Bamako, Djikoroni Para - 1 Dec 94
Last night Doumbia, Issa and I hung out around a campfire where Issa is working as a grounds guard, at an old ceramics factory long since abandoned, now resold and maybe starting up again. We laughed and talked about the relative merits of dating older versus younger women (18-20 versus 14-15 years old). My views were agreed to, that younger women are set in carbon copy ways of their mother's ideas, and too hard to change. Right now: Neil Diamond is playing: "Porcupine Pie", then "Red, red wine". Before we went out last night, I heard "Wish you were here", Pink Floyd and Toto "Africa". With this last I cried in nostalgia for T. "It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you. There's nothing that a hundred men or more could not do. I touched the rain down in Africa. Gonna take some time to do the things we never had". Music is still memory-powerful, recalling and travelling around familiar soul places.
Maybe I've grown accustomed to Bamako. Moving about here seems pretty straight-forward and I've been pleased with good friends and food health. Ticket news: no penalty for the extension 'til July. Does that mean no cost? What about the domestic flights? Can CCI get a rebate? Anyway, it looks as though the staying is possible. Sambaly says that there is a fax from Canada for me at the Service Coop. Great. Now we'll see if the home front can support the stay.
And a small herd of goats wanders through the curbside pile on piles of garbage. The young crying to their mother, and she assuring with a reply. On the road a white Mercedes-Benz; a dress-uniformed black man in a dark soldier suit is the chauffeur. In the back a white man, French or maybe German, dressed in a cream-coloured suit. And they have to stop for the garbage-goats to cross the asphalt before each continues, following dissimilar destinies, no doubt.On the way back to Kéniégué, our bachée hit a dog and crippled it. We did not stop. I remembered menacing the dogs at Bou Traoré's in K'goué and Holly's reproach. She's right. But still I'm growing more and more accustomed to eating animals. I don't feel a crisis of conscience I perhaps expected. But life is seldom as dramatic as we sometimes project. Yakéné seems to be able to live without eating meat, but consumes other animal stuff. Maybe its the veganism that is bogging me down, as to extreme, and making me just yield to the insistence of meat in the diet here. Also, there are some whispered concerns of weight and sustained health. Maybe that's simply my excuse for my desire to eat meat, and this sojourn is providing an easy out. I am thin, though, and still have 3-6 months to go.
In the city-scape there are normal sights: concrete and steel, cars, buses, motorcycles; but also open, putrid sewers and an abandoned mosque - a holy place no less - surrounded by the market place trash and the dumping of the environs. Limping crippled and begging children. The real souleaters are the old beggar-women: without the respect accorded to them by age, left to sit on the sidewalk, one-handed and blind, hoping for some small kindness from a jaded tourist or a desperate compatriot. And in all the whispered prayers and benedictions, everywhere the echoing Qu'ran and soaring chants. Allah in each moment, but somehow spirit lacking (or invisible to these eyes). All in all is ritual strong and belief runs deep, but sustains it enough from hard work to struggle day-to-day. And in the old tomato-cans on strings of the lost boys a piece of meat, a crust of bread, a single coin.I feel as though Dave P. is right, and I could learn from Jason G. on generosity. Here I've seen my reluctance to give in charity, merge with hospitality for friends. It is important to be generous when and if you can be. It has taken too long for me to see the true things about these lessons. Taken a long road eastward, questioning to Mecca.
And as recompense for eating dead animals: the super-runs, pure liquid crap. Only twice in the night, but I started the kids going (especially demse Mohamed, (aka Koko), who started crying intermittently), and I think it was a rare someone who had a night of hérée doron (peace only). I think I'm sleeping carelessly vis a vis the soso: the back of my left hand and wrist are speckled with the remnants of parasitic intervention. A woman from Holland I met, who has been in Egypt, Còte d'Ivoire, and now Mali, has struck a balance between being a white female tourist, subject of suspicious eyes, suffering discrimination a bit all over, and wanting to live in Mali and play her trumpet. I was turning over the possibility of widespread psychological problems among people here. Through Néné's eyes (Madani's sister), Mama Ana and Madina look a bit out of balance. For us to know her prescription (for which she sent 1,000 FCFA with me, is expecting too much, and 'Dina's general douleur is in large measure psychological; says Néné to her girlfriends, not to me. But I piece a bit together, that to the lack of Bamanan kan words for "psychopathe" and "psychologique". Really, at the distance of three weeks and 1,000 miles, Bandiagara looks curioser and curioser; but far, far from being wonderland. With anxious anticipation, waiting to read the fax from Fredericton, I am still nearing haikili si gi, a sitting-down soul.
After a long and tiring, but fulfilling day, I'm pretty whipped (and wiped, but the runs have subsided). The news from home is not negative, but rather cautious. The parentals were tentatively supportive and T. apparently needs time to know how she feels. Fair enough. My folks have a fifth of a century of preparation for such occasions, T. a few months scattered through the dating year. More when I'm not so tired.
Saw Isabella, Tracy, Suzanna, and Kris at the Embassy yard Artisan Expo. Lots of expensive and really nice stuff. If I knew I was leaving in March, I'd buy a couple of pieces maybe. We all had a good reunion and enjoyed each others' communications from Canada. I'm proud to be counted with these women as citizens of Canada. We mainly hung out and gabbed, then walked to a French-style sweet/pastry shop: a strange deli-counter atmosphere, strange in a Partly context. Then onto a gallery/restaurant. Very nice. Very expensive art: prohibitively so, and pricey but quietly elegant dining-rooms. Outdoors, a shaded area; inside the same, for after-dinner talk and coffee. Cloth on the walls, pottery in the corners, masks as accents on the walls, Touareg tent pegs (5-foot wood spikes with ornate carved tops). in the corners too. A quiet obscure spot. On the way back to Maison des Jeunes, I was taken with pretty painful konodimi. Better now. I neglected food toady - diarrhoea scared. This morning I stopped to open an orange and an old souleater came by on one leg and cane, asking for money. I offered her some orange and she refused at first. By the time she agreed to accept and I had finished peeling, two other furies had appeared. So the orange went four ways, and faced again the position of rich, to which I have birthright if only learned by will to title. Suzanna is right, less possessions means more freedom. I bet the etymology supports something along these lines. In Bambara private property is mogokelenfen "person + one + stuff", "one person stuff". But I'm avoiding the question of staying. After the news of Dad's hernia operation, and T's understandable need for time, I've brought other things to meet the priority of staying. But still she says "I love him, I care". If she cares enough to consider, maybe that's all she needs to do. I worry about losing sight of who is being partly tested, partly scolded partly humbled partly moulded. Whipped, stripped and made to laugh. "And the best thing you've ever done for me -is to help me take my life less seriously-. It's only life after all". (Indigo Girls, "Closer to fine")
Slept in. It was great, feeling better though I still have the runs, getting used to it.
Above: I got called to eat, and then went into town for the afternoon. Spent a few hours, and a few thousand FCFA at the Embassy exposition grounds. Part of me feels that Mariam, a Canadian coopérante, looks down on, or resents Crossroaders. We are too much like tourists to her. But the more I think on my social being, the more I feel more (too) intense. I've decided to discontinue mefloquine prophylaxis and try to mellow out across the board. At the art I bought a flute, 4-holes, and from the fifth region. "Tall", however, I learned is apparently not for flutes. The Peulh flute parentages are Kassembala (like Tidjani) and Koulibaly.
I wanted yesterday to detail an event that Kao was involved in. The catalyst of the whole incident is still unclear to me, but the interest is unmarred by the lack of precise details. In the quartier, a woman got into some kind of fight, which her husband didn't like, and so he sent her away from the home. Kao, in his social role as a mosque member, was notified, and a mosque meeting was called and held immediately. The mosque meet decided that the renvoie was not a good thing, and a delegation made its way to the house. As the discussion concluded there, the following solution was implemented: the wife apologized, repented and vowed no repeat of her past behaviour, and the husband accept her back into the home. To me, as an outside judge, the important info is what did she do, really?
I was not made aware of this clearly, and I'm a bit shy to ask again about the event (third time). Perhaps the important thing is that the (men's) social group took an active interest in keeping the household intact. Maybe important is the woman's apparently only subservient and pawn-like role. Kao is an exemplar man, partly, and human being. On the problems of society, he has thought much.
Yesterday he gave me a thorough account of the interrelations of the difficulties in Mali's people. From the students' problems, to housefathers hiding in shame, to the lack of salaries paid on time to the dissolution of order in the family to the insufficiency of the leadership to the blaming of the youth to, in the end, the coup d'état against Moussa and the resultant casualties among, who else, the youth. The detail with which Kao had worked out the problem was scholarly and compelling. He talked for 20-30 minutes without a pause, and me always silent, listening, walking at his side through the quartier. I thought of Joe Sekoati, and his elaboration of development economics, and European thought that unifies grand schemes, rather than gather threads of net the issues. Why do we want that talk should simplify, move direct and be efficient always? Truly talk more often complicates, and there is also relativising talk, talk walking the web of relationships, not tying up, but stringing along. Thus Bear's interest in text (texture, textile, Texas). The fabric of language and literature (Latin lito > lino "I smear").
Again last night and this morning, the DREAM OF INCOMPLETION, only I felt even more awake in the thoughts. Maybe daydreaming. And an image of T., beautiful, quiet, standing naked in her Regent street living- room. I say: "I don't know what to do". She answers: "It'll come back to you". I feel overwhelmed. The desire to be with her, hold her, hear her voice saying those words is great - and there is the INCOMPLETION, The Dream. Two forces. Are they pulling diametrically, or some other vector? I remember the conversation T. and I had, early on in this prolonging song, about what "love" means: when the word is used, what goes along. I recall the place of hope, hope for endurance. Love means hope of the future time together. Ours has come to seem that way. Hope of coming days.
Made it to Mopti in the same vehicle as that which brought me south on 14-15 November, but this time a very nice ride.
As the night and headlights roll by, three pairs of feet resting on the dash are backlit and are seen silhouettes the same. But as the sunrise over Sévaré, the right and left pair are black bookends for my dirty pale toes. In the arms of strangers we curl up as to our father's brother, and call sister any compatriot named Mesenda headed for her maternal Botswana home.I played my flute (new fun and laughs), saw Amara Sylla, even earned 50 FCFA and a kola nut for playing. Gave the coin away, kept kola. Now waiting for the bachée to Bandiagara to fill up. I should have gone with plan A to leave first chance in Sévaré after 6 am. Thoughts of T.'s distance and possible annoyance or impatience weighs on my considerations of the next day's errands, and plans for Nombori within the week, and my next letter to her, also within the week. But "I'm so tired, I'm so tired, I've waited all night long for you. - You said you were coming to my home. I spent the other half listening to the telephone". (Thomas Trio & Red Albino). Right now I feel tired from travel, but with my thoughts on staying, it sometimes feels as though I'm tired of staying, or of the thought. Oh, for the chance, to get these demons out to dance?
Tuesday, 6 Dec. Spent the day arriving and greeting in Bandiagara. Chatting with Hawa (Téné Touré's sister), we discussed the plausibility of our (Téné's and mine) marriage. Good to be here. "Gee it's great to be back home..." (Paul Simon). Got invited to go to Sikasso with Soumalia Dramé ("le gros," "the big man" as Gogo calls him without malice in reference to his size and girth rather than position as secretary in the district government administration). I'm tired and really want to stay put, but I'd also like to see the third Region. And the other Crossroaders will be arriving soon. Lots of news from home, especially Mike's note was poetic. It struck me that he's more educated than I am now. Weird. So is Hugh (as if before I'd made detailed account of the subject).
Wednesday, 7 Dec. Day spent waiting for the bus to Sikasso from Bandiagara. Chatted with well -- travelled USers from Alaska and Missouri -- having worked one year in Togo, and one year in Côte D'Ivoire. A good time, and good to leave them to their tourism. Rode all night to Bandiagara, Sévaré, Sikasso and arrived early. Bid D. and me talked fetishers, marabouds and destiny versus divination (+ magic and science). [This fetishism is less a worship of various things than a use of the objects as charms and protections, "regarded as having magical powers that can benefit or injure." (Funk & Wagnall's) In this discussion marabouds are distinguished from fetishers to distinguish magic-belief and religion-belief (and science-belief distinct again)]. Among the letter is a tape of Canadian content from Dad. "Heart of your home" by Bobby Watt sent me to the window of the Radio Rural Bandiagara so that my tears would not well up so fast or be seen. It was another one-two punch of home. Back in Bandiagara and missing Canada, AND safe and happy away from HOME. "We're children running, aimless running; going home, finding home".
Today. Arrived in Sikasso, condoled, talked.
Here in Sikasso, welcomed, gave condolences, "impressed" a bit with Bamanan and Fulfulde, and again D. and me talked details of African (Partly) customs and observances of respect. What I had said about destiny (God's will) had filtered through to make sense enough to change action. D. is NOT going to seek out a famed fetisher here in town to present his problem, but will leave the future in the hand of it's maker. [Dramé suffers greatly in movement due to an injury that leaves him rather lame, the attendant inactivity feeds the increase of his already great size, and thus his difficulty].
Ok. The funeral day. I ate a lot, slept a lot, talked a lot, and thought a bit. There were the condolences I gave this morning; the event was this afternoon. The large yard was full of people. Two marabouds did the benediction and requiem, and then an old griot kept the benedictions and eulogy going as we chowed down: bowls filled with corn kernels were topped with leaves and kola nuts, home-baked mini breads -- these went to the maraboud and the old men. It was more involved than the Tall manifestations and I was the friend of one of the closest maternal relatives. D. is feeling better and I think I gain back some chubbiness. The vegemite option is failing even at home Tall, where I'm eating fish, and outside the house, I'm a dead-animal eater: sogobake "big meat man". Tomorrow I will write T., with some words I found to whisper to her, that none but she might hear.
that none but she might hear.
So did a doctor who could talk her
in and out of hope and fear
In this way this season
starts another growing year.
("Paper Boat" April 1994)
Sikasso, Wayerma - 9 Dec 94
A good day. Slept in, sat around, and planned the day's events. Had luck with a ride into the near market, and to the healer for whom I had a letter from Mama Anna. At the market we worked our way through the larger streets, and the tiny alleyways, squeezed between shacks and pawed over tables, all the while mobile peddlers carried their fruit or miscellaneous items around. Although it was mainly a fresh produce market, since the Sikasso Region (Third) is also known as Kénédougou, "fresh-crisp land", I bought some very nice "real wax" fabric to have made into a bobo, and an Ali Farka Touré tape. Big D. got fabric too, and some sandals, and we ate carrots, chokon (nuts) and watermelon. We saw the "tata" - the remains of the seige wall around Sikasso town, and an old monument, the Mamalon, that is the "knot that ties up Sikasso - the bellybutton". It's an old castle-tower like thing on a hill that has buried in it and ancient regional king. Photo opportunity tomorrow, s'y il plait a Dieu. I wrote a long (12 page) note to T. with a mix of news and soft words to counter the hard ones about my potential stay. The prospect of a money shortage if I stay dawns on me only today. I must make a proper count, account, balance and budget on arrival in Bandiagara. If things look tight, another re-evaluation is possible; and much depends on the as yet unheld talk with Nombori dugutige Daniel Guido, and school directeur K. Dolo. The thrill of buying and travelling here in Sikasso has too much blurred the work I was (says Timothé Dolo) called to do in Nombori. Hanging with Dramé is too "fun" and not "really here" enough. His explanations about the local sights and ways are great, but also make me feel more a stranger than a living-here-volunteer. A living-here can stay, a stranger buys gifts and souvenirs, and goes. Full of Mali in his pockets, but nothing to help his soul sit down, nothing to feed and fill his Buddha spirit.
A good, though partly frustrating day. Did the big marketing for the family in Bandiagara, and ran out of money before running out of wants. That's a new predicament for a human being. I have no cushion money to make the trip back to Mopti. There I must get to my BIAO account, and make still more expenditures. I'm having a blast, and Big D. says I've honoured him by my eagerness to be included in the family of his late cousin Tidjani Diallo. He knows that he's young at heart, and we've had a good time, despite the sad reason for the visit. I've learned much, talked much, eaten much and crapped much. I feel okay, if a bit heart-burned by the introduction of dead animal into my daily diet. I'm aiming for controlled weight loss, so I'm betraying myself on the vegan count. I'm even more aware, in this traitor state, of the "humanness of animals", and my/our kinship with them. And we don't eat family, even at Christmas time. Took a lot of photos of the family at D.'s request, and their enthusiasm. Tomorrow some tourism shots of choice monuments, and the depart. Back on the road to Bandiagara to stay a while I HOPE. There is still the meeting in Nombori and the sorting out of my stay into spring and summer. Again I note my "tourist" feelings and consider considering leaving as scheduled in March. Especially with the money I've spent here and there, it will be a bit tight if I remain until summer. Each time I say it's in God's hands, or if it's God's will, I believe it a bit more; it's true in small step, each time I say Amen; Amiina Allah.
Catch up journalism after a few hectic but fun days. December 11th was the tail end of Sikasso marketing, discussions of D. and his kin of the various marital problems of his female cousins or nieces. I've discovered a possible loss of 40,000-50,000 FCFA over the month of travel, but I'll wait for rested, head calm calculation. December 12th morning left D. and me in Mopti after an okay ride. Especially nice was sunrise over the more familiar, drier landscape of the 5th Region. A good homecoming. In Mopti we arranged for Dramé's tailor friend to make my bobo and have it brought to Bandiagara when it was finished. Waiting for a bus to Bandiagara was spent trying to catch up on sleep, a tricky thing in the open-air bus lot, on hard, tippy wooden benches. Home in the evening with Sikasso bags of oranges, limes, potatoes, and immediately to bed. December 13th woke up fried. Resting off a month's travel will take some time. I rested in the house and greeted the neighbours, home from my journey. Madina had a serious relapse into malaria, with some looks of pneumonia; had injections, and is recovering. Kris Honey and Isabelle Beaubien, two Crossroaders arrived back from their visit to the Escarpment with some sordid stories from the travels north through Ségou, Mopti and in villages. Kris and Suzanna Marquez were attacked in Bamako, were not badly hurt, thanks to God, and lost not much. Buy Suzanna decided to stay in the south with Holly rather than come for the "rendezvous at Bandiagara". I think that's good for them both, especially Suzanna. Letters here from folks and Bear (plus Holly P.), and the news is good as the winter settles in.
I danced with little shadows black and naked 'gainst the night, pressed between the darknesses in starfull, moonfull light. Drum the beating drum, and wind the soaring flute; beat drumbeat and breathe the truth into each doorway shadows will call home tonight.The day yesterday was lazy about town with Kris and Isabelle's errands for jewelry. Good talks about their plans and ideas. Today EVEN LAZIER. Moved little save to see them off, and have a short flute lesson. It was transporting. In a small, darkish room, the Master breathed the life of a hundred grandfathers into a piece of hardwood. The drums urged his floating note, making onward and weaving around the gathering crowd. They sing: "Hello Moctar, Moctar of Bandiagara", in Fulfulde, and I'm in another place. Hugh is there, singing counterpoint to the Peulh, and Mike is playing his own drum flow. I answer the voices as does the Master -- each break is a chance for the wind to speak in whispers. It was really magical. And tonight, the wedding dances started by the grooms' sisters, and the lone Master lead and yet follow the drums and dancers under the overflowing moon and starfull clearest Harmattan night. Why so clear? The wind whispering into the night sky look the dust away.
A couple of nights ago, I was walking to visit Vania (Virginia) Garcia and Kris (Nebraska) Hoffer at Vania's. Earlier I had seen Kris painting the middle bridge over the Yamé, surrounded by kids in the shade by the water's edge, and accompanied by an able young apprentice. She looked beautiful, but more fragile ("...the rain will sing how fragile we are..."). She'd come very close to losing it, and thought of ETing (Peace Corpsian for "Early Termination," translation "Getting the hell out".) She'd had very unreasonable suspicions of the human sacrifice and cannibalistic intentions of the people in her village, and fled, for her safety, into the midnight sand dunes with a blanket and some water. Tom was reassuring when they spoke, and I showed no sense that I though she might be DANGEROUSLY near the EDGE. So we laughed and caught up, and she told me of her plans for a Christmas on the beach vacation, in Côte D'Ivoire with some Liberian consul worker (HIV awareness Kris!). The original point of all this was ME (of course) WALKING, but Kris' madness may be related, or relevant. Part of the mind grind is the incessant crowds of kids that gather 'round a curious or WHITEY activity. I made an experiment in white curiosity, by wrapping my turban cassa all over.
Tonight I could be Tellem. I might be Touareg, checking on my camel. Maybe I'm Songhai, and mumbling some ancient, English-sounding tunes under the filling, winter moon. I am anything but white, anyone but the stranger, everyone but the Toubabou, the Pilli. I walk like I've watched the herdsmen walk through town, or across the parched sahel behind their sole possession: a fistfull of cows and bulls, or goats with matted coats. All the motions to forsake myself, escape my skin, and move through the crowds unpestered and unconscious of the begging, testing, suspicious or contemptuous eyes. But although I pass invisible, I remain too conscious of the small charade that has freed me for an instant. Each moment over-aware of the mask to see through its eyes, too encumbered by the uniform to fulfil the duty. Here I long to shake the skin, shed this patch I grow all over my body, erase the signature of seven hundred sunless millennia and a thousand frozen generations.I can't be sure, since my accounting experience is near nil, but I believe I lost around 39,000 FCFA from sometime past until today. That makes things tighter until March depart or VERY tight until July leaving. I can get money wired for free through the Embassy, that takes two weeks or more. The only days of really low security were the Kéniégué ones, and those of "stranger" company (friends of friends' friends) were at Djikorony Para at Kamara's. Theft en route is near impossible, and I may have a prejudice in favour of the rich not stealing from an invited guest (but Sikasso days were also low security, with much movement in the courtyard). Leave the past, as Gogo says, and let's come back to the present. If I want to bring gifts home, will I need to get money, regardless? Not if I don't stay on (and don't loose any more money. Only if my acceptance in Nombori means lower living costs.
And again the orange sky fires begin to end the day. The market, I can see from up on the roof, is slowly emptying, and the full moon craziness is waning
as the evening drains here away week by week into a nothing. For the dusty days, the evenings and night are strangely clear. I wandered a bit today. Sat
and listened to music tapes in front of "Sylla et Frères -- commerçants". A slightly crazy (?), triple jointed or somehow deformed man did
wobbling dances for the assembled there. I wonder how he got so like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz; not no brain, but all flip-floppy and double-joint
odd and awkward. At first he seemed just pathetic, but then I recalled my BHURBAB plan (Beverly Hills Urban Beautification). If (God forbid) I should
ever suffer some disfiguring event, I would move to a BHills type place full of "beautiful people" and live as a monument to the human form. The odd man
too see his role as clearly marked, well defined and certain to be appreciated in a unique way. He dances a crazy dance and lets people ridicule his
infirmity, feel superior, and suggest he's mad. Mad? Yes. Mad about dancing. Monday I plan to see the maitre d'anglais in the "far" school (sixth
quarter). I wish Vania remembered his name, but she didn't. So off I go, with a half-memory of his face and a satchel full of mumbles, such are promises.
I miss home more often now, but with less crippling intensity. An interesting change really. [A black pen sketch of the corner near the house is labelled
Water and power form the centre, and on the wings trees find their place. To the distant setting sun runs the sewer river waste.
Bandiagara - 18 Dec 94
Today is Sunday. Catch up writing for yesterday is going to be interesting. I snoozed the morning and visited Dramé -- got my VERY NICE bobo courtesy of the Mopti tailor. The afternoon I spent with Paul, skull-cracking on the more stubborn parts of elementary Fulfulde. By the end we were tired and I glimpsed a moment of revelation and then regained real time. I think Gogo just threatened to slit me through for something I said to le Vieux [little Moctar], ie that he could cry all week for all we care. She only did this as a show for him, though. In the late afternoon, Tracy, Brian (her fiancé) and Natalie arrived with the crazy train of guides et al. We greeted, ate, they got beers while I wandered with Ibou, then Paul, and enjoyed my Partly pals even more for the escape from visitors and the crowd that goes with them. At night, however, Brian scores big. He is drawn to the sound of flutes from across town, gets me up and we bead to the seventh quarter. I get to fulfil the dancing poem I wrote to the letter. The texture of the flute, beating drum and the women and children dancing. Overhead the crystalline sky with stars and the spotlight moon. The Night Sun. Yes and yes. A poem knocked last might again. An apology (Socratic?) somewhat to T. for new parts of my character and being.
I feel as though my lips have lost weight. So much so that it seems they might be insufficient to kiss you as I would. My arms are thin from shoulder to wrist, and too weak I imagine to hug you properly. In all my embarrassed voice is small and troubled tentative, as I am shy to show my body in its naked skinniness. As this general wasting has embraced me, some thickness too has appeared. My head of hair grows half as quickly as my beard and so more hair, less man to hold. (And perhaps some added poundage to the sitting down soul). Thus all is changed, changed utterly: a terrible beauty is born. If these sounds seem strange, you can see the substance of the change. And we awake the next millennium more distant than the noon and night, remembering the days when each other's skin filled whole sunlit afternoons.
Bandiagara - 20 Dec 94
Today is Tuesday. Monday was yesterday. Wednesday is tomorrow. Good, that's straight. Sunday afternoon all strangers slept, so I did too. Yesterday. Early was the clandestine presentation of Sidibé, the phone guy, with Dramé as an intermediary for some on-the-sly technical communication services. Also in the morning is a good chat with Mamadou Koné, from Bankass south in the Escarpment. He's into drawing and in a "jeunes" association for artists and art, as well as working at the radio station (where there is a Cannuck technician at the moment, Michel). A partnership (with a Canadian campus radio station really interested his as a possible and helpful endeavour. I passed on the 8:30 am toke offer, but see a source if the want should chance to surface. He's a nephew in our family, so I'm invited to go to Bankass, meet the Canadian and see how I might be useful, helpful, not harmful. By the time I got back home, the Crossroads gang had left for their tourism. I sat, and carved Tracy and Brian's wedding gift with Ibou, and then stopped by Téné Touré's house, but she's still not back from away. I'm beginning to miss her a bit, in a way new to me. She should be there. Her absence is a weird, abnormal kind of perturbance. Possessive MUCH? Jonson Tamboura, as I have been dubbed by Koda (Koitiss Konatiss Matikoita Traoré), or Jon Koulibaly, as Nohma calls me. Early to bed. Today. Gogo forbid me to leave the concession: forced rest all morning and after lunch. Only thanks to her prayer-time have I snuck into the entry vestibule, and Moussa's first placing in his class let me get out to the market briefly. Maybe I'll wander to find a little smackrel of something. I wrote a letter to Hugh, and an apology to Tracy and Brian that I would not be attending their in-country wedding. I am not going on the Mopti road until I go to Bamako at the End of February, because I HAVE to. The dreams of living in Nombori are seeping into the wind-parched earth, but that's what might have to be okay. Visiting Garcia's English teacher is put off, maybe even until next week. I am going to rest and eat and forget my worries and sit my soul down.
You must admit, they are getting better. Every day and every way, getting better and better and better. Lots of sleep, lots of eat, little movement, low hassle-meter readings. Even the continuing "Sooliman Saga" as we will now call it doesn't really faze me; and to miss out on a big Dogon party in Indé also doesn't disappoint me terribly. I'm at home, and nothing can change the fact of home. "The Fact of Home", an interesting title for the "Sanctuary" notes. Again the FACT or TRUE of home, and FACTIO, the "I make" of home. Make yourself at home. Going home FINDING HOME. I'm most concerned at present with recreating this home space before I feel out other places, projects. But the key point that pricks my soul-seat is what's to become of my being in Nombori. If I can't leave that ONE worry go, I'll be this way a while. Maybe that's the UNDONE, the Nombori dream I couldn't let go. Maybe the dream means not to search out the life in Nombori (surely the crux of the whole Crossroads at which I am), but means instead what is UNDONE is letting the not-yet-possible go and live at peace. In a perfect and strange way, the dream of UNDONE depicts my present more accurately than the journalism; although always set Canada rather than here. McLuhan is right, it is content, always content that absorbs 100% of our idea and attention. What's the dream about? What does it MEAN? What does it signify? Instead ask: How does the dream-medium influence my perception of the Nombori issue/possibility?
If you find her in the water of the rice fields by the river; if you find her taking shelter from the dust-wind on the scrub-plain; if you find her in a cavern of the mountains near the desert - you'll see her hair is longer now, also her face is thin, and bears line for every time this life has worn her in.
There is a tune to that, but not wholly finished or pleasing; but I think the potential for speaking here is in the lyric (with respects if not reference/allusion to "Girl From the North Country," by Dylan).
Super 'BLASTO' runs this afternoon, I mentioned to Kalifa Sagara [Tom] (saw yesterday en route to Mopti with Paul (California) and John [placement in Yawa]), my GIARDIA idea and he said "Welcome to the group." That's what I needed -- today started, middled and ended great. Up and fluting to get going, all day smile and chanting with Fatima N'Diaye (facing neighbours). Moussa liked his football gift. Day ended with evening peanuts and tea with Nohma Tidj and the 'Poulo' gang members. There were gunshots, drums and, of course, flutes echoing through the crisp, dark, clear night: more CRAZY KIDS gettin' hitched. I don't relish the nighttime shit-trips, but "bisimilaye," soyez les bienvenues, welcome to Mali. And stick around, this might get interesting -- Hold onto your hat: we could end up miles from here.
A strangely fitful sleep. Another odd dream about some meeting of Canadians at which Mama Anna was a sort of mediator and cook or something. I remembered it better last night when I woke up, and pondered and analysis. I'm excited, anticipating the PHONE CALL TO CANADA; I've prepared the essential information to convey and edited that list down to non-disruptive importants. Part joy, part dread, part waiting for release -- and if T. is there, that could be rough. OR GREAT, on sait jamais.
[The marginal doodles that began around 21 December, and were few in number, now fill a quarter-page and surround the text of the journal. Mainly calligraphy letters on 'chain-mail' or 'wave' backgrounds: my initials, "J.M.S.," and "T.A.W.". Two image motifs are most common: a ship with billowing sails, and a sword with shield. The best two are a ship: capital 'T' for the mast, a lowercase 'a' for each sail, fore and aft, and a hull made of a small 'w' pattern; the sword is a scimitar 'J' and an 'S' forms arms around it, almost cradling it -- this on a tiny 'm' background.]
Talked to Mum and Dad this morning -- anticlimactic and a bit unreally real: y'a fam? Maybe tomorrow they'll call and more can be said. At standard prices my five minutes would be 20,000 FCFA, or $50 -- $10 a minute -- ouch. They sounded a bit dazed or whelmed (it's 6:00 a.m on a holiday, your son calls from Mali). I hung with Americans Malo (placement Djenné) Paul (California, placement Kendia), and Kevin (Chicago, placement Bandiagara) in the "Petit Soir," corner store cafe. Edouard Tembeli came by, and accompanied me home. We talked about the possibility of me entering his service for a work term. That sounds nice and official-sounding for the Canadian/New Brunswick government folks. But I'm not fretting Medicare -- they just want to be sure I'm not doing dangerous stuff, I bet. Or if they don't know the organization, won't cover me. Oops! All will become clrea, or at least clearer than at present.
Read, slept, made a Christmas "tree-artdeco-wall-hanging-coat-hanger-thing"; realized that it's a very important part of my Christmas at home. I'm glad T. is there to trim the tree. Really, every 'getting to know Searses' thing/event she does makes us closer, at least in somebody's terms. Madani's gave first kola to one of his many women friend's parent yesterday. Married within three years or so. [Civil ceremony: Summer 1999] I have three years to save $5,000+ or find an NGO job in Mali and save, maybe, 50,000 - 75,000 FCFA for a proper gift. I.e. save $1,500 per year, or $150 per month. CANNOT WORK FOR LESS THAN $200 a week. QED (if living at Fredericton's price of life) GODWILL. I don't seem to have much of a party mood on tonight. More quiet, pensive -- probably brought on by these resting days. EAT NOW.
What a Christmas, first time alone, away from folks home, Canada, North America, English speakers. 'Eve was at the Catholic mission, and there was EVEN MORE I found familiar (more in French). Got to eat communion wafer and felt churchy. Christmas Day was at the Protestant; service, loud songs and tons of eats -- spaghetti, digadégé rice, zamé and fish. I ate lots. Then folks and T. called. An EXHAUSTING CONVERSATION. T. is battling but having a tough time, the folks want detailed information and for more letters to get through. Their immediacy seemed more normal (less surreal), but it was like a mage communicating with the long dead, or other-worldly beings -- all his energy is drained because of the psychic distance between interlocueurs. Started an epistle to T.; also needed: FOLKS, NANA, ERI, ALISON, CHRIS and DEBM STEVE and LENA, AL MASON... Another round for the New Year is the sum.
Updating. Dec. 26 p.m.: Suzanna Marquex arrived unexpectedly to our joy. At night, I have a slight fever and aching. Dec. 27: sleep most day and feel better, but not great, again same pains. Great chats with SM: "Tu doìt ètre dròlement important pour Dieu." (she just said this) [You must be awfully (strangely?) important to God.] Dec. 27: All day again recovery and chatting, EATING MASS QUANTITIES. Night: fever from hell. Actually felt like my head was a water-bottle. Planned hospital visit. Later, felt better, ate. Today (Dec. 29) hospital results: malaria in high degree; ordinance -- FANSIDAR, none in Bandiagara. Find quelqu'un trustworthy who is going to Mopti and willing. Great. But I'm feeling pretty good right now, as the light fades. I wish my conversations with Suzanna could be retold here, but my mind is jingle-jangled by the fever and the headaches. The choice from lips will return and return. Generosity starts, willingly, and never ends. La génécommence par volonté, et ne fini jamais. Yet to send "coming home soon" letter. Hope Dad calls again holiday-time. They'd like such news.
[There is, at the bottom of this page, a sketch that I presently analyze, without giving a description. It is a black-ink sketch of a hooded/masked, skeletal figure, surrounded by flames and a ring of thick smoke.]
I think the Figure burns a high fever burn and freezes every other moment. It's scream is partly one of pain, suffering in the "life" existence it endures and even aids -- for there is none other. My malaria image has a Figure-like face (rationale). Signify. Tomorrow.
[Some more interpretation seems in order. The "Figure" in 1994-95 was as yet only an image of a pale, screaming face painted by Bear, and also partially developed (at that time) in his epic poem Multiple Personality Disorder. I attempted, in 1996, to write a poem about this figure as a representation of myself in the grip of malaria.
You can't see me in the dark
I close my eyes to imagine best
I am naked, but more than clothes
I close my eyes and imagine
My face frightens me
If you want to come to me,