Archive for December, 2010
(Roughly in order of preference)
After completing my thesis in May, I rediscovered the joy of reading for sheer pleasure. For a year or two previously, I’d mostly been reading (these books and others) for research purposes, and a lot of reading it was! Enjoyable too, but being able to choose what you read and when now seems like a luxury!
So, here are 9 books I’ve read this year (mostly in their entirety):
(NB click on titles below to see the books on Amazon)
1. The Daily Message (Bible)
2. How to Win Friends and Influence People
3. The Heavenly Man
4. Où es-tu?
5. Dark Star Safari
7. La Noisetière
8. Dead Aid
9. China’s Christian Millions
Happy New Year to you all!
Remember the time I saw Santa Claus, all dressed in red and white? Here he is:
This was in the port of Benin, a few years back – and ‘he’ comes from Lagos! Fascinating (and at least they got the colours right!) I wonder if they drink Coca Cola on board?? No sign of his reindeer, mind.
Happy Christmas to all the blog readers!
Visit Rob’s favourite supermarket: La Fourmi.
Translated into English, la fourmi means the ant – a curious choice for a supermarket, but I guess they’re hard-working insects who are good at storing stuff away. Here’s one of their shopping bags, depicting a female ant pushing a shopping trolley (sureal!).
Inside, there are two storeys packed full of all kinds of goods: groceries, electronics, clothing, kitchenware, toys, magazines. Right now, they also have plenty of Christmassy bits – trees, tinsel, chocolate etc. Yum!
Prices are not particularly lower than other supermarkets, but there is a lot of variety and sometimes you can pick up great bargains (some of which are blogged about here). One of the coolest things (which my kids love too) is the “trolley escalator” which takes your trolley up to the next floor (and down again) without spilling any of its contents. Nice!
Finally, here’s the Fourmi Supermarket thanks to Tim’s Bamako Map:
Happy Shopping now!
There is one common currency in Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Togo, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger, which is called the West African CFA Franc. (Click here to see a nice map of those countries).
Now, when we first came out to Benin in 2004, you could get 1000cfa for one British pound, which was a decent exchange rate for us. By 2006, the rate was around 950 francs to the pound – still okay. At the start of 2007, it was back up to 995, before a two-year descent, ending in a spectacular crash at the end of 2008, when the exchange rate sunk to a stunningly-low 670cfa to the pound; 33% less than when we first arrived.
Click here to see the original graph on www.xe.com
This year, though, has thankfully been better than the last, with the value reaching as high as 810cfa to the £ in late June (see chart here).
The US dollar to cfa story is similar, though the slump ocurred earlier, in mid-2008 and there have been a couple of nice ‘spikes’ since then, almost back to the ‘usual’ rate of around 550cfa to the $. Have a look at the chart here.
It’s not all bad news, of course – this means it’s cheaper for Africans to buy things in Europe/the USA (one reason why we bought our car in England), but also means that purchasing African goods from these countries will cost westerners more. I’m hoping the exchange rate picks up a bit more in 2011, though.
Earlier this year, composer, explorer and ethnomusicologist David Fanshawe died of a stroke, aged 68.
David Fanshawe was most well-known for his African Sanctus, which inspired me at a young age and – who knows – may even have been part of what led me to do what I do on this fascinating continent. The Sanctus is basically a mass for choir but with one key difference: authentic field recordings of African music (made in North and Eastern Africa by David himself) are played during the performance, combining with the sound of the choir with some fantastic results. Seriously uplifting stuff, although very eclectic indeed. You can see a YouTube video about the African Sanctus here and order a copy (inc. choral score) here. I’d love to conduct a choir in this one day, but it is quite a demanding work.
His eccentric personality and sense of fun and adventure are surely factors which drove him to travel to such remote locations to make recordings (I can certainly identify with all of the above). As well as Africa, he also spent a significant amount of time in the Pacific, collecting a large number of recordings there as well.
Goodbye David – we will miss your crazy ways and superb music.