I hear vague rumours that it is cold elsewhere. Here it is a solid twenty-something, the kind of air which makes one think twice about which piece of clothing to perspire through today. Despite that, every now and then you see someone in a puffy coat and/or knitted hat. As if it is officially cold under 32 degrees. Solstice has no meaning here but is another subtile hint that there is something out there beyond Mali.
We spend Christmas Eve mostly zonked out at the Bla Bla Club in Badalabougou, a district in Bamako. People on the street in white cotton beards sell festive hats and plastic Christmas'y toys. We have been playing Santa Claus to ourselves all day, my friends mailing out boxes of merchandise and me, a box packed with a balanfon, mosquito net, and a small slab of Timbuktu salt.
We meet up with our now former driver to go to see a concert - "Nuit des Stars". The ticket says that it starts at 8, but they only start warming up at about 9:30. We are impressed with their warm-up and are ourselves warmed up. It reminds me of exhibitions of sketches and how beautiful practice can be. But there are few in the audience, and proportionally a large number of Red Cross and security personnel. The musicians at about 10:15 stop, and instead of being treated to some fabulous mystery band, they leave as they can't play for so few people. We leave in the small kerfuffle that follows, and retreat for ice cream at Patisserie Amandine.
Today has been a do-nothing day. I received a book from my travelling friends on the Dogon mythology. It is really very fascinating. I like the idea that the combination of the sounds of words, and the words themselves make up a parole. That fire, air, and earth are found in speech - and for me these are warmth, humility, and depth. And water - the fluidness of it all. Speech and textile are compatriots and find definition in each other. Scarf-songs and shirt-speeches.
We are off for a sunset something at Hotel Mandelay - the something being whatever we can afford. We have the odd inverse problem in having inaccessible finances - me having traveller's cheques I have yet to crack open and they having cards that don't work here. For us, banks are bingo halls where we try our luck every so often. Luckily they are open a few hours on Satuday and Sunday for weekend fun.
Looking forward to Damascus, am there on the 30th after a day and a bit in Tunis.
Eid Milaad Mjaid / Merry Christmas to all!