16-3 Djenne Mud-Brick Construction-Donkey Cart with Mud_943x768SYNOPSIS:   Exploring the UNESCO town of Djenne

About adobe construction, the mosque, and Koran schools.  About village life and city comforts.  About the total collapse of the tourism industry.  About the internet or the lack of it.  About taking charge of my new circumstances.          

In my conversation over tea with Ishmael on the rooftop of my new home yesterday, I found out that I was stuck.  My guidebook of 8 years ago was still talking about the hotel market in Djenné heating up, about hotels being built, about various luxury categories available, none of it is left!

This is not like Segou or Bamako, both provincial and state capitals respectively.  Djenné was booming exclusively due to the tourism industry.  Every single hotel that ever existed in town has closed.  All that came with it, for example internet cafes, and more upscale restaurants, have all but disappeared.  The locals could not afford them and the tourists stopped coming.

In other words, I either cut my stay short here or I am making the best of it.  Perhaps, I bit off a bigger chunk than I can chew.  But at least I want to give it a try.  I told Ishmael that I paid his “brother” a lot of money for things he did not deliver and that I would need at a few things today to make this work:  10 nails and a traditional floor mat.  I also asked him to provide me with my own water bucket and the use of a hammer for 15 minutes.  He delivered on all fronts.

I went to work cleaning my room and with the 10 nails and my travel clothes line, I created two “closets”.   The nails provided various hooks for my backpack and scarves, and most of all, some atmosphere.  My bogolan purchases in Segou came in handy, as well as my mosquito net.  It really looks nice draped from the ceiling.  In the next room I found a broken bed – its board now serves as a hanger for various things such as my bed sheet, towel, and sleeping bag, very much like a dresser.  Now I have a room.

With a bucket of my own I can actually use the toilet and the “shower” when I need without having to disturb the non-English speaking population of the house – I am not their guest and they are not here to provide me with any necessities.  I survived the first hot day – peak temperature today was over 40/105 degrees and in my room it was as cool as 32/90s.  I do only a few things for a couple of hours, and then I rest and get out of the sun.  A visit to that dreadful bathroom can provide a few minutes of cooling off by pouring “cold“ water over myself.  The water is not as cold as one would hope, but it’s definitely less than 25/80 degrees.  It feels cool.  Yes, I can live this way for 5+ days and I will.   Of course I can!  I don’t know why I panicked yesterday.  I am a spoiled brat after all…

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  1. I sat for a long time looking out my deck door after reading this post trying to imagine a life under these stark conditions. Then I began to understood why infant mortality is so high and why it is so easy for a rag tag group of militants–secular or religious–to seize a town and do with it what they will. I don’t know if I should thank you for enlightening me or curse you for it. There’s a lot to be said about naivety and stupidity–out of sight, out of mind. If you are a spoiled brat, then I’m a royal pain in the @#$…

  2. I love, love, love your spirit and your attitude. I’m reading all of this from my clean and air-conditioned office.

  3. Nice to hear from you…one’s mind starts putting out some strange scenarios after your last post and pictures…now we know you are coping.
    Your 90 degree room in Mali reminded me of the classroom at WCC that anomalously hot and steamy April we had a couple of years ago. I remember you lugging fans down the hallway to get the room at least somewhat bearable. Remember that?!! Wow. I bet the memory of that classroom is “cool” in your mind right now. Glad you found a way to survive…NO, you are not a spoiled brat!!!! Just used to, and appreciative of, the comforts of civilization. Very cool that your were able to make your situation there manageable…at least to some extent. (“Cool” may not be the exact right word to use in this case.)
    When you said in your last post that you were going to a hotel, I got curious about what was available in Djenne. Every one I checked said nothing was available…no matter what start and end dates I put in. Now I know why. Wow…what a mean blow to their economy…and you must have been shocked when you started your search.
    Well, the important thing is that you survived and will see interesting things and you will have participated in “life as it is lived there”…and such stories you will have to tell.
    Take care….