa, the house reflects this and they live accordingly. Fully furnished rooms with leather couches, an open-air pool within the walls of the house. Air conditioning, television, three cars (two of which are Mercedes). Walking into the walled yard off the noisy, dirty street (the main route north, which I will take to go to Mopti) really shows the contrast between even the relatively prosperous melon-vendors on the highway, and the wealthy family that has twenty-five people as their guests for a Malian banquet. I ate rice, tô, gourde, green tomato, gumbo sauce, watermelon, Malian tea, dableni (a very sweet drink, named "sweet da", after the red da flower it's made from), ginberé (a strong spicy-sweet ginger-based drink), both drinks served cold and better than fruit juice and soda pop hands down. I liked it all, especially the drinks, although the rice was very oily. The gumbo was the least favourite among my crossroader peers (fair enough, it is dark green slimy and greasy). Tô will probably be a bit tedious after a while I think, but we can't all be the daughter of a banker in a country where four people can dine for three dollars Canadian. In the evening we walked, took sodas in town, and although thoroughly stuffed I bought some bananas for tomorrow. In the Crossroader's room we talked until late, trying not to dwell on the stifling nighttime heat. Suzanna leaves tomorrow for Kita in the third region out west. She's the first to head out, and we are all thinking about the next stage: our placements.


Quartier Samé, Bamako - 18 Sep 94

Up and readying to go to Samé, the quarter where Sambaly lives with his family. While waiting to go we played frisbee in front of the Maison des Jeunes. Got a good gang going until we left in an open bachée driven by a dancer friend of Sambaly's. There is a joke in the local committee and among some of the Canadian project people who know him, that Sambaly knows everyone in Bamako: there are only two million people. It was a rough, friendly, exhilarating ride. More people waved along the way at the truckload of white people. We we're welcomed at Sambaly's house, the younger children called out to us in passing. He also showed us the site of the house he plans to make in another part of the quarter. We then talked and ate all afternoon. Tigadegena (peanut sauce on rice), fish, meat, sodas, tea, dableni: all day munching in a sheltered wood. Sambaly introduced us around the neighbourhood, and then his first wife did more of the same. After eating we walked around the quarter and Sambaly showed us the ruins of an old colonial hotel. Once obviously luxurious, it was decaying, overgrown, abandoned. Sambaly said there was some talk of renovating the building into a factory or into a hotel again. He seemed unconvinced that anything would come of it. Down from the old hotel we found a small waterfall and swimming hole. It was getting late and dark, so we followed the stream back to where we had eaten.

Samé is in a valley, the green hills rise steeply and are rough and rocky. Coming back into town, as we emerged from the valley into the outskirts of the main city, the sky and scene began to take on a foreign aspect. Kristen said that it was hard to believe we were here, and as soon as I had answered that it would be hard to believe we were NOT here, it began to seem a bit like a strange event or half-dream. The realization of leaving for my placement struck through the shield of new friends and the busy first few days in Mali. When all was new and foreign, there seemed to be no time to panic, or be overwhelmed or confused. As we moved into the new part, it dawned on me that I had undertaken something not altogether ordinary, and certainly not so for me. Tonight we arranged banking for me through an uncle of Hawa's, and a place for me to stay in Sévaré tomorrow night before settling accounts in Mopti and continuing to Bandiagara. I guess from here we're more on our own. Hold on to your hat, we could end up miles from here.

The lush trees and dust turn to concrete and asphalt;
as soon as I say it's not hard to believe
it begins to become a strange thing or half-dream.
The sky takes on a layered volume
like four Saskatchewan sunsets.
There's an earth smell rich in vegetation,
some rotting, some growing.
A cripple sits near a pile of garbage,
wearing the tattered rags of the mad.
My stomach is full and my mind is at ease.


Bandiagara - 20 Sep 94

I thought it would be difficult to beat a full moon over Sévaré but it is done. The arrival in Bandiagara was a dream. The land between Sévaré and Bandiagara is diverse: cropland millet stalks, trees (baobab and verdure), and rocky outcrops mark the dry steppes of the Dogon Plateau. I had an easy breakfast of moni (drinkable millet cereal most similar to "cream of wheat") with the director of the lycée. I mucked about in Mopti a fair time: at the bank to the bus terminal and back a few times. Mopti seems dirtier than Bamako, although it can't be. It may be because of the small artificial bay created right downtown. It gives the confluence of the Niger and the Bani rivers; a great, wide expanse of water; a place to eddy, and the cleansing passage of the water is inhibited, and filth swirls in the bay. Also, there is a marked presence on the water of the Bozo people. They are nomadic fishers of the region who live almost exclusively on the Niger and its navigable tributaries in their very long slender pirogues: paddled or punted canoes. Between Sévaré and Mopti there is mainly rice cropland, endless rice paddies on both sides of the road built on a raised embankment through the middle of the swampy fields. There are people walking bare feet and legs almost up to their knees in the muddy water beginning to harvest or making small repairs in the little dams that channel and keep the rice crop inundated. Dinner was rice and gumbo. On returning to Sévaré (10km from Mopti) Kalifa Goita was at the school, and so I chatted after dinner with his wife. We talked about marriage. She told me I couldn't marry my girlfriend Trish. because she is older than me and will order me about as if she were my older sister. Mme. Goita also had distinct views on Malian men's behaviour, and the benefits of travel for improving their treatment of Malian women. She seemed to have the idea that European and North American men in general treated their wives and women friends better than men in Mali: with more respect and equality.

The streets of Bandiagara fulfilled my dreamt vision of Africa. In the light of an oil lamp burning glow I can hear the crickets beginning their song, and Arabic-sounding music playing nearby in the neighbourhood on a radio. The family compound of my host brother Madani Tall is very clean and spacious. I have a room to myself! It is not "hard core", but I am very happy. It's smaller and intimate. The sky is full of stars and clouds frame the full moon. Like most of the town, the Tall house has no power, and so there is little light to spoil the night sky. Some places have power in the evening until midnight, and the dispensary has power all the time, as does the solar-powered radio station. The air is sweeter than down south, cleaner I guess. I've met two radio guys, Ibrahim and Sékou Tall (Madani's cousin). Madani's mother, my host mother, Mama Anna, is sick with malaria for the third day, and Madani apologizes on her behalf for the state of the house and yard. I don't know if I should offer my medication as help. I can get more and it might help. She's taking acupuncture for her illness, but seems very debilitated. Despite all this she received me with warmth and gentleness. We also met the directrice at the school where I am to have my work placement. I am apprehensive as to the artistic skill they believe I have. I am trying not to be over-anxious though. In Bandiagara I feel very much at home. That's good, very good for passing a placement. It is, however, also a drawback to be so comfortable in what is meant to be a growing and broadening experience. A "rougher" experience can be had through Dogon country. Madani has a cousin guide, Sooliman, who has gone on tours of up to three weeks, despite the norm being three to six days. I guess I was expecting to have a more basic way of living, expecting the change to be greater than it seems to be. In town there is a local Canadian-built radio station: la Radio Rurale Bandiagara, and lots of minor technological goods (radios, stereos, mopeds, motorcycles and public transport vehicles. It is the end of the rainy season, and with the harvest coming, vegetarianism will be a relatively simple option until January. The only whisper of incident has been a gendarme in Bandiagara having some reservations about the state of my papers. Madani feels he is trying to get some bribe by insisting on the exact letter of the rules. His boss, the Commandant du Cercle returns tomorrow and is a good friend of the family, and Madani also installs and fixes their phones and electricity. "Madani Tall, if he goes under, you won't have any damn phones". I expect little further complications; and some very possible bribe, if need be. The delicious cucumbers in peanut oil and vinegar which I ate are giving me gas, and I fell as though I'm in good shape EN BONNE FORME. I have been made to understand that I am family, and tomorrow I will be given a Peulh name as one of the Tall. I believe I will feel so soon.


Bandiagara - 21 Sep 94

I slept well outdoors on a foam mattress on a woven mat on the ground, under my mosquito net suspended from a wire clothesline in the yard. Woke very early to the sounds of morning readying: baby washing; breakfast fire lighting; people and animals in the street on the other side of our concession wall; the tenant family moving about to begin their day shelling peanuts, combing raw cotton, weaving and sewing. Mama Tall is still feverish from malaria and so the other women in the concession are having to take up some slack.

Had bouillie with Tidjani (an instant coffee poured from a height into a froth). Then went with Madani to greet a friend of his: an official Percepteur -- I think the Bandiagara equivalent to a banker. Then we waited A LONG TIME (2+ hours) to see SINAYOKO: the Commandant du Cercle, a "ministre" of the government. He impressed on me the importance of having education ministry authorization before entering and teaching in the school. He was not welcoming or warm, but officious and bureau-minded: all important and essential qualities for his position. I called Bamako to get Sambaly to call the inspector in Bamako to get him to call the inspector here to authorise my assistance at the school. From what has happened so far, this seems about par for Mali.

While visiting Madani at the Radio Baguine Bandiagara, I heard The Replacements, and being the only one who could understand the lyric was asked to explain them. The west/north is everpresent in the technology, fashions and languages, so I doubt I'll be missing home in any way other than nostalgia and looking forward to seeing old friends and family. Tidjani took me around town a bit and to the outskirts from which he pointed out the nearby village roads: about 6 villages within a 5 km radius: excellent. Watched a soccer scrimmage and had grilled corn on the cob as a snack: tough and tasty. Tidjani and I sat on top of the wall around the field, and I accidentally dropped some corn on a couple of kids sitting bellow. Tidjani taught me to say excuse me, and I wrote the first Peulh in my little notebook: "achake", a contraction of "achu hakke", "leave the offence". The word for offence adapted from the Arabic for "sin". Then came the rain, real rain. We jumped down from the wall, and waited in the sheltered concrete bleachers. Then it stopped enough to come home and await Madani's break from the radio. I ate beans and pasta on the street, courtesy of Madani on the anniversary of Malian independence 1960-1994, and still going strong. We met up with the gendarme who had been giving my passport grief. Madani had straightened things out with the Commandant de Brigade without incident, but we still placated gendarme anyway, for future consideration.

Madani returned to the radio station to animate the Independence Day music show: a special edition of his "Musique Sans Frontiers", which featured Malian, other African, French, British, Canadian and American artists. At home Tidjani began tea, and we danced to the music until the rain began again IN EARNEST. The streets flooded, turned to mud, the sewer ditches ran over floating garbage all around. Water came into the entryway where we were having our party (and also flooded Tidjani's and Madani's rooms. Mine was at one time a food storage room I think, and so is high and dry). I saw Tidjani and his wife together, smelled Trish's sweater and missed her. I wanted to hold her very much. It's not painful nostalgia, it hasn't even been a month since I last saw her, but it's present quand meme. n'bife, ne sun kurun.

Although the yard is draining well now that the rain has stopped, it was heavy, and everything is very muddy. Puddles and mud-slicks all through the streets, the risk of loosing your sandals with every step, the mystery of what lurks in the sewer effluent standing in the street. Next week I will take some photographs off wall tops, chez Tall and maybe some streets. Although I am welcome, and have taken the name of Madani's late paternal grandfather and village chief, MOKTAR TALL, I feel that Bandiagara is too westernized for me to loose myself here -- immersion wise. Which is another way of saying "going native". Learning Bambara, Peulh and Dogon will help, but the welcome that includes me, is granted because I am a stranger-guest. I will learn much at school, and determine how to learn at least to make the social drinks of Mali, if not full meals. I will be more comfortable (creature comforts) than I expected, even hoped, but it will be a good initiation into Africa, where I fully expect to return.


Bandiagara - 22 Sep 94

With the East Indian spy movie music blaring across town, I am weary from today's events. Went to Doucombou (5 km toward Mopti) for Independence Day activities. The people of this Dogon village "named" Bandiagara. The colours were extraordinary - mainly the women wrapped in brilliant fabric dresses, headscarves and bangles. A Chasseur, a member of the hunter society within the Dogon culture, fired a great ancient rifle, which shook the village and even the air. One woman lead the singing and the chorus gang responded, clapped rhythm and shouted. The Commandant du Cercle was in white full dress uniform, and looked so much like a dictator. It is to men, soldiers such as him that Mali owes its independence. Vive un peuple, un but, une foi. Mali's motto: one people, one goal one faith. The 10 km return walk ended me in the midday sun, but praise God, it started to rain on the way back. I read Crossroads stuff, organized my things and then ate and ate and drank until I was sleepy. Things with the school seem to be gathering assistants, shape and force. I should be ready by 10 Oct 94, when the semester begins.


Bandiagara - 25 Sep 94

Today I went to the Protestant church on the west side of town and was made very welcome. The small mud-brick building on a concrete foundation is tucked at the end of a street along the edge of a millet field lying fallow, in the middle of which stands a wind-mill water pump that didn't seem to work. The service began with a Dogon-worded hymn to the tune of "Mine eyes have seen the glory", also known as "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Those parts that weren't in Dogon were in French, and a couple of prayers sounded familiar in content. The young man in front of me let me read his French Bible for the sermon readings, and I sight-read Dogon hymns from his "phonetic" script of the lyrics. I was made to stand, introduce myself, as I was "le blanc, toubabou, pilli", the one white person in the congregation of 35-40 people. Collection came round twice, and I gave 70 CFA Francs. That's a tiny amount in Canadian terms; 70/400 of a dollar. And Mama Anna and I were talking about tithing the other day! Despite the amount, mine was the richest donation in the little woven basket; gold-colored instead of the small silver-colored denominations.

After service I wandered across the other bridge in town and around past the Catholic Mission compound (I'm told more toubabs go there). It includes residences for the missionaries and a school, it's like another little town within Bandiagara. Then I passed the Commandant's house, to the radio station and onto chez Dramé. Mariam, her brother Samba and I ate and played "151", a simple tricks-based card game. Two young men were there, "gentlemen callers" rather than relatives I think, but I couldn't ask a tactful question in French, so I remain unsure. My interest here is in an interesting woman, my "own" beginning of a friendship; a fledgling independence from Tidjani, Madani, Mama, et al. I'm pretty sure nothing will come of it, since she knows I've a copine to whom I am faithful. In Bambara the expression is "sun kurun be ne bolo", "My girlfriend is in my arms", and Mama had told me not to go and get engaged. Mariam is beautiful though. Today she wore a light blue dress that was a bit small and fit snugly around her body. She had it unzipped down the back to make it fit better and allow her to work and cook, and this revealed her strong back and neck. Me and necks, ARRGH, is there no end to my torment? I also thought about the social milage our conversations could have. It would give (and has) a focus for talk and speculation about the toubab who's staying a while. It may prove helpful to have a female friend in whom to confide, or with whom to take shelter from more persistent attentions.

Mama Tall and I had a good talk about sickness, health, the zen of each, and the metaphysics of spotting good parents, even at great distance. It's good to get sick sometimes she said. Once a Malian boy was born and grew to be a man in perfect health. One day he took a cold, and in three days was dead. Another man was in good health from 1947-1974, then in a single day, took ill and died. Overcoming an illness, once a year, is good for l'organisme. Now that I have been a little sick, she says I will stay and leave Bandiagara for home without further sickness. Mama also says she knows that my parents are good and I have a good mother. She says she knows because in travelling to Mali, I have come to a welcoming home and mother with open arms. When Madani was in Canada he wrote and told her he knew she was a good mother because of the good family he had found in his travels. It seems, the blessing of a good mother and father, a strong family, is one that follows on wherever we go.


Bandiagara - 26 Sep 94

This morning I took my anti-malarial pill. More on that later. Madani and I went to see the Inspector, the District Education Ministry Representative, like a Superintendent. He was not there, so we spoke to Mr. Doukou, an adjoint to the Inspector, and explained what had happened with the Commandant, what had not happened and how things stood with the Directrice at the school where I am to be placed. He was pleased to welcome me, said he would explain my placement to the Inspector, and that since we had things arranged with the Directrice, there was only the hierarchy and official notice to fulfill. I'm glad that is not longer up in the air.

Although the "météo narine", as Madani calls, it is (my head cold) better, I now have some dizziness and a bit of a headache. If things don't improve a lot before the weekend, I'm going to delve into some serious medicine and aspirin abuse. When I got home I hit the sack, and, lulled to sleep (and sometimes not lulled by the market just outside my window), I slept the afternoon away and had a couple Mefloquine dreams. The dreams were strange and very vivid.

In the first dream, a bunch of us (Crossroads gang) are out in Bamako at a restaurant, when a waiter comes up, taps my shoulder, and says in French, "There is someone here to see you". I knew at once it was my old girlfriend Kitty since Fralic couldn't afford the trip here, and Trish would not come of her own solitary will. Still, beyond even that, I sensed in the most basic, primal way it was Kitty. Later, her and I went to a room like the one at the Lycé in Sévaré, and things got very erotic., Half-undressed and undressing we held each other. I could feel the precise sensation of cloth against my skin, the weight of my body, the nearness, and myself moving against my shorts and her dress between our legs. Then we fell down onto the cot and the dream faded into cozy cuddling.

In the second dream, "all the girls I knew when I was single", (from a song by Paul Simon) arrived in Mali, including the Crossroaders. I guess it was the planned Crossroads meeting in Bandiagara at Christmas, but only Canadian women were there. I tried to arrange a family billet for Trish so she wouldn't have to stay in a hostel or hotel. When I went to the family Madani suggested, it's Trish's old apartment building back home in Fredericton, only made with mud-brick and Malian wood.

The dreams were so intense and real that for a while after waking I expected to see the people in them in the street.


Bandiagara - 28 Sep 94

Yesterday (27 Sep), I woke up feeling good. My cold is still improving, and I felt really able, empowered, my mind keen again and my body recovering. In Monday's journal entry (26 Sep), I forgot to mention meeting Zanga. Impossible! He's the English teacher at the age level I'm going to be assisting. His understanding of English is good, his spoken English requires a little concentration, but considering he also speaks French, Bambara, Peulh and Malinke, his fifth language can afford to be a little rough around the edges.

Today I awoke to the most painful bite-sting ever (I'm still sleeping outside). Flying ants: the worst! And the bite keeps hurting periodically all day, aggravated whenever my clothes brush the spot. Get used to it, duguméné season lasts at least 3 weeks. The name is composed of "earth/ground", and "light", because of the shimmering effect the ants' wings have when they are milling around on the ground. I wrote Mum and Dad, Nana and Grampy and Trish. I should write Bear today as well to finalize the draft copy of an article I am writing for the Daily Gleaner (newspaper back home). I'm not ecstatic about the piece, but it will have be a start.

I took a bunch of early morning photos of the household and neighbourhood. Mainly they were of places and structures; taken from a roof-top or in secret. I've never been good at people pictures, and the pressures, excitement and general "big deal" around cameras and picture-taking makes me shy away from public photography even more.

The bean dish Mah sent home with me (26 Sep) was a success. Although she was pleased to hear this when I told her today, she seemed preoccupied with chores and beautification; braiding extensions for her hair, combing out a straight-haired wig, arranging and rearranging her make-up trousse. She said that she agreed with her mother about my beauty, and also that a handsome man should not wear broken sandals. Madani had made his nephew Moussa give me his old but serviceable pair upon my arrival, but I had yet to wear them.

More about somogow now ("house people", meaning family): Madani, and Mama's sister. My brother got intravenous drugs at the dispensary today. He has had a bad headache for 3+ days. He seems improved for his treatment, but Mama says his health has always been a bit troublesome. In connection with Mama's older sister's death, the yard was full of female friends and relations sitting on mats, speaking rarely and quietly. She had lived in the South of Mali, so I don't expect a funeral here. But there were so many women here, and I felt awkward to go into the yard past them to my room. I think with good reason it was something upon which I should not intrude; but I was an object of silent interest, and I could feel so many eyes on the curiosity of a resident toubabou.


Bandiagara - 29 Sep 94

I finished a letter to Uncle Steve and Lena before leaving for Sévaré in a bush taxi. In general, bush taxis are Peugeot 503 stationwagons carrying nine passengers plus the driver. The trip was dusty but okay; more comfortable than going by bachée. In Sévaré I found Madani's very good friend Cheik Oumar Nantoumé, to go to the BIAO (Banque International de l'Afrique de L'Ouest) in Mopti. Cheik Oumar was not at his house, but at a friend's that is a neighbourhood hangout. There I met Uta (?) a charming, ruggedly thin German woman just married to a Malian school principal. She moved to Sévaré and is in the process of building a dance bar. The name is to be "Mankan Te", Bambara for "No Noise". Construction is two moths behind for the anticipated November 1 opening.

From Sévaré to Mopti is an 11-kilometre ride in a bachée. Cheik caught me counting the people in the truck, asked me if that's what I was doing and laughed, saying my friends in Canada would never believe it if I told them: 20 people riding in the back of this half-ton, and three more squeezed into the cab with the driver. Cheik and I arrived at the BIAO after the lunch closing time, but with politeness, white smiles and skin, they let me withdraw money. Mopti was a bustling change from home, Bandiagara. We tried to visit Amara Sylla, merchant, and Mamadou Touré, Director at the rice board, but neither were home. At Touré's house we met his wife, drank cool water and sat in front of the television with the kids.

Later in our wanderings I met a Miami Peace Corps dude, who was at the end of his two-year placement. It was great and humbling to hear him speak Peulh with Cheik. Also met Tom Gage, from North Dakota, who's on placement in a village near Bandiagara. He gave me the name of Vania Garcia who's been living in Bandiagara proper for five or six months. They were really friendly, but not exlusionary of Cheik. Tom spoke English and Bambara, Cheik Bambara and Peulh and French, me English and French. One person was always in the dark.

I had a great wash at Cheik's house, and felt revived. I met his mother and some siblings. We ate bananas and bread while I waited for the bachée home. NIGHTTIME BACHEE TO HELL. It seemed to take three hours, three times as long as usual. It had rained hard and the road was in bad shape. The truck lurched about and sometimes skidded sideways. After one of these side-skids I remembered how high the load was piled on top, and I thought we could tip. There were only four of us in the truck, so we didn't have the weight to keep us upright. I was planning my position in the event we tipped over, and realized there wasn't much to do except stay in the bachée no matter what. The road to hell may be wide and paved, but I think the shuttle-bus is like last night's. It was a good bush travel experience, but the extra 100 FCFA for a taxi may be worth it.

We had a really good storm mid-afternoon today. Before that not a lot happened. I ate with Tidjani, Madani and Cheik, then went back to sleep until later. I finished the Daily Gleaner article and the first roll of film with pictures of Mama, Tidj, Madani and Cheik, Nohma's aunt and sisters who live in the concession famille Tall. I don't have an exact copy of what I am sending to the newspaper, but that's OK. I may send the film after all. Madani is confident that a special courier package will arrive safely. I think he realizes that the mail to and from Mali is a bit tricky, but was still mildly offended when I made this suggestion in my hesitance to trust the mail with my photographs. We were checking the necessaries on that when the storm put down: great rain and wind. Madani and I took shelter at Miram's house. I gave her the new deck of playing cards I bought in Mopti (as a thank you for her bean dish), and got good "my boyfriend" comments and attention from her. I guess that must be the need; not affection but attention, female attention. As long as I can have that, I should be able to remain sane. I'm wide awake and feel like writing, though I hate to use up the gas-lamp for that sort of luxury. Bear deserves a letter, though. If I can put up with these jumping, flying cricket-things all over the place.

ArrowROctober 1994