Quiet and safe camping in the west of Mali
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September 2013, English

Sorry, no pics at this moment.
September 2013 started stil wet. In the first two weeks it rained almost every day but when the month crept on, the amounts of rain definately dimished. Around mid september it could be dry for three days in a row. Then some rain would come but not the amounts as before. On September 10th there was the first harmatan wind. That is the hard wind coming from the Sahara, usually dry and hot, carrying with it lots of fine dusty saharah sand. Now the wind was high in the sky, turning things hazy, but they are a sign of what is to come.

September also started with an irritating flu and a formidable pain in my back. The flu, ah, that will pass, but the prblem with my back was more serious. Its my own fault really. I had put some new water pipe in the ground and when one of the connections would not do the thing I wanted (be watertight) I spend many hours hunched over a hole in the ground to get it fixed. Doing this with a hernia (slipped disc) is asking for problems. I asked, and I got. The pain is the worst in the morning, almost unable to get out of my bed. I have to open up my gate every morning before 7 a.m. The walk to the gate normally takes my 5 minutes, now it took me 15 minutes, walking like a croccked old man. One false move and the pain would shoot in my back, through my budcheeck into my leg down to my foot. And having to sneeze so many times due to my cold did not help either.

The beginning of september was also the time that I started to send out emails to request (financial) help with my garden project.
For one reason or another all my online address books were messed up, so had to reconstruct this all by hand. This I did in Excel and was very time consuming. When finaly finished, I could not import all the new data into my mail acoounts, so had to copy and paste every name by hand into my mail programm. Sitting so long behind my table on my wooden improvised chair also did not help my back condition. Life is hard sometimes, but eventually I got all mails out.
Luckily I had bought a huge pack of paracetamol in Bamako on my last visit, so I consumed quite a number of these magic pills, that helped at least a bit.

With the month progressing the nose flood deminished and my back got a bit better, at least during the day. So continued slowly my work on the wall, but gave a lot of work to the villagers nearby. They are very glad with this, specially the youth. Their school is about to commence again and they need money to buy school stuff. Pens, books and perhaps a new shirt to look presentable. So they set about cutting grass and weeding from plant.

Ofcourse there where the usuall encounters with creepy crawleys, but the most noticable was the two meter long blak cobra who though the chicken house was a nice place to life. After catching the last egg-eating snake a few weeks back, I still found eggshell on the floor once in a while. So started to beat the plastic liner between the wall and the roof with a small stick. I will never do that again. Somthing started moving inside the plastic and suddenly it started hissing at me. I do not like things (or people) hissing at me, so found myself a bigger bamboo and started beating on the plastic. A huge black snake fell down and before it could attack me i beat his brains in. It was close because these snakes can squirt venom in your eyes, leaving you blinded and an easy prey. If they bite you there is only one quick remedy, a fast tripto the hospital, hoping they have the anti-serum. And the to think that for the last two weeks I have entered the chicken house in the dark to see if there was any eggs. berrr.

If a local gets bitten by a snake, they do not have the money to go to the hospital. Instead they use traditional remedies. On the snake bite, they will put a certain stone that will suck the poison from their blood. After an hour or two, the stone has completely changed color and all the poison has left your body. Or so they tell me. I on the other hand, will rather take the trip to hospital if needed.

Getting married here in the bush-bush is something different from our western tradition. A marriage is more like a business agreement, and marriage for love is not usually done. The father of the boy will normally seek out a female in another village. He will discuss the price with the father of the girl in question and a business transaction takes place. They guy has often never met his future wife. After paying the amount agreed upon, the lady moves to her new house on an agreed date, taking with here a whole set of new pots and pans, new clothes, of course herself. She is then expected to bear children, cook the food and help with the work on the land (although that usually ends up in her doing all the work on the land). Fat women have been usually prefered, although that tradition is slowly diminishing. Boly stil wants to marry a second, preferably big, wife, and he keeps trying to save up to buy one.
The man will do his maritial duties at night, sneaky and quite. Sex is not to be enjoyed, its to make babies. Money is also done seperat. The women earns money buy selling firewood or charcoal on the market or selling the things she has cultivated during the rainy season. Peanuor unions or so. From this money she wil buy the vegetables and cook the food. The man usually buys the rice.
This way its not strange if one man has 4 wives. he will marry a second one when he has money. The second wife usually being much younger the the first. Many times the first and second wife wil life in different villages or towns. This way the children can grow up in the village but go to study in the big town and life with one of their other mothers. Its all a different way of life as in the west.

Have never seen a man and women doing nice things together. Not walking hand in hand, a hug or even a kiss. Its a whole other world. Are we in the west onbsessed with sex, here its quite the opposite.

Collecting the money for my garden project went slow. On the 20th of September I had received many responses, but only collected a little less then halve the needed funds. There are still some things in the pipeline, but as it looks now, I am not going to make it. That leaves me with few choices. I could cancel the project. That would be a disaster, the women are so enthousiastic and are almost daily nocking on my door to start the project. There are agreements with the water ytility company, the land has been reserved, no, cancelling the project should not be an option. I could scale down the project, but that would mean doing it badly, that is the thing I would never do. Well, lets not make any decsions, the month is not over yet.

On the 20th of September it had not rained for more then a week. The rains have stopped to early, assuming they have stopped. That would not be good, the mais and millet is not ready yet. If it doesn’t rain soon things will start to dry out, people will go hungry.

A few days ago I saw a small boy carrying a turtle. I stopped my motorbike and asked him wat he was going to do with the animal. Eat it ofcourse, he declared. I asked him if he did not want to sell it, but he refused. We’ll have nothing to eat, he said. Two days later the little guy appeared at my house, with the turle, he changed his mind and wanted to selle it. I offered him 500 Francs (about a dollar) and he happily agreed. I put the turtle, who was very active, in a cartboard box untill I finished my work. I was just repairing a door which had been partly eaten by termites. When I returned I found an empty cardboard box, the turle had escaped. I was one dollar poorer, but left a happy kid and a turtle with his freedom.

Lickily the rain returned at the end of September. With a few big bangs there fell enough water to bring back live to the mais and millet.
In in the mean time painted the rocking chair, bought some huge garbage cans for the campsite, had some trousers made from pieces of cloth that have been laying around for years and slowly started cutting the high grass that was growing almost over my head now. When the rains do stop and the grass dries out its highly fire dangerous, so better cut it now. I have seen this high grass burning and its like somebody has dosed it with gasoline. The fire really races around, no escape. Now I am putting it on my compost pile where its a welcome adition.

Sometimes its hard to live in the bush-bush. There is nothing decent available. No decent movies, no decent clothes, not even a bag of chips. And the things that are available are usually of inferior quality. If I buy flower, which I use to make bread, I first have to clean it from the many many bugs living in the flower. I always do this and put the cleaned flower in an airtight container. Used the flower to make a bread last week and have already gobbled it up. But when I opened up the flower container yesterday I thought I saw something moving and on closer inspection it was filled with a kind of white worms. Well, must have gotten a lot of eggwhilte from these worms in my bread last week.

Same goes for rice. That is usally loaded with bugs, little black beetles. The peanut butter I buy, is locally made. The woman make it at home and sell it in the market, in little plastic bags. If you look closely, preferably before I buy, you see some of this paste filles with little black spots. Those are the woman who have not cleaned their peanuts properly and have grinded the insects with the peanuts.

Internet is also still a problem. I now have an Ipad with a sim card connection. Sending mails usually works ok, but opening a webpage takes ages. If it opens, time-out erros are fequent. Still the connection is open and data seems to be coming in but my screen stays blanc. Reslult is that my data bundle is finished pretty quickly. And buying data is expensive. As is calling. There are only two providers in mali, they keep prices high and quality and service low.

At the end of september there was also some new problems in the north. The touaregs clashed with the governement army a few times in Kidal, the far north-east of the country. Its more then a thousand kilomters away from me but even here people where in shock. Everybody in Mali is longing for peace and stability. The next day the mails started to come in. Worried tourists who had planned trips to or through Mali, wondering if it was safe. this is not good for Mali. New president IBK, do something, and do it quick !!

At the end of september I still had not been able to acquire all the funds for the garden project. I am still being very positive towards the women, do not want to let them down. So come on people, help me with this. Give these people a chance to develop. And for those of you who have already donated something, a BIG THANKS.
For details on how or where to contribute, read my story of August. You can transfer via bank to Holland or Mali, or via western Union, if needed, contact me via mail.

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