Suitcase and World: Yabatalou.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


The village of Yabatalou.

espite all the audio torture, I managed to cat nap through the night though by no means did I have a restful night's sleep last night.

The mosques' calls ended at 5am and then the roosters, goats and donkeys took over - it was sunrise and time to start the day :-( 

I woke up groggy and tired. But, as always, thoughts of the day ahead of me got the adrenaline going.

It didn't take long for me to get ready. Drop toilets and outdoor basins are not exactly the type of bathrooms you want to linger in but I did manage to do the basics of brushing my teeth, washing my face and combing my hair. Ready to roll for the day!

I met up with Tall in the campement courtyard. I asked him how he slept and apparently, he slept like a log. I asked him, "Didn't the sounds blaring from the mosques keep you awake?"  He shook his head. Sigh. I guess he's used to it.

Tall and I had breakfast on the terrace and it was a real treat this morning. Freshly made beignets and millet pancakes - still piping hot!! Dipped into sugar and washed down with tea, it was the perfect pick-me-up to get me going. As we ate, I had Tall tell me the agenda for the day in his native tongue, Songhai. Luckily, I already knew where I was headed.

After breakfast, Tall went off to pay his respects to the village chief while I packed up my stuff. I was just about done when a guy came up and told me that Tall wanted to see me down in the courtyard. I headed down and there was Tall sitting in a chair. Seated on the ground directly in front of him was an elderly gentleman who turned out to be the village's fortune teller. The old man would use his fingers to scratch some shallow furrows in the sand and then with a toothpick, poke holes in certain furrows.

Words accompanied the actions. This process of furrow and dents was repeated several times. Fascinating to watch though I had absolutely no clue what was being foretold though Tall later on told me that the future is good for him though he must *make many payments*. This being Dogon country, payments must be delivered in the form of chickens :-) Tall asked if I wanted my fortune told and I graciously declined. I'm afraid about the chicken payment thing.....hard to remit payment in chickens when you're thousands of miles away.

Our first destination for the day was Yabatalou i.e., the next village over. It would be about a 4 km walk and would take us maybe an hour or so depending on how many flooded paths we would have to cross. The question we debated was when to head out. We agreed to leave *now* so as to avoid the heat of the latter part of morning. We gathered up our stuff and headed out of the campement, accompanied by the usual phalanx of villagers who are *walking us to the door*. Eventually, we did part ways and Tall and I were alone to traipse through the millet fields.

It was an uneventful walk to Yabatalou. I was still groggy from lack of sleep and was not much in a mood to chat. The silence was punctuated every so often by a passerby so Tall had to do the usual Dogon greeting....which I, for some weird reason, found immensely entertaining.

Water breaks for me and cigarette breaks for Tall also helped to pass the time - walking through a Malian millet field is not exactly the most stimulating exercise on the planet. Rather boring actually. I really wanted to put on my earphones and listen to music on my MP3 player but I refrained from doing so cause I knew that Tall did not have a music player himself. I didn't want him to feel bad. So I just occupied myself with my own thoughts.

We actually heard Yabatalou before we saw the village. We had a welcoming party of several villagers and children. Tall handed out more kola nuts and I held on to more tiny hands. The children are so inquisitive and cute. I wish I had more than 2 hands and 10 fingers so I could have every child grip on to me :-)

Yabatalou was the fifth Dogon village I had visited by now and I was getting used to the routine of walking into the campement, dumping my stuff, grabbing a cold bottle of Coke and heading up to the covered terrace to catch the view of the village from above. Only difference here was that I was hot and sleepy..... I really just wanted to lay down and get some shut eye.

There was a warm, inviting breeze blowing across the upper terrace. I was imagining how nice it would be to have a hammock up here when all of a sudden, I turned around to see a guy dragging up a straw mat and mattress. For me. Yes, Tall knew exactly what I needed.

I used my towel for a pillow, plugged in my earphones and stretched on the mattress. Ahhh.....
Tall was sitting downstairs chatting with his friends. There was radio casting out African music. It was peaceful and relaxing. The warm breeze was making feel very drowsy and I soon found myself dozing in and out.

Before I knew it, it was time to answer that same old question that Tall would ask me at least twice each day....."What do you want to eat?" Not that there are many options here to choose from. Stewed this over rice or stewed that over rice or perhaps I would rather have stewed this over couscous :-) I can't remember what I had for lunch that day but it was one of the stew over rice options.

After lunch, I walked a bit around the campement.  There was not a whole lot of anything to see in Yabatalou - some interesting Malian wooden are pieces.  And passing by me below, people coming back from a nearby market.

Soon the combination of hot weather and lots of carbs in my tummy made me sleepy.  So, so sleepy.  *yawn*

I retreated retreated to the comfort of my mattress to take a nap.  Besides, it was  It was much too hot to be walking over to the next village, Begnemato, which was quite a distance.....and hike away.  So, a quick post lunch siesta before I say goodbye to Yabatalou.