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

Dogon Country in Mali

After a bumpy taxi ride, we arrived at the village of Telli where my guide Chicago and I spent my first night in Dogon country. He had family in the area, although the local guides treated him like a foreigner. I met three French, one Belgian, one English, and one Dutch travelers at the small hotel there. I climbed a traditional wooden Dogon ladder to sleep on the terrace (roof) of one of the banco buildings. The breeze was a refreshing respite from the heat of the day and, because only other foreigners were there, we could remove our clothes to climb into our sleeping bags.

View of Falaise or Escarpment From Telli Village, Dogon Country, Mali View of Falaise or Escarpment From Telli Village, Dogon Country, Mali Hotel in Telli Village, Dogon Country, Mali

I spent much of the night fantasizing about Damien, the cute French guy sleeping next to me (the second French guy named Damien I’ve found attractive on this trip!). I was also attracted to the Belgian guy Tim. They were traveling with two French women, Melanie and Severine. We woke to a breakfast of bread and coffee or tea. The French and the Belgian continued on their way out from Dogon country, while David and Annemarie, the English and Dutch partnership, headed the same direction as Chicago and I. The first day included a visit to the ancient Tellem and old Dogon dwellings up on the falaise, the mountainous cliffs.

Mosque in Tellem Village, Dogon Country, Mali Blacksmith Forge, Tellem Village, Dogon Country, Mali Small Dwellings in Falaise Escarpment, Tellem Village, Dogon Country, Mali

View Down From Escarpment, Tellem Village, Dogon Country, Mali View Across Falaise Escarpment, Tellem Village, Dogon Country, Mali Magical Part of Tellem Village, Dogon Country, Mali

Lovely Design Around Window of Tellem Village Building, Dogon Country, Mali Ritual Crocodile, Human, and Serpent Symbols in Falaise Escarpment, Tellem Village, Dogon Country, Mali Possibly Granary, Tellem Village, Dogon Country, Mali

Miniature Tellem Dwellings, Tellem Village, Dogon Country, Mali Miniature Older Tellem Dwellings Above Newer Dogon Buildings, Tellem Village, Dogon Country, Mali Closeup of Miniature Tellem Dwellings, Tellem Village, Dogon Country, Mali

Tomb in Escarpment, Tellem Village, Dogon Country, Mali View of Village From Falaise Escarpment, Tellem Village, Dogon Country, Mali View Across Escarpment Falaise, Tellem Village, Dogon Country, Mali

View Across Escarpment Falaise, Tellem Village, Dogon Country, Mali

We then hiked around 4km during the morning to another village and then another hike of about 7km to the village of Ennde where we spent the next night.

View of So-Called Thumb of Ennde on Path From Tellem Village, Dogon Country, Mali Baobab Tree on Path From Tellem Village to Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali Crocodile Symbol on Structure, Path Between Tellem Village and Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali

Serpent and Crocodile Symbols on Structure, Path Between Tellem Village and Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali Baobab Trees on Path From Tellem Village to Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali Guide and Friend on Path From Tellem Village to Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali

Baobab Trees in Front of Falaise Escarpment in Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali Strolling Through Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali Marketplace at Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali

Marketplace at Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali Giant Mortars and Pestles Used to Grind Grain Rhythmically in Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali View of Thumb of Ennde From Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali

Much of the focus of the Dogon villages is the granaries, with separate ones for the women and the men. There are also cemeteries, ceremonial places with storage for masks, breweries, and dwellings. Dogon symbology of the sacred crocodile and the sacred tortoise are common. Dogon craftspeople carve wooden statues and doors and blacksmiths have high status still in their villages. Each village usually has a village chief and formerly had a hogon or spiritual leader. There is also usually one hunter, tasked with chasing game such as monkeys, serpents, and other animals.

Landscape on Path From Ennde Village to Begnemoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali Landscape on Path From Ennde Village to Begnemoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali Landscape on Path From Ennde Village to Begnemoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali

Failaise Escarpment Village Visible on Path From Ennde Village to Begnemoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali Sunrise at Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali Storage Platform, Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali

Left Side of Painted Arch, Route to Old Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali Right Side of Painted Arch, Route to Old Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali

Damaged Drums at Old Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali Ritual Costume Storage Area, Old Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali Probably Granary on Falaise Escarpment, Old Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali

Ancient Hut on Falaise Escarpment, Old Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali Forest Near Waterfall on Falaise Escarpment, Old Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali Forest Near Waterfall on Falaise Escarpment, Old Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali

Hidden Water Source on Falaise Escarpment, Old Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali Hidden Water Source on Falaise Escarpment, Old Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali Hidden Water Source on Falaise Escarpment, Old Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali

Falaise Escarpment View of Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali Falaise Escarpment View of Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali

Probably Musical Instrument, Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali

Gnarly Baobab Tree Near Ennde Village, Dogon Country, Mali Hotel Courtyard in Village, Dogon Country, Mali Carving of Dogon Deity, Hotel Courtyard in Village, Dogon Country, Mali

I suffered a bit due to the lack of good vegetarian food, mostly eating only couscous, rice, or noodles with sparse vegetables to accompany them, plus drinking Fanta, Sprite, or a fizzy pineapple drink and lots of bottled mineral water, sometimes supplemented with the sport mix I brought along to prevent dehydration. I lost a bit of weight and didn’t feel strong enough to hike up the more strenuous route on the way to the village of Begnetmoto, so Chicago led me up an easier valley route to the village.

Route to Begnetmoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali Nice Tree on Route to Begnetmoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali View of Falaise Escarpment on Route to Begnetmoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali

Thumb of Ennde Rock Formation, Dogon Country, Mali Thumb of Ennde Rock Formation, Dogon Country, Mali Route to Begnetmoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali

Begnetmoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali Begnetmoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali View of Summit of Falaise Escarpment, Begnetmoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali

Carved Wooden Female Ladder at Hotel, Begnetmoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali Banco Christian Church, Bengetmoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali Animist Sector of Begnetmoto Village Off Limits to Visitors, Dogon Country, Mali

View From Summit of Falaise Escarpment Near Begnetmoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali View of Summit of Falaise Escarpment Near Begnetmoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali View From Summit of Falaise Escarpment Near Begnetmoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali

View From Summit of Falaise Escarpment Near Begnetmoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali View From Summit of Falaise Escarpment Near Begnetmoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali View From Summit of Falaise Escarpment Near Begnetmoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali

View of Canyon Trail From Summit of Falaise Escarpment Near Begnetmoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali Rhythmically Pounding Grain, Off Limits Animist Sector of Begnetmoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali Sunset View From Summit of Falaise Escarpment Near Begnetmoto Village, Dogon Country, Mali
He and/or the other guide tried to keep me from hanging out with David and Annemarie but I was lonely for English chatter and we had some really good conversations. Their guide even ended up telling us a strange story about three sons of an early human ancestor, Arab, black, and Toubab (or white, including Chinese and perhaps also Indian?). In the story, the father dies and the mother is worried about who will continue the family. She asks each of her sons, but the Arab son is not friendly with his brothers. She says the black son is doomed to endless toil and the Toubab son seems to get off easy. After thinking about it all night, I discussed the story with the guide again the next morning and told him I didn’t like the story or its implications. It reminded me a bit of the story of the lost Israeli tribe of Ham. He and I agreed that black Africans shouldn’t subordinate themselves to other people and that European and American colonial policies had to end and Africans have to take control of the resources of their own countries.

After the 2km hike out of Dogon country, we met the same taxi that had dropped us off a few days before in another location. He played some music by Tikken Jah Fakoly (pronounced “Chicken”), a Malian reggae performer, that made me cry, a song called “Ils ont partagé le monde” (“They have divided up the world”) about how the U.S. and Britain have taken and divided up the spoils of everything in the world.

After some worries on my part about whether Chicago was going to press me for more cash, I was glad that he didn’t seem worried about it and I even gave him a bit of a tip once we arrived in Sevaré. He helped me check in to the hotel there, then went on his way to Timbuktu, where we will perhaps meet again later on.

The Motel de Sevaré was basic, but felt like heaven with hot water showers! I left early the next morning, November 27, on the bus to Bamako.

Sevare, Mali

Jamming to Jenne

Written on November 27, 2007, Sevaré Motel, Sevaré near Mopti, Mali

The rest of the trip from Mauritania down to Djenné in Mali on November 22 and 23 was quite difficult. The first stage from Nema to Adel Bagrou wasn’t a very good road, although not as bad as the road from Nema to Oualata. At Adel Bagrou, I switched to another vehicle and we crossed the border at night. I was careful to make sure the Mauritanian border control stamped my passport on departure and the Malian border control stamped it on my second entry to Mali.

Nara, Mali

Arriving at night at Nara, some guys sitting near the garage got a local guy who works at the radio station in town to come by and show me a room he rents out. The room was filthy and had no running water. I took it anyway because I knew I’d be leaving the next morning. I went back to the street to have a kind of scrambled eggs made on a little gas stove while I sat drinking an apple juice on a wooden bench near the marketplace.

After a rough night and a tough morning, I had a great experience here in Nara. The rough night was because I stayed in a filthy room with no running water and didn’t adjust my mosquito net properly until after the muezzin calls in the morning. The tough morning was after I checked out of the hotel thinking I would be able to get on a truck for Selegou at 9:30am and make it to Niono by this evening and Djenné by tomorrow. Now, it looks like the truck won’t leave until 2:30pm or later. The truck driver named Lasana has a father, a retired teacher, who took pity on me and invited me to the family compound where about 40 people live. Such wonderful hospitality was a great antidote to the travails of travel. I even learned that they are Sonninké people descended from those of the Wagadu empire. Lasana has a twin brother named Fusiné. Here are some more details…

I broke out the mosquito net to crash out early. I didn’t get it adjusted properly until early the next morning. I soon remembered that it doesn’t do much good unless the net is always a bit away from one’s body; otherwise, the damn mosquitoes can sting you through the net! Later that morning, I tried for a vehicle all the way to Niono, but could only find one that would go to Sokolo. I asked when the vehicle would leave and the head of the driver’s syndicate told me it would leave in about an hour and a half at 9:30am. So, I told him I’d go back and bring my bags over. On the way back to the hotel, I tried to change my Mauritanian ougiyas at a reasonable rate with several different moneychangers. The best rate I could find was 16,667 CFA for my 9,000 ougiyas, when the amount should have been around 18,000 CFA. O well. Next, I bought some drinks, then checked out of the hotel and dragged my bags over to the first vehicle destined for Sokolo. I waited around for quite awhile, buying a coffee and a couple loaves of bread, then found out that the vehicle wouldn’t leave until at least 2:30pm. Fortunately, the father of one of the syndicate driver’s saw me chatting with a former colleague of his, both of them retired teachers, and decided to invite me back to his place for lunch. His son the driver brought me over. I had to explain before going about my vegetarianism, but the family seemed quite accommodating about it. I enjoyed visiting the family compound where about 40 people live. I got to eat couscous with milk and sugar, instead of the couscous with meat and sauce that everyone else ate. We talked a bit and he mentioned that the family is Sonninké and that they are descendants of the residents of the empire of Wagadu. After lunch, the son walked me back to the family’s rice and flour shop to wait until the vehicle would be ready. We drank tea and chatted a lot.

Buddies in Nara, Mali Buddies in Nara, Mali
Sokolo, Mali

Finally, the truck was ready to go around 4:30pm or later, and we left. I’m glad I got to visit the family.

Dwellings Between Nara and Sokolo, Mali Dwellings Between Nara and Sokolo, Mali Dwellings Between Nara and Sokolo, Mali

Dwellings Between Nara and Sokolo, Mali Scenery Between Nara and Sokolo, Mali Dwellings Between Nara and Sokolo, Mali

Roof on Dwelling Between Nara and Sokolo, Mali Dwellings Between Nara and Sokolo, Mali Dwellings Between Nara and Sokolo, Mali

Drums in Town Between Nara and Sokolo, Mali Platform for Men in Town Between Nara and Sokolo, Mali Sunset on the Route Between Nara and Sokolo, Mali

Sunset on the Route Between Nara and Sokolo, Mali Rock Formations Between Nara and Sokolo, Mali Guardian at Syndicat Resting Place in Sokolo, Mali

The unfortunate result however was that I got stuck overnighting at the syndicat in Sokolo, a mostly outdoor place right next to the dirt yard where the vehicles gather to take on or drop off passengers (see last pic above). In the syndicat, people were sleeping on mats. At first I was a bit afraid, but there was a guardian (shown in the pic) there who kept and eye out for everyone and their stuff.

Sunrise on the Route From Sokolo to Niono, Mali Sunrise on the Route From Sokolo to Niono, Mali View From Vehicle on the Route From Sokolo to Niono, Mali

Town on the Route From Sokolo to Niono, Mali Traditional Mosque on the Route From Sokolo to Niono, Mali Vehicle on the Route From Sokolo to Niono, Mali

Early the next morning, I got on a vehicle to Niono where I ate lunch and bought a bottle of mineral water.

Landscape Outside Niono, Mali City Scene in Niono, Mali Goat Sale in Nioro, Mali

Boys Playing Foosball in Nioro, Mali Truck and Driver in Nioro, Mali Truck and Driver in Nioro, Mali

Then, I headed on in another vehicle to Massina.

Landscape on Road From Nioro to Massina, Mali Landscape on Road From Nioro to Massina, Mali Landscape on Road From Nioro to Massina, Mali

Landscape on Road From Nioro to Massina, Mali Landscape on Road From Nioro to Massina, Mali Landscape on Road From Nioro to Massina, Mali

Niger River Tributary on Road From Nioro to Massina, Mali Landscape on Road From Nioro to Massina, Mali Baobab Tree in Landscape on Road From Nioro to Massina, Mali

Landscape on Road From Nioro to Massina, Mali Landscape on Road From Nioro to Massina, Mali Landscape on Road From Nioro to Massina, Mali

Landscape on Road From Nioro to Massina, Mali Landscape on Road From Nioro to Massina, Mali Landscape on Road From Nioro to Massina, Mali

Niger River Tributary on Road From Nioro to Massina, Mali Probably Tamarind Tree on Road From Nioro to Massina, Mali Niger River Tributary on Road From Nioro to Massina, Mali

Massina, Mali

At Massina, I encountered the River Niger in full force, including fish and large boats in the small but bustling river port.

Pinasse Boats at Massina, Mali Pinasse Boats at Massina, Mali Pinasse Boats at Massina, Mali

Watermelons on Sale in Massina, Mali Marketplace in Massina, Mali Pinasse Boats at Massina, Mali

Pinasse Boat at Massina, Mali Pinasse Boat and Gondolier at Massina, Mali Pinasse Boats at Massina, Mali

Pinasse Boats at Massina, Mali Old Oar in Pinasse Boat at Massina, Mali View of Niger Riger From Pinasse Boat at Massina, Mali

View of Niger Riger From Pinasse Boat at Massina, Mali View of Niger Riger From Pinasse Boat at Massina, Mali View of Niger Riger From Pinasse Boat at Massina, Mali

View of Niger Riger From Pinasse Boat at Massina, Mali View of Niger Riger From Pinasse Boat at Massina, Mali

I paid 2000 CFA to cross the Niger River in a pirogue that was taking on water. I’m sure I would have paid much less had I waited a few minutes more to cross on the usual passenger boat, constructed by strapped two pirogues together.

When I reached the sand beach on the other side of the river, there was no public transport in site. A kind truck driver offered me a ride to the villages of Souléi then Say.

Truck Carrying Pinasses I Rode From Massina to Say, Mali Landscape on Road From Massina to Say, Mali Landscape on Road From Massina to Say, Mali

Landscape on Road From Massina to Say, Mali Landscape on Road From Massina to Say, Mali Baobab and Red Soil on Road From Massina to Say, Mali

In Say, guys sitting by the road greeted me with tasty watermelon. Walking over to the other side of town with a local guy’s help for my large bag, I chatted with the town’s mayor for quite awhile while reclining in wood slat chairs and drinking tea. A car came by around 9pm and took me on to a small town that was called Matabou (I think).When I arrived in that town, the vehicle I arrived in had problems and the only other vehicle that wasn’t a motorcycle was sitting unoccupied right next to it. So, I almost decided to crash for night, but I remembered I had told Chicago, my prospective guide, that we should go that day. Finally, with the assistance of a guy who worked the telephone call box and a clothing stylist in town, I managed to reach Chicago on the phone and he negotiated to send a taxi to me, also rough going. He showed up in the taxi, which ended up costing me a whopping $80+. I checked in to the Campement de Djenné hotel around 1:30am and didn’t get to sleep until after I completed a shower around 3am. Chicago and I had agreed to meet each other at 10:30am.

Jenne, Mali

I actually managed to wake up on time despite incredible fatigue from the journey. Over breakfast, I realized I had done something stupid. Chicago had quoted me a price by email for a trip to the Dogon country. I mistakenly thought he had quoted around US$50 per day when it was actually US$500 per day. That explained why he showed up in Djenné three days before our scheduled departure date. Over breakfast at Ali Babu’s place nearby, I told him that I had made a big mistake and apologized. I said there was no way I could afford to pay anything like what he was seeking and offered to compensate him for his trip from Timbuktu instead. He tried proposing some other pricing which was still way too high for me. Finally, he asked what I could afford. I told him around US$50 per day. He obviously really wanted to make the trip work, and of course had offered a highly inflated initial price, so we actually managed to come to an agreement that worked for both of us.

That day, I saw the old mosque at Jenné and a tour of that old city.

Mosque in Jenne, Mali Mosque in Jenne, Mali Ostrich Eggs on Minarets of Mosque in Jenne, Mali

Interior Corridor of Mosque in Jenne, Mali Prayer Mats and Lamps in Mosque in Jenne, Mali Interior Corridor of Mosque in Jenne, Mali

Interior of Mosque in Jenne, Mali Courtyard of Mosque in Jenne, Mali Courtyard of Mosque in Jenne, Mali

Exterior of Mosque in Jenne, Mali Exterior of Mosque in Jenne, Mali Streets of Jenne, Mali

Exterior of Mosque in Jenne, Mali Ostrich Egg on Minaret of Mosque in Jenne, Mali Mosque in Jenne, Mali

Mosque in Jenne, Mali Moroccan-Style House in Jenne, Mali Tablets in Koranic School in Jenne, Mali

Tablets in Koranic School in Jenne, Mali Pirogues in Jenne, Mali Pirogue in Jenne, Mali

Next, we went to the museum at the even older town of Jenne-Jeno.

Artifacts at Museum at Jenne-Jeno, Mali Artifacts at Museum at Jenne-Jeno, Mali Artifacts at Museum at Jenne-Jeno, Mali

Artifacts at Museum at Jenne-Jeno, Mali Artifacts at Museum at Jenne-Jeno, Mali Artifacts at Museum at Jenne-Jeno, Mali

Artifacts at Museum at Jenne-Jeno, Mali Artifacts at Museum at Jenne-Jeno, Mali Pottery Phases of Artifacts at Museum at Jenne-Jeno, Mali

Pottery Phases of Artifacts at Museum at Jenne-Jeno, Mali Funerary Pots at Museum at Jenne-Jeno, Mali Funerary Pots at Museum at Jenne-Jeno, Mali

Funerary Pots at Museum at Jenne-Jeno, Mali

I managed a visit to the site of the archaeological dig that McIntosh had directed at Jenne-Jano as well. Chicago was kind enough to return on foot to arrange our transport on to the Dogon country while I got a ride with a museum attendant and archaeologist to the ancient city on the back of his motorcycle. As a student, he had participated in the excavation of the site and planned to participate again when McIntosh returns next year. The site seemed possibly as large as Koumbi Salah and had lots of pottery shards and iron ore castoffs.

Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali

Vase Buried in Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali

In one spot, a stream had eroded the earth surrounding a vase buried under the sand, so you could see one whole side of the vase while it was still fully buried on the other side (picture just above). The ceramic vases were apparently used for a variety of purposes, such as for food storage. When used to hide treasure, vases were layered inside one another. Funerary vases (including those in the last few pictures from the museum above) had a hole intentionally poked in the bottom of the vase so it was clear the vase wasn’t used for a “practical? purpose. I was struck by the thought of the discovery at Jenne of the seemingly Indian-style statue I had seen at the Musée Nationale du Mali in Bamako.

Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali UNESCO Sign for Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali

Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali Cache of Vases Buried Within Vases in Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali

Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali

Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali

Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali

Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali Pottery Fragments in Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali

Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali

Pottery Fragments in Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali Ruins of Ancient City of Jenne-Jeno, Mali
As soon as the museum curator got me back onto the main road, Chicago, the taxi driver, and another passenger picked me up in the taxi and off we went to Dogon country. The first stop along the way was at a Niger River crossing. Chicago didn’t stop three teenage women from surrounding me up against the taxi to sell their wares. Finally, I got it across to them I wasn’t interested, so I got to wander around the riverside a bit while waiting for the car ferry to show up from the other side of the river.

Niger River Crossing From Jenne to Bandiagara, Mali Pinasses at Niger River Crossing From Jenne to Bandiagara, Mali
We spotted a young hippo near the other side of the river, and when we finally made it across, the hippo lifted himself out of the water and turned around so we could see him really well. Apparently it’s not a common site because the local people were quite excited by it as well.

Bandiagara, Mali

The taxi took us to the garage at Bandiagara where we shifted over almost immediately to a vehicle that was already full of people, including four Mali Peace Corps volunteers. So, even though two of the female Peace Corps volunteers were squished very tightly along with Chicago and myself into a back seat meant for two passengers, we made interesting conversation along the way. At Bandiagara, Chicago and I shifted into a taxi to get the rest of the way to Dogon country. Someone, perhaps a friend of Chicago’s offered me to buy some cola for the elders at the first Dogon village, but I though he meant Coca-Cola and decided I didn’t want to offer that as a gift. I later found out he meant cola nuts, which the elder Dogons love to chew. I had trouble purchasing bottles of water from the same guy because he tried to charge me a higher price for cold water than tepid water. I got annoyed and gave him the money telling him to bring me the hottest bottles of water he had. He ended up bringing some fairly cool ones for the lower price. It was lucky I got those water bottles at 500 CFA because the water bottles once at the Dogon villages went up to 1000 CFA.

Puny French – Sarakonnay Dictionary

November 22, 2007, Nara, Mali

French Sarakonnay (Sonninké)
Bonjour Enmunhjamb
Bonsoir Kalela
Apres-midi Kakira
Bon nuit Kasunka
À demain Kumbani
Hier Daru
Lundi Tleninge
Mardi Terata
Mercredi Arabah
Jeudi Alakamusah
Vendredi Ndjuma
Samedi Sibiti
Dimanche Alahadi
Griot Djaré (singular), Djaru (plural) {Note: Bambara term is Djelimuso}
Merci Nané
Garçon Yugo
Fille Kuciné
Femme Yagaré

Peace Corps Volunteers in Mauritania

November 21, 2007, Main “garage? at Nema, Mauritania

Yesterday morning, I took my leave of Oualata after a fine tour of the city and its painted houses, as well as a visit to the old Arabic manuscript library and museum of the ancient city. Although the conveniences and the transport are very basic in Oualata, the town is charming and tranquil. I’d put it on my return visit list for one day in the future.

Before a special meal of flour cakes with vegetables, I wrote out the hotel tariff in three languages for Mr. Moulay of the Hotel de l’Amitié. In the morning, the truck came a bit early to pick me up, just as I was on the shitter, so I had to hurry to splash my butt with water, and grab my bags to throw them on the truck while it went off to pick up other passengers. Then, I ate a peaceful breakfast of bread and jam with Nescafe and three pourings of tea. The bread in Mauritania is delicious and seems to be one really good tradition the French left behind.

Aniticipating another disastrous ride, I had purchased a seat in the cab up front of the truck a couple of days in advance, so the ride was much better, albeit still quite bumpy and arduous.

Scenery Along Route From Oualata to Nema, Mauritania Scenery Along Route From Oualata to Nema, Mauritania Scenery Along Route From Oualata to Nema, Mauritania

Scenery Along Route From Oualata to Nema, Mauritania Scenery Along Route From Oualata to Nema, Mauritania Scenery Along Route From Oualata to Nema, Mauritania

Scenery Along Route From Oualata to Nema, Mauritania Scenery Along Route From Oualata to Nema, Mauritania Scenery Along Route From Oualata to Nema, Mauritania

Scenery Along Route From Oualata to Nema, Mauritania Scenery Along Route From Oualata to Nema, Mauritania Scenery Along Route From Oualata to Nema, Mauritania

AIDS Kills Sign on Route Between Oualata and Nema, Mauritania Vehicle on Route From Oualata to Nema, Mauritania

We saw traditional cone-on-cylinder construction along the route.

Traditional Cone-on-Cylinder Construction Along Route From Oualata to Nema, Mauritania Traditional Cone-on-Cylinder Construction Along Route From Oualata to Nema, Mauritania
Nema, Mauritania

By the time I arrived in Nema, no trucks were leaving for Nara until the following day. By coincidence, a Peace Corps volunteer named Sarah walked by the truck just as I unloaded my bags onto the dusty street. She was the same person I’d seen just as I was departing Nema on a truck to Oualata, so she and I seem somehow to be in synchronicity (for more, see Sarah’s blog). She took me over to her new home which she was just fixing up with new tapis, a thin mat, and matelots, a mattress for lounging and sleeping. Since her place wasn’t completely set up yet, she brought me to Peace Corps volunteer Heather’s place to relax for the afternoon and spend the night. Heather and I chatted about some of the challenges she faces as a teacher in Nema. I also met a fellow named David. He and I discussed a variety of topics, such as health, writing, and his concerns about the Peace Corps. We visited the compound of a wealthy Mauritanian family where Sarah had been living and I discussed the symbolism of the Oualata house designs with a friendly Mauritanian gentleman. He mentioned that a cemetery near Oualata has grave markers of a similar design. I’ll have to do more research.

Then David took me to a compound of some oil exploration guys who were getting ready to leave Mauritania after around six months of work. They left me use their satellite Internet connection to post a brief entry to my blog, the first in ten days, and to read 2000 of the 3000 emails I had received during that time. They had sent a plane to search for a missing guy on a motorcycle, presumed lost or dead in the desert. Eventually, the guy texted from Timbuktu after worrying his motorcycle buddy sick.

Back at Heather’s place, I helped prepare a meal of eggs and hash browns with a cucumber salad dressed with a mix of mayo, pepper, honey, and limes. I contributed some mango juice and two melons to the meal. I read and critiqued one of David’s stories, then read aloud some of the first part of my novel to an appreciative audience of Sarah, Heather, and David, who provided some good feedback.

Will and Sarah of the Peace Corps, Nema, Mauritania

I slept well, took a bucket shower in the morning, and Heather walked me to the station to find a truck for Nara (4000 ougiya for a seat in the cab). The trucks actually go to a town called Adel Bagrou on the Mauritanian side of the border with Mali, then I’ll change to another vehicle to cross the border. It looks like I’m running at least a day behind my planned arrival in Djenné, which may cut back on my visit to Dogon country.