Happy New Year!! I took this photo this week in Bamako, after seeing boys in the street going car to car selling these New Year’s balloons in the slow moving traffic. The balloons popped up around the neighborhoods this week, a happy way of welcoming the new year!
We rang out the old and rang in the new in Ouelessebougou, listening to roosters and donkeys and prayer calls and people partying well into the wee hours of the morning. It finally quieted down when the 4:00 a.m. prayer calls began. What a great place to be to start this new year!
We had a special pancake breakfast with the Ouelessebougou team, including bananas from this local vendor:
This evening we stopped at this local store to buy some rice for our dinner. Here you can see many of the local foods and grains.
Below are my journal notes from a visit I had this New Year’s Eve from an old friend in Ouelessebougou. I’ll call him Ousmane. We sat in the dark at the compound under the mango tree for an hour or two, until he had to get back to his family. He answered many of my questions about family life in a family compound:
Ousmane came by the compound to visit. He was born in 1975, so he’s 44 now. I remember visiting with him years ago when he told me he had decided to take a 2nd wife. She’s now had 4 children. One 2 year-old boy drowned in a well. His other wife has had 6 children.
He came by at about 9:00 and stayed about an hour or more visiting with me. No one else knew him. He told me all about their family compound. They live right in Ouelessebougou. There are about 40 family members living in a compound about the size of our Alliance compound. Center open area, rooms on the 3 sides. His father has 2 wives and his 2 brothers each have 2 wives. They are all living together. His wives have side by side rooms. He takes turns sleeping in their rooms. There are 8 women. They get along pretty well. Sometimes there are jealousies. He said he tells his wives not to fight–it will get them no where.
Each wife takes a turn cooking. They do 2 nights in a row. When it’s their turn to cook, they cook for the entire family and they wash all the pots. They don’t use dishes, so they don’t have to worry about individual dishes. They eat by hand from community pans and pots.
For breakfast they have porridge. Usually corn mush, sweetened with sugar. If it’s thinner, they use spoons. Sometimes they have rice or millet porridge, but usually corn. For lunch they have rice with sauce. The sauce is usually onion and tomato based. Sometimes they use a little meat to season the sauce. For dinner they have millet, pounded and cooked into a sticky starchy paste, also served with sauce. Occasionally they have some meat. A kilo of meat costs quite a bit. I can’t remember what he told me. A dollar or two. Enough meat for that many people is too expensive, so they don’t have it often. Meat is used more for flavoring the sauces.
They have the same menu every day. At night the millet is salted, in the morning it’s sweet. Sometimes they have milk with their porridge in the morning. I asked where they get the milk. He said, “they know where to go to find it.” Sometimes from the Fulani herders who have the cows. Sometimes there are women who sell it. Sometimes you can buy powdered milk that some use in coffee. They don’t often have milk. These compounds have no refrigerators or stoves. Everything is cooked over a fire.
Ousmane said that not all the men in the family have jobs now, so they help each other–that’s what families do and that’s why they all live together. Their family has some farm land south of Ouelessebougou. They grow corn, and rice in the rainy season. I asked if it’s enough to supply them all year. He laughed and said no–there are way too many mouths to feed. The men who don’t have jobs work the farm to help provide food.
Ousmane helps to feed many of the people in the compound because he has a pretty good job driving buses. He has 3 large buses now, and they take people from Ouelessebougou to a town north 460 km (4 hours) and then the bus returns the next day. One of his buses is in the shop now getting repaired. He has another driver for the other bus. His buses hold 51 people. He has to have at least 20 in the bus to cover the expense of gas. Sometimes, in the rainy season, there are fewer traveling. The bus fare is fairly cheap, but to turn a profit he needs to fill the bus. It was fun to learn more about his family life here. It’s not an easy life.
Here is our Ouelessebougou compound where we sit under the mango trees: