Hot season in Mali

Hot season has arrived in Mali,*) no question about that, and this is mentioned on all kinds of platforms, such as Facebook and different blogs.

Here is a collection of funny tidbits from some Facebook friends and their friends:

You know it’s hot season in Mali when…

…you don’t need a towel, you air-dry in less than a minute.
…you refer to a day that doesn’t hit 115F / 46C as a “cool day.”
…you stand in the shower with your clothes on so you can have the illusion of cooling as your clothes dry.
…you take cold showers on purpose.
…even the Malians say, “Boy, it’s hot.”
…you are showering your kids and they scream, “No, it’s too hot. Turn on the cold water.” You reply, “This IS the cold water!”
…you can bend your candles into any fancy shape you want.
…your clothes feel like they’ve been freshly ironed when you put them on.
…your ankles sweat.
…corned beef melts on the table before you get to make sandwiches.
…you can fry eggs on your forearm.
…all the expats in Kayes head for the border.
…the only time you are completely dry is immediately after a shower.

from Sharon & friends: You know it’s hot season in Mali when… (Facebook status)

Coping strategies:

Here are some excerpts from Jennifer’s blog about her strategies for hot season (to read all of them go here)

WATERBEDS: When waterbeds became popular in the 70s and 80s, someone decided they were the solution to a missionary’s problems in hot climates. I remember people telling us we HAD to get one. After all, if you can get a good night’s sleep, it goes a long way toward helping one cope with the strains of the day (which is true). …

The problem is that water tries to equalize itself with the air temperature. For a large body of water, like an ocean, the difference remains significant, so you can still have a cool dip in hot weather. But a relatively small body of water, like a mattress, quickly approaches the ambient temperature. Even if the room cools off at night, the warm water is contained in a huge rubber “bottle” which releases heat slowly – a month or more after the end of hot season, but certainly not in a few hours! …

Seemingly, this did not work for her, but it has worked fine for me so far. It certainly contributes to the miracle that I can sleep in a room that has 92-95F /33-35 C.  As she explains, you have to cool down the water mattress with soaked towels and fans. Depending on how hot it is, I do this one to three times per day.

SHOWERS: Did you notice how many people in the responses at the beginning referred to showers? Don’t be surprised if you come to my house and I answer the door dripping wet – if it’s not sweat, then I’ve just taken a shower fully clothed. It’s even more effective if I can sit in front of a fan afterwards. …

SLEEPING OUTSIDE: We might have avoided the waterbed fiasco altogether if we had investigated how the local people tolerate the heat. Quite simply, they move outside to sleep at night. It’s even better for those whose houses have a flat, concrete roof to sleep on. …

This was one of the big advantages of living in the village which I miss very much since moving to Bamako. In the village we had a second building with a flat roof where we could sleep on whenever the inside of the house got too hot. The only disadvantage – it is difficult to get down form the roof with all your stuff (mattress, mosquito net, sheets, alarm clock, ..) when you are overtaken by a sand storm. 😉

FANS, SWAMP COOLERS, AND AIR CONDITIONERS: We have lots of fans, but when it gets really hot they just blow hot air. However, they aren’t too bad if your clothes are wet. A swamp cooler is an evaporative cooler or humidifier, common in the American southwest, that blows air through water. …

This is the advantage of living in Bamako where we have 220V instead of just 12V like in the village – I can have an air conditioner and the fans are more powerful. The disadvantage is that the air conditioners are not cheap and use a lot of electricity. For this reason I have one only in my office, but not in the rest of the house. My new home came with a swamp cooler but so far it has only cost me a lot of repairs.

SWIMMING: There’s a great swimming spot on the river about 10 miles out of town and we enjoy going out there, especially when our kids are home. Not far from there is a rocky area with swimming holes and waterfalls which stay quite cool even in hot season, and we love to explore there as well. During Spring Break we sat on a flat rock under a waterfall which was a fabulous experience. …

VACATION: This is the ultimate solution to Beating the Heat: leave town. We save up all our vacation time and head west to the coast of Senegal for the month of May. Interior Senegal is just as hot as Mali, but the coast is quite pleasant (besides the obvious benefit of being close to our children). And in just 15 days from now, that’s what we’ll be doing. …

My personal favorite is the ‘African Air-conditioner’ – similar to Swamp coolers that are based on the principle of evaporative heat loss, the same principle is at work when I cover myself with a wet sheet before going to sleep. Sometimes I have to get up during the night to make the sheet (cloth, pagne) wet again, but in general it helps a lot to cool down the body and sleep well. The same happens when you hang a wet towel around your neck during the day.

Top Ten Reasons to Love Hot Season in Mali:

10. Working late at the office takes on a whole new significance – Free AC.
9. The Malians finally agree with you when you say it is hot.
8. If you have problems deciding what shirt to wear, no problem. You’ll be wearing at least 3 today.
7. A chance to practice your Fahrenheit-Celsius conversion with big numbers like 41 or 46C (106F or 115F).
6. For those of us who have no hot water heaters, we can finally take a hot shower!
5. It’s a great time of the year to do swamp cooler maintenance.
4. Everyday household tasks become an extreme sport.
3. Clothes have that wonderful “fresh out of the dryer” feel when you take them out of the closet.
2. The oven is automatically “pre-heated”, and hey – most food is already pre-cooked.
1. A daily occasion to regale your facebook friends with complaints about how hot it is (just as they are expressing joy that it is finally getting up to 70F!)

from Tim: Top 10 reasons to love Hot Season in Mali (Facebook note)

*) The question is maybe whether hot season has ever left. This years ‘cold season’ was everything else than cold, even for Malian standards. Already in February temperatures often felt like hot season.

Aid to Africa: What An African Woman Thinks

One of the blogs I read “What An African Woman Thinks” has an interesting summary of several articles about the debate Aid to Africa:

On AppAfrica, Jonathan Gosier used a well-known tale to make a point. He suggested that people look at Africa like it’s the land from the Wonderful Wizard of Oz:

“It’s a strange land, in some far away place; far away from Auntie Em’s farm in Kansas. There are many oppressed people, people who need a brain (an metaphor for better education), people who need courage and confidence, and people who need a little love. There’s plenty of evil witches to slay in Africa (pick your poison, actually) and often plenty of ‘men behind the curtain’ (The Wizards) who dictate what the politics of the continent really are.”

Into this land, enter Dorothy, the well-meaning but naïve Dorothy. She lands in Oz, catalyzes what appear to be positive changes, and then flies away, back to whence she came. When she returns, it turns out it’s not holding together very well and her actions/collaborations have had unforeseen consequences. But, Dorothy doesn’t live in Oz. She whizzes in and out of there and it’s the Munchkins, the little people, the inhabitants of Oz whom she so wants to help, who have to deal with the consequences.

According to Gosier, there are “Too many Dorothys in Africa’s Oz’.”

His advice:

“Just remember, nothing happens in a vacuum and we should be careful of where we drop our houses.”

(read the rest)

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Education gap * Ausbildungs-Diskrepanz

Thanks to Ben I came across the following statistic on how many years the richest and poorest in developing countries go to school. Mali is the last one on this graphic.


Durch Bens Blog entdeckte ich die folgende Statistik. Es geht darum wie viele Jahre the Reichsten und Ärmsten in manchen Entwicklungsländern zur Schule gingen. Mali ist am untersten Ende der Graphik.


I find this graphic very shocking but reflecting the reality of everyday life in Mali.

According to the graph, the poorest 20% of Mali attend school less than one year (in average)! I have no problem believing this. I even know a few small business owners who are successful but nevertheless illiterate. Things are changing but there are still a lot of schools taught in French to children who never hear a word of French in their everyday life. Many remote villages don’t have a school. So this is not surprising.

However, I am surprised that even the richest 20% of Mali don’t have more than 5 years of schooling in average.

Read the full story: The Economist


Ich finde diese Grafik sehr schockieren aber anderseits spiegelt sich darin auch die tägliche Realität Malis wieder.

Laut der Graphik gehen die Ärmsten 20% Malis durchschnittlich weniger als ein Jahr in die Schule! Das wundert mich nicht. Ich kenne sogar einige erfolgreiche Kleinunternehmer, die Analphabeten sind (nicht Lesen und Schreiben können). Dinge sind dabei sich zu ändern, aber es gibt noch viele Schulen wo Kinder in Französisch unterrichtet werden, obwohl sie in ihrem Alltag nie ein Wort Französisch hören. Viele abgelegene Dörfer haben keine Schule. Insofern erstaunt mich diese Statistik nicht.

Anderseits bin ich überrascht, dass selbst die Reichsten 20 % Malis nicht mehr als 5 Jahre in die Schule gehen (im Durchschnitt).

It’s all relative * Alles ist relativ

My last post is more than a week ago and I am trying since yesterday morning to produce a new post. I especially wanted to post one today because it is Tuesday and Tuesdays are Coffeegirl Blog Roll days. Yeah!

I already had the idea for the post yesterday but somehow I never got very far. Just a very short one, but even this seems to take for ever (why’s that I will write in another post). I find it funny that the Coffeegirl used the same subject line for today’s post that I had in mind.

Thanks to Ben and Eddie for bringing the following cartoon from the Daily Nation to my attention. I am sure lots of Coffeegirls regulars can relate to this, even if you don’t live in Africa:


Kartoon Übersetzung:

obere Hälfte: Krise, Krise! – Finanzchaos! – Hilfe! Krise!
untere Hälfte: …. Krise, welche Krise?

Mein letzer Eintrag ist mehr als eine Woche her. Seit gestern früh versuche ich einen Eintrag zu schreiben. Vor allem weil heute Dienstag ist, und Dienstag ist “Coffeegirl Blog Roll” Tag!
Die Idee für den Eintrag hatte ich schon gestern aber irgendwie kam ich nicht sehr weit. Nur ein kurzer Eintrag, aber selbst das scheint endlos viel Zeit zu brauchen (warum schreibe ich in einem anderen Eintrag). Schon witzig, dass Coffeegirl ihren heutigen Eintrag den gleichen Titel gab, dann ich mir vorgenommen hatte.

Vielen Dank an Ben und Eddie, die mich auf den Kartoon von Daily Nation aufmerksam gemacht haben. Ich denke, dass viele Coffeegirls Leser ihn gut verstehen können, selbst wenn du nicht in Afrika lebst.

Ancestor Worship?

It made me smile when Ben Byerly wrote a tongue-in-cheek blog entry about ancestor worship in England. I thought it was great to help us see our own culture from a different perspective. I liked it even better when he gave one of his African colleagues the opportunity to talk about his research into ancestor worship:

Did Africans really worship their ancestors? An African perspective (Part 1)

Guest post by Andy Alo

Many Africanists interested in African Traditional Religion have made the assertion that Africans worshipped (or are worshipping) their ancestors. However, field research that I conducted from 2002 to 2005, and completed in August 2008 in my own Lugbara ethnic group leads me to the conclusion that the worship of ancestors by Africans is a theological myth.

Simply Semantics

In the Lugbara language, the concept INZI conveys any attitude which externalizes consideration due to a person’s status. It means ‘respect’ when describing a person lacking respect for his superiors. Children’s respect for their parents (‘honor’) is expressed by the same concept INZI. Today, INZI is also applied to ‘worship’ or ‘adoration’ of God in Christian settings, but older native speakers of Lugbarati do not equate their previous ‘honor’ (INZI) towards ancestors with the present ‘worship” (INZI) of God. Ancestors were simply honored or given due respect.

If the Lugbara did not worship ancestors, why then did they give ancestors food in some sacred places

Why give Food to Ancestors?

Commensality [eating together] in Lugbara culture is the ultimate way of expressing communion and brotherhood. All the members of the community not only share their resources by helping each other, but they also eat together. Traditionally, the ancestors have been part of the community; they are “present” even though they were gone. The Lugbara people would say, “They are with us.”

Every member of the community (except children) knew very well that the ancestors did not literally eat the food offered to them. The servants or “priests” of the community took the food on behalf of the ancestors. Sharing the food symbolized the communion between the living members and the members of the community who had gone on to the other side of the world.

Thus, communion with the ancestors was not a form of “worship” or “adoration,” it simply remembered ancestors as part of the community. They were cherished and honored in the collective memory because they were metonymically representing the body of knowledge that guided the community in the different dimensions of community life: ethics, socio-economics, family matters, etc. Most references to ancestors occur in relation to the quest of truth, ethical decisions and other deliberations.

As you can see in the comments, this is not news to the anthropological world. But the rest of the world, especially the Christian world might not be aware that what had been labeled “ancestor worship” for a long time is not necessarily worship. We so easily judge other cultures using the wrong grid (looking through the lenses of our own culture) and at the same time justifying things that are very similar in our own culture.

Slavery today

I recently came across several articles on BBC which show that slavery is still an issue today, in more than one country. Slavery is not just something out of our history books but still present today. Unfortunately. Here are some of the results of their research. Read for yourself:

BBC NEWS | Africa | Uncovering Mali’s hidden slavery

Iddar Ag Ogazide is taking a break from digging and shovelling in 40C Malian Sahel heat. He is happy just to be working.

“Today I am a free man, I am longer a slave. I am among men who are the same colour as me who consider me as a man. I earn 1,000 CFA ($2, £1) a day, and that covers my needs,” he says.

The idea of a salary is something Iddar is just getting used to, having dramatically escaped from his life in the hamlet of Intakabarte, outside Gao, in February this year.

According to Iddar, his grandmother was bought as a slave by the Tuareg Ag Baye family, and from then on she was listed as taxable property on the Ag Baye’s religious tax form. (Read more …)

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | ‘Chairman’ reveals seedy world of trafficking

He looks like a bank manager, on holiday. Grey hair, steel-rimmed glasses, polo shirt and paunch.

We have arranged to meet in a hotel lobby, and I am late. His two bodyguards are sitting by the door – pistols tucked none too subtly under their shirts.

The “chairman” has been trafficking girls for 30 years now
Later, I find out that the guards are actually off-duty policemen – doing a little freelance work for the local underworld boss. Welcome to the Philippines.

(

BBC NEWS | UK | England | Sex slavery widespread in England

Young women tricked into coming to England, often by boyfriends, are being sold off in auctions at airport coffee shops as soon as they arrive.

They are among the thousands of women brought into the UK to be sex slaves, usually with no idea of their fate.

The trade was one of the findings of a BBC News website investigation into slavery in 21st Century England. (Read more …)

The following article is not on slavery, but about a similarly repulsive crime against humanity – rape as means of warfare:

VOA News – Rape By Rebels, Bandits and Soldiers Has Sordid History in CAR

Robert Souleymane, a former soldier in the French army during colonial times, shows the house where he says he was gang raped by a group of female Congolese rebels during heavy fighting in the town of Bossangoa in 2002.

(Read more ….)

'Summit of the Poor' in Mali Has Message for G8

By Brent Latham
07 July 2008

A conference of groups that say they represent poor Africans has convened in Mali, in an effort to provide a contrast to the activities of the G8 meeting in Japan. The meeting’s participants say their voice is more representative of the African continent. Brent Latham has more from our West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar.

Hundreds of activists from around the world gathered in the dusty town of Katibougou, Mali, for the opening of a poor people’s summit, 07 Jul 2008
Debate at the so-called People’s Forum began in the city of Katibougou, 50 kilometers outside the Malian capital Bamako.
The meeting, last held in 2005, aims to give a voice to Africa’s poor, who organizers say are generally ignored by the G8, even though discussions in Japan actually centered on Africa’s problems.

This year’s People’s Forum has attracted more than 1,000 participants from around Africa, as well as observers from Europe and the United States, says observer Alexandre Foulon.

“The general idea, the People’s Forum goal, is to elaborate on the proposed alternatives to the G8,” he explained. “The organizers call it the ‘Summit of the Poor.’ They are debating issues such as women’s [roles], development in Africa, the food crisis, and cost of life.”

Foulon says that participants include representatives of farmers, labor unions, migrant groups, and NGOs.

The meeting takes place at a university where agricultural studies are taught. Foulon says the agricultural crisis in West Africa has reduced enrollment there from a peak of 8,000 students several years ago, to just 400 today.

Lasene Sedibe, director of the Mali-based Association of Organizations of Professional Farmers, says that while the conference will directly address issues like food prices and agriculture on the continent, the goal is also to send a message to the G8 leaders.

He says that rich countries have the right to speak about Africa in its absence, but that a big problem has been outsiders deciding what is good for the continent without the participation of Africans. At the conference, he says, Africans have decided to figure out for themselves what is good for them.

Sedibe says he hopes that G8 leaders will consider the points of view of organizations like his, which are seldom represented at the gatherings of rich countries.

He says that those at the conference have a different vision of many things, including international and national governance, and humanitarian affairs. For that reason, he says, they need another place to meet, where they have the right to make the decisions that affect their lives.

Other farmers at the summit said they were feeling very discouraged. They say the cotton they are producing is being sold for very little, as they try to compete against U.S. cotton growers who get subsidies from the U.S. government.

The “Summit of the Poor” will continue through Wednesday, concurrent to the meeting of the G8 leaders in Japan. The Japanese hosts also invited the leaders of seven African countries to take part in the session regarding Africa.