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

Here my ramblings about the month of October 2013

October was october. Really? Let me explain. October was a month which was not meat, nor fish. A month like march in Europe. Not summer, not winter, a bit of all. Rainy season had sort of ended, cold season not really started. Not a bad month, but I would prefer november to start quickly. The mosquito’s are still here, it rained once in a while but more often threatening dark clouds would roll in, the occasional thunder bang would sound and then it would all blow over without a drop. The heavy winds would cool things dow, but also made many young papaya fruits drop from the trees.

Around me the corn was getting harvested. The millet and peanuts would take some more time, and really needed some more rain. The tall grass is slowly turning yellow and I am looking forward to what they call the ‘cold’ season. The most agreeable season in Mali. Day temperatures down to 30 and at night a cool 15. The nights feel colder then that and I will need to find my warm duvet. The locals speak about frost. Haha, they have never seen frost here. Its just their imagination.
Talking about imagination, the locals think that eating banana’s will clean your body from all the sand. Very healthy food they claim. If you do not eat them, your body will be filled with sand. I do never eat sand, but in the local villages, where they cook on fires in their sandy villages, there is always sand in the rice. But the banana cleaning this, was quite new to me. Perhaps just an African banana placebo.

In the beginning of october I received some generous gifts for the garden project, one of which was a very generous one from my father. I have now acquired sufficient funds to start the project, and I thank all who contributed. But those will get a separate mail soon.

The project itself is no without hurdles. The director of the water utility company kept changing his mind about allowing the connection. However, I think I should be able to solve these, and other small problems and that the project will start in a few weeks time. Now the piece of land available is still occupied by peanuts. Once they get harvested, things can go ahead.

I kept busy with another project. A Dutch aid agancy, who have constructed some schools here in the area, had some problems with the realisation of two school buildings. The project had been halted about a year ago and they asked my to help to get things back on track. No problem of course, the two buildings are located about 5km from me. I have some decent builders and I asked them a cost estimate to finish the schools, and things are back on track now.

Half way october I got sick. Due to the symptoms i quickly decided it was malaria and took the appropriate medicine. Normally I should recover within a day, or at least get a little better, but after two days I still had a fever of 39.8 and was laying in bed with chattering teeth. I had a good look at my medicine box and discovered the expiry date was 6 months back. Yeah, that was probably my problem, so took lots of paracetemol to get the fever down and dragged my body to the local hospital. The malaria test was indeed positive and after some injkections and new medicine, the I got the malaria under control. But due to the days of high fever, my body was week and I felt like an old man for the next two weeks.

My five new little kittens where growing up fast, they started playing around the house. Their mom was getting more annoying by the day, begging for food at all times, even after just having eaten a huge mouse or big fish. When she started miaowing in from of my bedroom window at night, I decided to gibe her away to somebody else whenever her kittens could survive without her. I was fed up with having kittens every 6 months from a lazy cat who was only bothering me for food all day and was to lazy to catch the mouse. I will keep two young male kittens, and take it up from there.

My own vegetable garden is a little empty. We had cleared about half of it to plant unions and potatoes. But buying the potato’s to plant was more difficult then expected. Every time I was promised the things, and they never arrived. No no, they will be here in two weeks, only to hear the same story again two weeks later. It meant that the garden netted less this month. Not to much of a serious problem for me, more so for Boly, who takes half the proceeds.
However, the papaya’s are doing well, as are the suncums (no idea what they are called in english, a sort of big golfball, when opened sweet and a cross between a pineapple and a banana). Also the banana’s are starting to deliver, the figs as well, so there is still some income.
Managed to buy another piece of land not to far away. Boly’s brother wife did not have children for a long time, a sin here in Mali. So she had to be send to the doctor, and perhaps operated on. So to get the money he offered me the piece of land. I accepted happily. It is not adjacent to my land but perhaps I can trade it for a piece of land which I would rather have later on. Another piece of land that I wanted to buy fell through, the owner asking to much money and never keeping his promise. When he is ready, I am sure he will come back. The reason i want soem land is to create a buffer around my property where no cows or donkeys are parked and where i can let all trees grow happily, instead of the locals cutting down any tree that does not best fruit. I would like to create sort of like a forest around my property.
The land for the garden project was being cleaned. Every sunday the men from the village would work on it for a few hours. The brush has been cut and once I get all the green lights, I can start straight away. The guy from the water utility still has not made up his mind. It seems he is going to retire in a few months and he wants some cash. Well, I have gotten the money from mostly European’s, and they have donated the money to create a garden, not to grease the pocket of some African civil servant. If needed I am going over his head to his office in Bamako, see who laughs last.

If you die here in Mali, you get buried. No surprise there, and no, i have no plans in that direction yet. Cremation is out of the question. There is enough space in Mali. Strange is that they believe, that when you get buried as a good person, you will not decompose. If they dig you up, even after a century, your body will still be intact. If however you have not been a good person (a good believer that is) your body will be eaten by insects and nothing will be left. After even weeks, your body has turned into dirt.
Boly is also convinced (as are many others) of the last judgement. Upon dying, two angels will sit upon your shoulders, one left, one right. The one on the right will carry a list of all the good things you have done, the one on the left obviously a list of all your gad actions. Then judgement is being passed. The angels, together with all living things that you have come into contact with during your life, including animals and plants, will decide your faith. Will you go to paradise or will you burn forever? That is one of the reasons that youngsters take religion lightly, but when they get older and closer to death, they become faithful believers.

At the end of october I really needed to go to Bamako. Always try to postpone this trip as long as possible. I do not like big cities, Bamako is no exception. Its to busy with to much traffic, to much pollution, police, mosquito’s and people. But I had to buy the fence for the vegetable garden, water pipe, taps and all connecting materials. Worse, my coffee was almost finished and the technical control of my car was expired. The latter could give me problems on the way to Bamako and I was not looking forward to that. Also wanted to visit the hospital for a scan, anyway, enough things to keep me busy.
Decided to take Boly along and on the 27th left early in the morning. The road was long and boring but all went well until I got into Bamako. An a crossing two police officers blew their wisles and gestured that I should stop. I looked the other way, ignored them and kept on going, something you would never do in Europe. They might have phoned their colleagues two km further on and three of them jumped on the road to stop me. Since it was a three lane road I had space to again ignore them but things were getting hairy. Made it, via some backroads, to my hotel and parked in the courtyard, still a bit excited.
The next three days where busy and warm. Its not always easy to find the right materials for the right price but after three days I had most of my shopping done. Due to My recent malaria I still did not have all of my energy back but had to go on.

Decided to take another road out of Bamako so not to encounter the same police guys. I am sure they would remember me. But in Kati I was out of luck and was stopped by two officers sitting under a tree. After giving them my papers one of them claimed I did not have a transport insurance. A bullshit story of course and he claimed a 8000 cfa fine. Pretended not to understand and let Boly handle it, but he is not used to these corrupt police men and just looked down and did not say much. After 5 minutes I was sick and tired of it, took out my phone and pretended to make a call. Loudly I spoke words lie police-chief, embassy, and the place where i was. After this I took pen and paper from my car, and demanded the police officers name. And not in a friendly manner. He immediately got nervous. But why he stammered. Because I know people, I claimed. He got more nervous and started to talk with Boly in Bambara. In the end Boly gave them 1000 francs (1.5€) and he returned my papers. Next time I know how to deal with these corrupt policemen who are only their for personal gain.

The rest of the trip went without problems and I arrived back home at 16:30, very tired but very glad to be back in my paradise.
The month had already ended, wow time flies. So I will leave you, but with a lighter note
There is a village up the hill about 5km from here and to buy bread they had to walk every morning down the steep cliff and back up, quite an ordeal. So they decided to solve this problem. They bought 10 french loaves and on return planted them in the earth. When the bread tree had grown big, they would never need to walk far for their meal.
Somehow things did not work out, and the villagers still walk down the cliff every day to buy their bread. Perhaps not enough fertiliser?
Anyway, until next month, warm greetings from beautiful Mali

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