Archive for February, 2011
My First Birthday Curry in Africa!
This was back in 2005 in Cotonou. Glad to say I’ve lost a few pounds since then, even though I’ve gained a few years! In just a couple of days, I turn 40 and will once again be having a ‘Birthday Curry’ (a tradition since 1997). Interestingly, the Indian restaurant in this photo is owned by the same guy as the one in Bamako (blogged about here).
At this year’s curry, the only guests the same as six years ago will be me and the missus. We’re still in touch with most of the folk on the photo, though (and wish you could be here this time too!)
“The Rolling Hotel”, photographed in Dogon Country
This was the second time I’d seen this fascinating vehicle in Mali (first time was in Bamako, but I had no camera with me). The small windows at the rear intrigued me – how could you fit people in there? How does it all work?
Better still, have a look on YouTube, where there are various Rotel vids, including this one of the bus and this one, showing how the bedroom compartments are opened up and accessed. Finally, here’s their promotional video.
(NB I’m unable to watch these myself, due to band width, so let me know if they’re not good!)
Go ten pin bowling!
Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but Bamako now has an eight lane bowling alley, situated in the ‘Byblos’ restaurant near the hippodrome.
Amazing! It’s virtually identical to the bowling alley in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), which formerly claimed to be ‘le bowling club le plus moderne d’Afrique occidentale’. Well, now theirs is the second most modern (and has 5 lanes instead of 8). Click here to see the Ouaga bowling.
So on Thursday night, as it was Lois’ birthday (and mine soon) we went to try out our hands at bowling, with Micah. It was very similar to the experience back home: they give you nice bowling shoes and the balls come in different, colour-coded sizes.
There are even little barriers that come up for children, so that the ball doesn’t end up in the gutter! The only difference I noticed was that the skittles were actually attached by black cord on the top – a simpler system for getting them upright again, but which, I felt, slightly affected how they fell.
At the end of our game, here are our (rather unimpressive) scores:
Oh well, can’t win ’em all, eh? To get there, head for the Fourmi supermarket and it’s a couple of buildings east. Here it is on Tim’s Bamako Map:
The biggest downside was the cost: it’s 5,000cfa per person, per game (even for children!) That’s why we went whilst our daughters were on youth camp! That said, where else can you go bowling in Mali? And we can now say we’ve visited the most modern bowling alley in West Africa – how’s about that?!
Wow, we were just driving through Mali, minding our own business, when dozens of baboons ran across the road in front of the car, just like that!
What a surprise! Until they appeared I hadn’t even realized that Mali had any wild baboons, which further added to my astonishment at seeing around fifty at once. Here are a couple of them close up:
Looking at their long, dark noses and the large quantity of hair on their fronts, I’d say these were Guinea baboons but the olive baboon is also resident to this part of Mali. Oh, and here’s the photo you all really want to see:
Of course, this isn’t my first sighting of wild African animals; we saw elephants, lions, buffalo, hippos, a hyena, monkeys, crocodiles and baboons in the Pendjari National Park in Benin in 2005/6. Here’s my baboon photo from that time:
And here’s the album of all the wild animals we saw there. But, in a way, we expected to see at least some wild animals there; after all, it was a national park. Today’s manifestation, however, was a big surprise, but a very pleasant one!
Have a look at this – I think it will make you smile!
Thanks for watching!
A field of gourds near Ségou, Mali
The gourd is a very versatile vegetable, not so much for eating, but for making a vast range of bowls, utensils and musical instruments. The body of the kora, for example, is made from half a large gourd. It is also used in the Ségou region when making pottery – you can see a potter in action with clay and a gourd here.
Other links: here’s the French wikipedia entry for ‘calebasse’ (more detailed than the anglophone one), and here’s a nice site showing how they grow and are used in cooking. Finally, this francophone Canadian site shows more examples of how the gourd is used in Africa.
Gourd, bless you!
Rob was in Dogon Country again recently, running a song-writing workshop.
Following this research visit in 2010, I was back in the fascinating clifftop town of Sangha, many miles from home. Here’s what Sangha looks like:
The four-day workshop brought together musicians from all over Dogon Country (cliff and plain-dwellers) to work together on new Bible-based songs. The first three were based on parables, the second three were specifically for the Dogon Bible Dedication, sheduled for 2012. Here are the Dogon Musicians rehearsing one of their songs (with great joy and energy!)
On the last day, we found a secluded valley (between the rocks) and I recorded all the new songs, as well as a few older ones. It was great to see them use so many of their traditional instruments in the songs, some of which are still rarely used in church. Here they are:
It is interesting to note that the square boina was introduced in the 1960s by missionaries because round-headed Dogon drums were still deemed ‘evil’. Somehow having four corners removed its ‘evilness’. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then and the Dogon are happy to use a range of instruments to worship God. Have a listen to some of the new songs:
A bi-product (and highlight) of the trip was also being able to interview and record an old Dogon man, who knew many traditional folk songs from years gone by. Here he is singing one of the songs for me – amazing musicality for an old bloke!
Here are some short audio clips of some of the other songs: (i) A song in honour of his mother, saying how nice her breast milk tastes, (ii) A song saying “Whoever you are, you can do nothing in the face of death” and (iii) A song saying: “No Dogon woman is complete without her indigo cloth”.
More photos of the trip on Facebook – click here.
The Hippo Monument in Bamako
Bamako is well-endowed with monuments of various shapes and sizes (don’t forget the Tour d’Afrique). As well as a hippo, we also have an elephant, a buffalo, a crocodile and a man riding a horse. Then there’s an obelisk, a globe with a dove on it, a pyramid and a statue of some important bloke sitting in a chair! See them all (and more) by clicking here.