Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Market, Camels & Al Qaeda

Feb.9/ Went to a large outdoor market around 9am with Shelly and Eo. Shelly went to get fresh fruit and vegetables. I went to get a small clay pot to burn charcoal and inscense in. Picked up some Frankinscense rock crystals in Ethiopia. Eo went to translate, he speaks Bamana somewhat. The market is a thick, teeming mass of humanity doing business. All the vendors we dealt with, after the extended formal greetings - How are you? How is your family? How is your wife? How are things back in America? How did you sleep last night etc. etc. - ask for your name, first and last, and ask about our relationship to each other. Eo is Shelly's son, I am "mon ami." They also want to know where we're from. Unlike Ethiopia or Morocco, there was no haggling required. Everyone gave us a straight up price right away, maybe because Eo spoke the language.

The work today involved a couple of interviews. Mache, the djembe player in the early afternoon in the back of the courtyard at our house, and Madou Diabate in the evening outside on the upstairs balcony. They were both miced with the Sanken lavalier and a Rode shotgun mic on a boom stand with one of those big fluffy windscreens you always see with camera crews. Normally our street is quiet in the evening. On this particular night there was a great deal of noise, motorcycles roaring up and down, a whining dog,and people talking. Still, it seemed to work, just a different atmosphere than we expected.

The upstairs common room in our house has been turned into a Production room. Every night the day's footage is reviewed there. Three large sheets of butcher paper are taped to the wall with story ideas and an outline of the proposed structure for the documentary.

My assistant recently started blogging about this adventure has has uploaded some great photos.

Eo came in and spoke of a local belief that sitting on a camel cures all minor ailments. He had just sat on one and felt great. I suggested we get a camel for these curative properties but I don't think anyone took me seriously.

Early on this trip David mentioned a NY Times article that warned of an increasing Al Qaeda presence in Mali. Bamako was included in the warning without mentioning any real evidence. They (whoever "they" are) are saying it's more dangerous up North in the Timbuktu area. Apparently some French people were kidnapped in Niger and brought into Mali and haven't been heard from since.

Some educated local residents offer a different theory. France wants Mali to sign an extradition treaty so they can send undesireable Malians back. The President of Mali won't sign it so French progandaists cooked up Al Qaeda rumors to hurt the tourism industry in Timbuktu. It's working; normally thriving with visitors this time of year, Dogon country in North Mali and its main city, Timbuktu are getting no tourists this year according to reports I've heard.

Things, or coincidences, seem to manifest easily here sometimes. At the market I was looking for flip flops or sandals to wear around the house. Only saw one vendor and it was all woman's footwear. Later in the afternoon, a vendor showed up at our house with a cartful of sandals and flip flops. Door to door salesman, and tailors, are quite common.

The other day I made a joke about the Rolling Stones. The next cab we got had a couple of Rolling Stones logos affixed to it.

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