Archive for October, 2009

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 30-10-2009

…is often different from the French spoken in France.

I still remember the first time I came to francophone W Africa back in 1993; even though I was a graduate in French, it took me a good few weeks to ‘tune in’ and understand everything which was said. This is partly due to the accent/pronunciation of words, but also a different vocabulary.

So, for francophones everywhere, here are some of the main differences I’ve noticed:

W African French

My mate Dave used the term ‘hier nuit’ in France once, causing much hilarity! (Even if you were out until 1:00am, it’s still ‘hier soir’). In Africa, mind you, the ‘soir’ does start a lot earlier – whereas you might start saying ‘Bonsoir’ at around 6:00pm in France, folk here will use it any time from midday onwards. Once a child greeted me with ‘bonsoir’ at 10:30am (when I’d scarcely got out of bed!)

There you go! Any other differences you know, please leave a comment!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 26-10-2009

Don’t you? Of course you do – they’re GREAT!!!

There’s nothing quite like peeling back that warm tin lid to reveal a steaming, perfectly rectangular, tasty meal – usually beef & rice or chicken & rice or, if you’re lucky, potatoes instead of rice.

Then there’s the small packets of butter, milk, sugar, cheese…not to mention the ubiquitous ‘refreshing lemon towel’. I love the plastic cutlery, the crusty bread rolls…and those cute little bottles of wine! A friend of mine once saw a Beninese nun ask for extra wine TWICE then promptly stuff them into her bag!

So, frequent-flyers everywhere, it’s QUIZ TIME!!!

Have a look at these four airline meals (all of which were consumed by yours truly) :

Airline meals

Now all you have to do is match them up with the following:

1. British Airways
2. Air France
3. Royal Air Maroc
4. Afriqiya Airlines

What could be simpler?? Go on, give it a try…

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 19-10-2009

…is that most of them are barely capable of “doing what it says on the tin” (pun intended)

When I come to Africa, I always forget to bring a tin-opener with me from the UK, but have recently wished I had…

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First of all, I bought the blue one in the middle for round £3.00. The blue plastic bits on the handle fell off as soon as I took it out of the packaging and it just about managed to open ONE tin before giving up the ghost.

So then, I bought a classic, ‘twisty metal’ tin-opener (left) for 50p from the market – surely can’t be as bad as the first one, after all my Mum used one for years when I was a kid! It lasted almost a week, and then the small plastic ‘washer’ dislodged, thus rendering it incapable of opening any more cans.

Thirdly, I bought one of those horizontal ones that lifts the whole lid off. Cost me around £2.50, but it was so bad that it got thrown in the bin before even having chance to pose for a blog photo!

Finally, it had to be done, I shelled out a whopping £8.00 on a pucker TEFAL tin opener (right & below), which is almost the total of what I had paid thus far for my ‘dodgy’ openers. I am happy to say that this one is still going strong a month later, thereby dramatically outstripping its contenders on the ‘tins per £’ scale!

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So, I guess the moral of the story is, don’t buy cheap tin-openers in Africa, especially as warranties and refunds are few and far between.

Thanks for reading – please leave a comment if you can (NB I’ve not had any on the blog itself since last month!!)

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 14-10-2009

(NB post updated on 15th October)

If you see a creature like this one, beware and do NOT squash it, or even brush it off with your hand…


Rather, blow it off if you can, or get a friend to help! This very morning, Lois arrived at school to find no fewer than SIX of these paederus littoralis in her classroom and had to evacuate the room immediately. That’s because they can cause serious injury to human skin. They are common in much of W Africa around this time of the year. In fact, a friend at another school in Bamako had them in her classroom too, and 3 pupils got burns on their hands as a result!

I mentioned these wee beasties in this post, back in November ’06, when I gave the following warning:

“If this small, red and black insect lands on you, do NOT squash them or brush them off, as this could cause nasty burning. Blowing them off is usually safe […] a colleague of ours in Cotonou got some unpleasant burns on her arm last year from one of these wee beasties.”

In fact, the colleague concerned posted an interesting article on Facebook yesterday. Here it is:

Harmful Beetle
(click to enlarge)

It’s still hard to read the text even when enlarged, but one mildly distressing phrase reads “intraveneous injection causes death at levels which suggest that it is more potent than cobra venom.” Hmmm. Mind you, before you panic too much, I don’t think any of us are planning on injecting them into our bloodstreams. Also, quantities of the venom per insect would be significantly less, I should think.

I’ve also been told that the correct name for this insect is the rove beetle. Also, see a doctor’s take on these nasty bugs here (which is where the opening picture came from). Beware! There are images to be seen of rove beetle burns on humans!

Thank you for reading – mind how you go now!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 13-10-2009

I know it’s hard to believe, but it did actually happen – and quite sizeable hail stones too!

At 5:30pm or so, it was 34 degrees C outside; five minutes later, it was down to 21 and hail was falling! Unbelievable!
Have a look at this very short video taken by Madelaine in our front garden:

There you go; a blog-worthy bit of news if ever there were one!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 08-10-2009

Satisfying a Western diet in Mali can easily be an expensive affair…

Kellogg’s Cornflakes can cost £5.00 a box
Some cheeses are as much as £20 a kilo …and…
A litre of real milk is around £1.50 (so we use powdered!)

However, some things are as cheap or cheaper than back home, here are just some of them:

September '09-1

1. A bottle full of peanuts: £1.40
2. Bananas: 55p a kilo
3. Lebanese pitta bread (about 20) for £2.00
4. A litre of (drinkable) rose wine: £1.24
5. A kilo of locally-made peanut butter: £1.24
6. A bar of ‘BF’ soap, from Ivory Coast. I cut it in half and it lasts me about 3 months: 55p
7. “Foster Clark’s” powdered drink (makes 1.5 litres and tastes great): 23p
8. A box of prawn crackers (just fry ’em up and it fills two large bowls): 70p

So, there you go. Life in urban Africa doesn’t need to be too pricey, it’s just knowing what (and where) the bargains are!

…and it all happened just down my street!!

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Yes, on Friday evening, there was a wedding celebration just down the road. I heard it from my house, so ventured out to investigate and ended up dancing with the ladies and playing one of the drums! (Some of those trees in the distance are in my garden!) Wehay, just like the old days in Benin, but without all the driving first!

Here are the musicians: two djembes, a small barrel drum and a HUGE double-headed barrel drum (played horizontally):

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There was also a boy playing a pressure drum:

Picture 009

Anyway, I’m sure you’d rather hear what it sounded like than look at photos, so here are three short extracts for you:

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Of course, a toubab can’t get his camera out in public without this happening:

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(Hey, I’m sure that guy at the back is holding an ice-cream cornet…)

Also, remember to click here to read about the African funeral, which happened down my street in Benin.

Thanks for reading – that’s all for now.