Archive for September, 2009

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 28-09-2009

The other day, I went for a walk in my neighbourhood (called Badalabougou)


…and I took my (carefully hidden) Edirol R1 MP3/WAV recorder with me. Here’s what I came up with (after a wee bit of editing…)

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So, competition time! Who can name the most items from what you’ve just heard? I reckon 10 should be easy and that you could even get as many as 20…

What are you waiting for? Send us your list now!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 22-09-2009

Sixteen years ago – almost to the day – Rob and Lois met at Vavoua International School in Cote d’Ivoire…

The newly-arrived Rob burst into Lois’ house in an array of youthful enthusiasm, greeted everyone present and proceeded to play their piano with vigour. As it turned out, Auntie Lois was the only one not too shell-shocked to say “Hello” to me. The rest, as they say, is history…

How time flies

Spot any differences???

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 19-09-2009

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 16-09-2009

If so, I whole-heartedly recommend that you attend Re:ignite next spring.

Keswick 1

“What’s that all about?” I hear you ask! Well, it’s a kind of retreat for folk like us, which takes place in Keswick from 29th May – Friday 4th June next year. We went last year and found it a wonderful opportunity to:

(i) share with like-minded people
(ii) recharge our spiritual, mental and physical batteries
(iii) get some great teaching and handy ‘survival’ tips
(iv) enjoy the local countryside
(v) eat delicious meals on site every day.

There was also a great kids programme run by ‘international missions folk’ who understand TCK’s (of which we have three!)

Keswick 2

Great setting too – Keswick is beautiful! (Click here to see the view from our room last year). What more could you ask for? But don’t take my word for it – check out the info on the Christian Vocations website (where, if you look carefully, you may see someone you know holding an orange and a quote from a certain ‘LB’ too).

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 12-09-2009

(revised copy of an article originally posted in April ’08).

Ask any Malian whether they eat beans and they’re likely to burst out laughing and/or deny ever eating them…

Laughing Malian

This is part of the joking relationships which exist between different people groups and family names in Mali. Families such as Diarra and Traoré, or Keita and Coulibaly are considered ‘cousins’ and will ‘tease’ each other, calling them bean-eaters just for fun.

In fact, when you say: “I be syo dun!” (You eat beans!) to a rival group, it has – apparently – to do with flatulance. However, when I ask Malians about this, no-one seems to admit that this is the root of the joke! It’s all done in good spirit, of course, and the malians never tire of it, however often you bring it up (it even happens at weddings, apparently!)

(Photo of genuine malian beans taken at the main market in Bamako).

Still, don’t take my word for it, read Rachel Jones’s doctoral thesis on the subject (yes, I’m not joking this time, you bean eater, you!) The main ‘bean bit’ starts on page 74. Here’s a quote if you’re too busy to look:

“…beans have the annoying property of causing one to bloat and break wind when one abuses them […] breaking wind in public is the most unfortunate act […] Thus, beans whose consumption can lead to being discourteous (in breaking wind) are not sensibly consumed by any person of quality”.

(From: “You Eat Beans!” © Rachel Jones, Anthropology Department, Macalester College, April 30, 2007)

Non-Malians also tend to ‘adopt’ a family name for themselves, so I’ve chosen to be a Traoré. So, after the inevitable initial “how are you” greetings, the conversation would continue thus:

Malian: What’s your family name?
Rob: Traoré. And yours?
Malian: I’m a Diarra. You Traoré!
Rob: (in local language): You Diarra! You eat beans!
Malian: (Laughs & shakes my hand): No, my friend. It’s the Traoré who eat beans, not the Diarra.
Rob: No, it’s the Diarra. You even grow the beans!
Malian: We may grow them, but it’s you we sell them to you at a high price, so you can eat them!

…and so on. It’s great fun once you get the hang of it. Thought you’d enjoy this wee anthropological gem!!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 11-09-2009

…if you want to really understand what my job entails:

I have used this wonderful video for ethnomusicology training several times, so was delighted to see it had made it onto YouTube! I’ve always used the francophone version (also available here), but both are the same visually.

So, now you know what we ethnomusicologists actually do! Next time someone asks you, send ’em this link, so they can see for themselves, or better still – show it in your church/homegroup!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 09-09-2009


1. Zemidjans were a fun and convenient way to get from A to B. (Hey, the humble zem has made it into Wikipedia: click here).
2. It had three Indian restaurants (and Bamako has one (since 2010)).
3. It was a crazy, vibrant place, where something was always happening.
4. School was literally just across the road (not 6 mins’ drive away…)
5. There were a lot fewer police check-points there.
6. It was by the seaside!
7. There were hardly ever any traffic jams (which happen twice a day in Bamako).
8. You could do the ‘finger click’ when shaking hands, which doesn’t happen in Mali (if you don’t know it, watch this short video).
9. Everything was just that bit cheaper.
10. It had an excellent jazz club, called Le Repaire de Bacchus.

NB I compared Cotonou to Lomé in this post.

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 07-09-2009


1. It has pretty hills and a river.
2. There are fewer power-cuts (and they’re shorter when they do happen).
3. Public transport (in the form of sotramas) is just as cheap, but safer than zemidjans.
4. When it rains heavily, the floods just run downhill into the river, so don’t last long.
5. You can constantly tease people about bean-eating.
6. There are more expatriates and a greater variety of organized events.
7. The nights are cooler and it’s generally less humid.
8. There are hardly ever any water-cuts.
9. There is less crime and it’s relatively safe to drive at night here.
10. The main roads are virtually pot-hole free.

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 03-09-2009

Yesterday, we had torrential rain for several hours in Bamako and I had to drive through floods up to 60cm deep taking the kids to school.

However, ‘up the road’ in Ouagadougou, the situation is much much worse – floods several feet deep, houses crumbling to the ground, traffic halted. Have a look:

As Burkina Faso is a relatively unknown country in W Africa, I doubt this news will have even made it onto the news screens of Europe. In fact, this video has only had 458 viewings right now, whereas some bloke singing about tabouleh or playing tunes by hand-farting gets hundreds of thousands of viewings. Shame.

Read more about this disaster here. The risk now is that illness will break out due to all the sewage etc. transported by the water. The cost to individuals and to the country in general will be considerable. Please pray for the people of Ouagadougou.