Februari 2014 (English)

Slowly, its getting warmer. The air gets dryer. Last year the heat started with a bang, that is to say from one moment to the other. This year its coming gradually. That makes it a lot easier to bare. The days are running up to 40 degrees centigrade, the night’s stay cool. That’s a relieve, since it makes good sleeping possible. However, the cool nights will end soon.
In February I replaced one of the roofs of the tourist huts. On building it, they had put badly cleaned reed on the roofs. Result was a continues falling of little pieces of reed. They stick into the matrass, the sheets and towels. Sleeping is then a prickly experience, cleaning is a lot off work since there are so many. So replaced one of the huts with properly cleaned reed. This seems to work. There are still bits and pieces falling from the reed, but now it’s just reed, and not these tiny prickly bits.

I also saw some developments in the situation with the Mayor. It was all about a hectare of land I bought on the river side, see for details the story of last month.
After talking to many people and asking some to intervene, I finally got hold of the mayor and the vendor of the property together. Suddenly the Mayor was quite friendly. I am not a bandit, he claimed. Only I have a problem when foreigners buy the land on the river side, since this land is limited and the river is important. I would rather have this land to be owned by locals.
Ok, I can appreciate this view, but it did not explain his reaction. I rather think he is angry because I bought land without his knowledge and without paying any taxes, which obviously, will disappear in his pocket.
However, the mayor now stated that he would agree to my plan to exchange the hectare of land I bought with someone else, for a piece of land which was next to my camp site, and that had been my plan all the time. So the problem is solved, although it leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.
However, on first discussions of the owner of the land next to my campsite, he is asking way to much money and the whole deal might still backfire. I am not in a hurry however, so will see what happens in the future.
From the rests of the school building, I received two huge sacks of tiles. tiny tiles in all sorts of colours. They used to be glued on a sheet of cotton, so you could easily fix them on the wall. However, the tiles had been laying in the open air for a few years and the cotton was all gone. This means the tiles have to be pasted to the wall one by one. Since they are 1cm square, this will be a huge undertaking. But when finished, will give a great result in my shower. Have not started on this yet, will leave it for after my visit to Europe.
Also continued building my ‘great wall’. Every day in the morning I would mix one or two wheelbarrows of cement and lay one or two layers of natural stones. In the afternoon it’s to hot to do this work. Soon I will have the second part of the wall ready, and will probably wait with the last and final part until after the next rainy season
To build all this I had to find the stones first. I could get them for free at the local quarry. So made many trips with my car, loading rocks, stones and boulders until my car almost bend through. I now have sufficient to finish the second part of the great wall.
My neighbour, two plots down is named Bakari. He is not Muslim nor Christian but an animist and quite a colourful guy. He drinks like a sponge. I see him doing things with buckets of blood, things I do not want to know. He has knowledge of local and traditional medicines.
He is always happy and joking around, he plays the local guitar. In short, a nice and colourful guy
I had told him a long time ago that I have back problems. He tried to cure it straight away by spitting on my back and making magic gestures with his hands. The magic spell did not work of course and last week he showed up with all kinds of magic things in his dingy back.
There was a branch of a tree. Not a normal tree but a special one. With his huge knife he cut slivers and put them on my bare back. Stay like this for 15 minutes he said. After two minutes my back started to heat up. After 10 minutes my back was on fire and it was almost impossible to stay the full 15 minutes. Holy moly, that was hot. After taking the wood from my back I had hoped the heat would diminish but my back remained on fire. Even after putting cod-liver oil ointment, after sun and so my back kept burning. And it kept burning for three days.
Bakari was happy with his work and disappeared with two bottles of my beer and promised to return two days later.

When he returned the next Monday I told him my skin is probably different from local people since my back was still red and hot. That’s right he said and he gave me a special ointment in an old Nescafé can. A black foul smelling stuff but it did cool a bit.
I have something else for you he said, and took a long kind of dried bean out of his bag. He peeled the bean and put one in his mouth. With a big smile he said, if ever you are on the toilet and you are constipated, eat three of these and after half an hour your problem will be solved, with a bang. The way he told me this and the gestures with his hands made me crack up again, what a guy.
The result is of course that the problems with my back have not changed. You cannot fix a flat tyre with a single piece of tape, nor can you fix a back with problems with some hot wood. Shame, it would have been nice.

Speaking with a Malian, you often get answer on your question with the word ‘Rien’, French for ‘nothing’. I come to hate this word. Like last week when I was talking to a young man who came to my camp site. After the usual greetings (which take at least five minutes in Mali) I asked him what he came to do. He said ‘nothing’. We western people are a lot more direct then Africans so I kept asking him what he wanted and if he came to do nothing here, then why did he come. An Africa, confronted with these kind of direct questions, sorts of shuts off. Either they stop talking at all or they start talking about something completely different.
Kept asking why he came to visit me, but kept getting the answer ‘nothing’. So accompanied the guy to the gate and we said out goodbyes. Returned to my coffee, which was cold by that time.

Have some problems with my papaya trees. Quite a few papaya trees have a sort of rot in their trunk and die. Tried to find a solution. Perhaps to much water, to little water, to much or little fertiliser. After experimenting a bit with the watering it seemed like giving to much water might be the cause. I hope so because if more trees die it would be a shame. The papaya tree gives a steady income which is very welcome. Just to make sure I planted 200 new papaya seeds to replace any dead trees.
In the meantime I am again being stalked by the pastry lady. She had left to Bamako a few months ago, was very happy she left. But she is back and is calling me again almost every day. All this because I told her once that her pastries where very tasty. She has a little boy from a previous marriage. She told me the little me the boy was sick but I do not know the details. She keeps asking me when she can come to visit but I keep stalling her. A few months ago she did come to visit me and she sat on my chair without wanting to talk. Rumour is that she wishes to marry me. Perhaps nice to have fresh pastry every day…
Talking about women, last month an enormous female visited my campsite. She had an enormous set of boobs, a waste of a mile and a neck which would suite a wrestler. And I am not even talking about her derrière.
The conversation with her was a bit strange. I want to work for you, she said. You should have called me that you were here. When she started about giving massage I started to get the picture. It took me a while to get rid of her but when she left on her small motorbike the poor bike almost broke in two.
Afterwards Boly told me she was probably a Nigerian women who offered me her not small favours for money. Wow, can you picture it. It would probably kill me…
Harvested my potatoes, the result was a bit disappointing. The potatoes are a bit small en the quantity is also to little. Perhaps there was a lack of fertilizer. I have probably not recuperated my investment on this, so next year I will think twice planting potatoes.
Founeke, the new guy who has to take care of all the plants and flowers on my campsite is developing well. The first two weeks I had my doubt. He was a bit shy the first two weeks and did not always understand my French but after that he developed well and he seems to enjoy his work.

Otherwise not much new. Except maybe the tanker truck filled with diesel who lost control on the way down towards the dam. He crashed into the mountain side and the10.000 liter diesel sloshed out of the truck down the mountain. The truck blocked the road for almost a day and many people managed to scoop up diesel.
Had some guests this month. An Italian truck overlander, a German couple and even 4 africans who could not return to Bamako because the road was blocked by the aforementioned diesel truck.
Managed to get into contact with some French guys who live in Bangassi, about 10 km further down. Should go down to visit them in a few days. They came over to eat and I prepared my famous spagetthi.

More news next month…

Greetings from beautiful Mali

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