Sunday, April 3, 2011

Off to Djenne

I had breakfast at 6:30 a.m., and the hotel guy sweetly ran out to find me some yogurt when he realized that Mankan Te was out, though I have no idea where one buys yogurt that early.

And at 7, I was standing across the main road, in front of Motel Sevare, waiting for the bus. Dramane had helped me buy my ticket last night, and it had 0700 written on it.

By 7:30, I was worried. By 7:45, I was going to throw myself onto the next vehicle that stopped. A large family seemed to have the same idea, unfortunately, so I hung back and let them be rejected by every full bus that came along.

My "Somatra" 0700 bus turned out to be an eight o'clock bus on "Bittar," which arrived on-time at 8:15 at my end of town. Whatever. I have developed an amazing ability to not be surprised. It's kind of unfortunate, as it stops me from noticing novelties I used to enjoy.

The bus conductor waved me on and installed me into an empty seat. Kids gathered round the bus to sing a goodbye song. This always happens in Mali. Sometimes it's adorable. Other times, it's off-key and a racket.

Bittar, to my surprise, actually had a vauge hint of air-conditioning. It wasn’t the Arctic blast we're used to in the States, but there was just enough air circulating that the passengers weren't gasping and dripping in sweat.

But this ride was only two hours. I disembarked at Carrefour Djenne, which is the junction where Djenne-bound passengers get to hang around and wait for taxis to fill for the 30 km ride to Djenne.

I paid for my seat, which was 1500 plus my bag which was 500 CFA and then went into the back of a hut to sit in the shade.

After an hour, I noticed the hut wasn't just crawling with lizards, which is normal. It was also full of mice. Ick. But I prefer mice to sunburn, so I stayed put. One of the mice startled me and I jumped. Everyone else in the hut found this hilarious.

A few minutes later, the driver asked to see me. In broken English and mostly French, he managed to convey that he wanted to get going, but didn't have enough passengers. Would I be willing to buy the extra seats?

I tried bargaining but he wouldn't come down in price. So I went back to my mice-filled hut. And waited.

By the end of the second hour, I forked over another $15. I was pissed. I didn’t want to keep spending all this money, and I felt like people were starting to expect me to buy all the seats. Why had I done that? I wasn't really sure. It didn't help that the hotel in Sevare had been a pretty big bill at the end. I couldn't help but wonder if paying for A/C when the power had been off half the time was kind of a stupid thing to do.

And then the hassle started on the ferry. Buy this, buy that. I just didn't have a sense of humor about it today. I ignored the sellers, which annoyed them.

"You can't speak English?"

"No, it's just that I'm a bitch."

And then I felt even worse. Had I really just been obnoxious to someone trying to sell me something? How graceless. They're just trying to make a living.

The ferry docked. I got back in the taxi, and the driver stopped at a dirt road just outside town. He motioned down the road.

"Hotel Sophie," he said. Which isn't the name of Djenne-Djenno Hotel. It's the name of the owner.

And what a hotel! I wandered in pissed-off at myself and Mali, and annoyed at my lack of funds. Sophie took pity on me and gave me free breakfast.

The food, the coffee, the room...what a beautiful hotel.

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