The moments after the moments
Hotel El Farouk
Crankiness is a basic travel mood as anyone who has ever read Paul Theroux knows. Ah yes, there is that first euphoria of discovering the fabled River Niger flows by your window and the smells and sounds of an African city are just outside your door. (That would mainly be exhaust and honking horns but who’s counting except for these bad mood moments). Remember I thought I would be in Timbuktu these days.
Yesterday—the morning went well. I worked, I looked out my window. I read. I went down for café au lait and good crusty rolls. So far so good.
I took a walk. Exercise is where it gets a little iffy for travelers who fall halfway between being gym people or slothful types who sit on big couches reading books and sipping wine all day. A person serious about exercise would FIND A GYM. The other kind would just order dessert to be brought to the couch in the lounge while finishing that last chapter. I’m in between. I just need to walk and that is hard here—a difficulty in many western US cities as well but unless you find the right part of town here in west Africa walking is truly a chore. My hotel is on a fast roadway or if you head toward the markets it is crowded and trashy and the mid-day heat moves toward 100 F.
But determinedly I walk. Avoid being killed by motorbikes…tell the plentiful ‘guides’ no in French as in Merci NO (it is great to be bilingual in 7 phrases)…wish I had small change so I could take photos of the little roadside stalls (tomorrow)…give a kid quite a bit of money after a security guard chases us both away from sitting on a bench outside some sort of police station…and so it goes.
Back to the hotel, order a very expensive dinner because I can’t find a food market on my walk. I forget to appreciate my neighborhood 7-11 or Circle K until I’m out of the country and desperately want a yogurt or some saltines! Do I sound like a whiney American or what?
A rain squall makes the river dark, I nap, and then having lost all ambition I turn to my books. Brought some bad choices. Hate when that happens. The three that disappointed me last night were Not Untrue, Not Unkind, a tough guy, war correspondent takes on the killing fields of Africa—but with a Garrison Keillor as Guy Noir kind of voice. I continue reading Monique and the Mango Rains, which is actually quite pleasing, a peace corps volunteer writing about her two years working with a midwife in a Malian village. Last night though I wanted something different so for much of the night I read Sara Wheeler’s biography of Denys Finch Hatton, Too Close to the Sun. Wheeler is a good writer (Terra Incognita about the South Pole) but there is only so much one wants to know about Finch Hatton, a rather shallow unsympathetic if very glamorous guy—I bought the book because Meryl Streep’s voice was whispering in my ear about him. All three books annoyed me in the sleepless night. Now I have given the first to the maid so she can hopefully sell it for a few CFA’s for herself to another sleepless English speaker. The others may go her way tomorrow. Fortunately I have a few choice remaining until I get to Kenya and English language bookstores. Besides I have much work to do now that I’m in a better mood?
There, my kvetching in Mali is done. All will be brilliant from now on. One evening and blog of complaining per country is all that is allowed.