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A Day in Life (in English)

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The light glistening, the sun just above the horizon, we leave surrounded by the matunital magic of the Sahel. In my passenger seat Mohammed, the twelve year old boy was all by himself in Bankass, a small city in the northwest of Mali. Therefore I decided to take him with me on the journey.
When we arrived as agreed in a little village, right on the bottom of the impressive scarp slop of the Dogon Plateau, it was buzzing with excitement. There was a great gathering in front of my guide Issas house. Everybody seemed to be unusually stirred up as they talked to me. Issas wife had given birth to his second born only hours before our arrival. Finding the right name for the child was of utmost importance. Not long after, the procedure turned out as relatively brief, the name was chosen –the child carries my name. Since I was one of the very few whites that have been to the village over the last few years and the fact that tourism had basically died out due to the war, I am perceived as a talisman.

The light glistening, the sun just above the horizon, we leave surrounded by the matunital magic of the Sahel. In my passenger seat Mohammed, the twelve year old boy was all by himself in Bankass, a small city in the northwest of Mali. Therefore I decided to take him with me on the journey.

After a fairly exhausting ascend onto the plateau, which Mohammed bravely mastered in his thongs, the only pair of shoes he possessed, we took a break. Mohammed was over it. Just like any other child that is against his will being dragged onto a hiking tour, he puts on a face and tries to make us go back. Issa, opposite to Mohammed, was in the best of his moods, the smile, the happy grinning, never left his lips the whole day. Nevertheless we set of in direction of an autarkic little village a couple of kilometers away. The path we stayed on remained challenging, finding its way up and down and in between rocky hills and bushes. Over and over again, we had to wait for Mohammed, who kept on disappearing as a small dot behind the horizon. The only thing that finally made him change his mind was a sardine sandwich with tomato and onions, which he had probably anticipated the whole day and made him smile just like Issa.

Once we arrived in the village, I could hardly believe my eyes. A picturesque constellation of small houses built of clay; rocks and wood connected by natural rock walls left me speechless. No electricity, no water, no cars, no nothing, which did not exist a thousand years ago- Timelessness! After I composed myself to what I saw and my open mouth shut, we gathered in the Mayors sons house for tea and a siesta.

After napping along in the shade for a while, we set off to explore the village. 1000 people lived there, what seemed suddenly like a small town rather than a village.  An impressive amount of the inhabitants were between 80 and 100 years old. It has a mosque and a church. The majority of the town indulges the animistic and traditional beliefs. I was introduced to the King, who must have been 90 years old, sitting in front of his neat house hiding in the shade. The streets were fenced by perfectly accurate natural stone walls, which had on every third crossing or so a casa the palaver, center of the ancient traditional African democracy. The flat built rock houses are day by day filled with the towns eldest. Not only are they used as places for gatherings to discuss politics but taken as a shelter from the heat. I received the honor of sitting together, crouched into one of the rocky buildings, with some of the eldest and take some pictures of them. Probably they endured it because of the cola nuts I gave them, which are still considered a currency by the eldest who are not really familiar with the concept of money, other than that cola nuts are the traditional gift a guest brings along with him on such occasions.

On the way back to Issas village, this time it was I slowing them down, as I was tired. The temperatures in April are unbearable, so unbearable that the Lonely Planet accuses travelers in Mali during this time of the year of masochisms. Whenever possible I stopped to get fresh water, which I flushed relentlessly down my dry throat. The party in front of Issas house was in full motion, by the time we finally arrived, fairly exhausted, in the village on the bottom of the cliff. The atmosphere festive, we are invited for tea and to stay overnight, but Mohammed didn’t want to, he wants to go home.

The light glistening, the sun just above the horizon, we leave surrounded by the vespertine magic of the Sahel. The cliff of the Dogon Plateaus slowly disappearing in the back mirror, without saying anything, we glance at each other, a glance speaking a thousand words.

A day in life we both shall never forget.

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Carlo Drechsel

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