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1. Mobile phone scratch cards to top up your credit
Yes, rather than set up a direct debit (many phone owners don’t even have a bank account), you buy small cards, scratch off the silver covering and type in the number. It’s often something like *123*[number]#. You can also transfer credit (or even money!!) to others via your mobile phone.
2. Four people on a motorbike
Or 50 chickens, or four goats, or an eight foot mirror, or a giant lorry tyre, or 200 baguettes. Or, how about this:

3. Cream to make your skin lighter
It always seems ironic that the West strives to get ‘a nice tan’ and look darker whilst Africans (and Indians) tend to find lighter skin more attractive.
4. Restaurants where you can eat a big main course for 50p
Admittedly, you probably have to eat it with your (right) hand from a communal bowl, but it’s still tasty and decidedly filling. Hardly worth ever cooking for yourself at that rate!
5. Taxis (and lorries) with slogans emblazoned across their rear bumpers
Many of them say things like “God is Love” or “God bless you”. This one says: “Jesus Protects Me”:
And don’t forget that many of the lorries have impressive artwork on their rear mudflaps – click here to see a previous blog post on this.
6.People at traffic lights either begging, selling things, or washing windscreens
Top items on sale include: Watches (always watches, always dodgy), boxes of tissues, maps of Africa, games of Scrabble, inflatable Santas and electric mosquito rackets. But I’ve also seen puppy dogs, clocks, stereo systems and green parrots, to name but a few. If the lights change and you’ve agreed a sale, you will often see them running frantically after you, until you get chance to stop further on.
7. Market stalls selling meat with added flies (free of charge!)
Oh yes! Plenty of flies! I always hold my breath when passing that bit of the market, because of the smell as well as the insects. Mind you, once cooked, the meat tastes good!
8. Colourful costumes portraying hair driers, lampshades, chickens, pound signs or knives and forks.
Oh yes – bright colours and large, bold designs are the order of the day here, and nobody makes negative comments like “turn that shirt down!” It’s just part of the culture. See some examples here.
9. Random heaps of rubbish on street corners.
Everywhere, anywhere. Particularly in West Africa (over East) in my experience. Look at this one – the sign even reads “No dumping”!!
10. People who congratulate you for putting on weight. “Well done, you’re fat!”
You see, if you’re fat then it’s a sign of wealth. In other words, you can afford enough food to get fat, so you’re rich. I often ponder the immense contrast between this and the West, where most people frequently over-eat, end then have to pay to join a gym to get thinner.

Rob’s book, ‘Adventures in Music and Culture’ is available on Amazon in the USA and the UK. Also worldwide in Kindle format.

Filed Under (Malian culture) by Rob on 01-09-2010

As soon as rainy season begins, the mosquitoes start to breed in the standing water and love all the damp earth in our garden!

In fact, there must be as many as several thousand of the wee beasties in our yard at times: I only have to poke a square foot of earth with a stick and 50 or so fly out! Thankfully, most of them don’t make it into the house because of the screens on all our windows and doors. Nevertheless, I’m killing between 5 and 20 a day indoors, mostly thanks to my mosquito-electricuting racket (like this one I blogged about in Benin).

But fear not! Help is at hand!
“There’s something strange in your neighbourhood,
Who you gonna call? Mozzie-busters!”

Or, more acurately, Mr Coulibaly and his mate with their amazing bug-busting sprayer! He charges 15,000cfa to do the whole garden (about $30) but it’s worth it to keep the mozzies at bay, not to mention the malaria risk. So we shut all our windows and leave the house for a couple of hours and he gets to work.

For about a week after his visit, we have virtually no mosquitos, then they slowly start returning. Ideally, we should have him come every month, but this works out a bit pricey (and a tad inconvenient), but we do call him in 2 or 3 times during rainy season. If you’d like his services and you live in Bamako, I can send you his number (as looking up ‘Coulibaly’ in a phone book would be like looking for Mr Smith in England!)

Other blog posts on mosquitos here.

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 26-08-2009

are BIG!

This one is 8mm long – not bad, and bigger than many we used to have in Benin:


Of course, this is not the first ‘mozzie blog post’ by any means. In Benin, I blogged about the wee beasties here and here and – of course – you can always search ‘malaria’ in the box at the top to find multiple postings on the subject too!

The good thing about these ‘monster mozzies’ is that (a) they’re easier to see (b) they’re just that bit slower and (c) they’re therefore easier to squash (or electricute with one of these rackets).

First prize, however, has to go to this mozzie, which tops in at a stunning 11mm (including legs):

(photo taken 5 seconds prior to its imminenent death by hand-squash)

There you go! Thanks to fine metal screening on all our doorways and windows, only a few mozzies have made it into the house so far (including the two above), but at least this gives me some extra exercise trying to catch them! Thanks for reading.


Filed Under (Benin wildlife, General) by Rob on 28-05-2008

Last night, between 9:00pm and goodness knows how late, I killed no fewer than EIGHT mosquitoes in my house! Here’s one of them:


Every year it’s the same – rainy season hits and the mosquito count quintuples, almost overnight (here’s last year’s post on the subject). This is largely because there is a lot of standing water, in which the wee beasties breed. I’m far from an expert on the subject, but here’s my understanding of the two main types of mosquito we have here:

Firstly, the smaller, brownish ones with bent rear legs (like the one above), called anopheles. Click here for a great site about the anopheles mosquito. This is the one that can give you malaria, but it’s only the females which do so. They tend to bite during the night hours and sometimes you don’t even notice you’ve been bitten (crafty blighters!)

Secondly, there are the larger, blackish mozzies with striped legs, which bite more during the day, but do not give you malaria. Instead, they can pass on dengue fever or yellow fever instead and their bites can be itchy. Nice! Just as well I am armed with my mosquito electrocuting racket at times such as these!

If anyone reading this knows more about mosquitoes than me (not difficult) then leave a comment to enrich our knowledge on the matter! If not, then you can also click here for information on bites you can get in Africa (aka fast food for insects).


Finally, don’t forget the Creepy Crawlies album in the Photo Gallery.

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 15-03-2008

A few months back, I left this post on the blog about mosquitoes and my friend Hugo left the following comment:

“Rob, you should try one of these amazingly satisfying mosquito electrocuting tennis raquets (you can buy them at Orca Deco)”

So I did as he said and went out and bought one. Here’s what it looks like:


You plug it into the mains for a few hours, then the grille becomes electrified when you press a button on the handle. Then, any mozzies flying into its path (or into whose path you fly it) are instantly fried with 220v. Here’s one I killed earlier:


I’m not sure it would pass health & safety standards back home. You’d only have to catch your leg, right ear or left hand with the racket to get a nasty shock. Still there is a warning on the racket not to touch this part, and it is only activated when you are pressing a little button. That said, I certainly keep it out of my kids’ reach!

It’s a fun (if mildly sadistic) way to kill mosquitoes, and is preferable to other methods, which include:

(i) The aerosol spray – kills ’em alright, but probably kills you slowly too! Nightmare if you suffer from asthma, I can tell you.
(ii) The ‘wall whack’. Spot a mozzie on the wall. Get your hand close and then…SPLAT! Success rate approx. 65%. The rest of the time they see you coming and leg it (wing it?!)
(iii) The hand clap – fun but tricky. Success rate 20%, but rewarding when it works. The more adept can even try the single handed squash using the fingers of the same hand against the palm. Once I was in a church clapping along to some syncopated rhythm (as you do) and – by chance – an unfortunate mozzie flew between my hands at the precise moment they clapped together. And I wasn’t even trying to squash it!
(iv) The smoking coils
– they may repel mosquitoes, but the quantity of carcinogens emitted could seriously damage your health. This report (as well as this one) suggests that burning one all night could equate to having over 100 people smoking in your bedroom!!

So, I’ll stick to my new, non-polluting, fun mozzie-killer – it even gives off a satisfying ‘CRACK’ and a blue spark each time you kill one! I did try it on the cockroaches in the back yard, but it was not especially successful (unless you beat them with the rim…)


PS Here’s another blogger’s take on the racket (just in case I’ve not given you enough links yet).

PPS ‘Orca Deco’ is a great shop for lots of household stuff. Well worth a visit if you’re in Cotonou. Here’s where to find it on Google Earth/GPS: 6º22’31.40″N 2º25’22.60″E.