Back in Bamako, Mali….

After Pays Dogon, I managed to get back to Bamako in reasonably good shape. I stayed a couple of nights at the marvelous Hotel Djenné, created by the former minister of tourism who had a great idea when she invited artists to decorate the place. On the bus ride there, I met a Dutch woman and her French traveling companion who was working on developing schools for young women in Mali. I met some other travelers over breakfast. O, and the first evening, I went to pick up the package I had left at Hotel Yamey and to try to visit Damien, the French guy working at his father’s restaurant, the Café du Fleuve. Unfortunately, he wasn’t around so I returned to the northern side of town to eat at the Restaurant San Toro, also owned by the former minister of tourism.

As a single person, I felt very conspicuous when I entered the restaurant, especially when they had no place for me, but after awhile of sitting and listening to a man playing the kora, I got into the spirit of the place and they eventually served me delicious juices and a vegetarian platter. I was craving good food after weeks in the “brousse? (countryside). Better nourished, and after a walk and a stop at the somewhat seedy cafe where I saw a transvestite, I returned to the hotel and slept well. I had tried to treat Samuel Sidibe and a professor friend of his to lunch, but he was busy, so I just stopped by to pick up the conference proceedings he had obtained for me. They included a griot’s account of the history of the Mali Empire, a crucial contribution to my book.

Monument to Palestinian Children, Bamako, Mali

I spent the rest of the day trying to get a flight in January from Timbuktu to Bamako and managed only to confirm my place on the waiting list. That evening I again tried meeting Damien at the Cafe du Fleuve and instead ended up sharing a delicious meal with a Dutch fellow Michiel and a female friend of his, also Dutch, Lisa Winnen. They were very kind of me and my spirits revived considerably in preparation for my trip to Accra.

Bamako, Mali

Interview and Wandering Through Bamako

The interview with Samuel Sidibe, Director of the Musee Nationale du Mali, went very well. He was kind enough to provide me with references to the oral history of the griots, or traditional storytellers of West Africa, including back to the times of the great empires of Wagadu (Ghana), Mali, and Songhay.

Samuel Sidibe, Director of the Musee Nationale du Mali, Bamako, Mali

After the interview at the museum, I wandered around town to accomplish chores like getting a SIM card for my phone to work in Mali.

Monument, Bamako, Mali Les Delices de Bamako, Mali Les Delices de Bamako Interior, Mali

I walked all the way to the fetish market by the Grand Mosque, where I purchased a white crystal thought to help with stomach and intestinal ailments to give to Travis back in San Francisco. I went to a Marche Artisanal where artists were selling musical instruments, statues, paintings, and clothing. I purchased a small shirt and pant set for my nephew Zachary… I hope it will fit! Finally, I visited the main post office to inquire about sending my printed materials back to San Francisco. This time the price was even crazier — more than US$200! So it looks like I will be lugging the stuff around with me for awhile.

Street Scene, Bamako, Mali Big Tree on Street, Bamako, Mali Another Street Scene, Bamako, Mali

After a shower at the hotel, I went for dinner at Appaloosa. There I met a very intelligent and admirable woman from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Washington, DC. She is conducting a study here in Mali on malaria in infants. I was amazed by her dedication to saving lives and she told me some sad stories about how many children are dying here. She also explained in more detail about malaria works… apparently, the parasite from mosquito bites invades the liver and stays there until it transforms into something that goes into the blood stream. At that point is where the medications like Malarone and others attack the disease, not in the liver itself. That’s why it’s necessary to continue taking the medication for some time after leaving a malaria zone, so that all the disease that passes out of the liver gets clobbered in a blood supply well stocked with the medication. It’s also why it’s so important to make sure to take every done of the medication. Even she, an infectious disease expert, forgot to take her pill for one or two days and ended up with a case of malaria, the symptoms being fatigue and nausea without vomiting, among others. After grossing me out a bit with the malaria discussion, she invited me over to the Restaurant du Fleuve for an ice cream sundae. I had been afraid to eat ice cream here, but she assured me it would be not only safe but really yummy and she was right! The chocolate sauce was especially good.