Casual Sunday

This blog entry about the events of Saturday, March 25, 2006 was originally posted on March 27, 2006.

DAY 9:  Our encampment in Begni Mato was run by a family led by a father of five young boys, each doing cute young boy things:  crawl, climb steps, and read French children’s books.  That all changed when one of them had noticed a small snake slither into the village and called all the neighborhood kids over.  Together, the kids beat the crap out of the snake, stoning it and beating it to death with a stick.

How’s that for the start of a Sunday morning? I thought to myself.

Begni Mato is a predominantly Catholic Dogon village and the bells of the local church had rung for the 8:30 morning mass.  Van took me around through the village and to the church where mass proceedings were just like I had grown up with — a priest, an alter, readings, etc. — just in a local Dogon language.  Catholic Dogon mass was a little different though, with men on one side of the room and women on the other.  Also there was singing to tribal drums and occasional yelping in the songs — but one thing didn’t change:  the kids looked bored out of their minds.

THE FINAL LEG of my Dogon trek involved some rock scrambling to the village of Dourou, another popular tourist stop during the Festival of Masks, where our driver met us for the drive back to Mopti.  Before the drive though, we took our last break in a Dogon village with cooling showers, lunch, and conversation.  The more stories I heard from Van, the more I believed he was a genuine guy who even admit his faults.  He shared a story that I’m sure any random tout couldn’t have made up:  when the BBC covered the Niger River Festival in Segou last January, they had hired Van to be a translator.  For a week, he had to work 16-hour days for the British and was scolded by some women when he overslept one day.  Another time he had to make peace between a French driver and his obnoxious American clients who had taken the keys from him whenever they stopped somewhere.

Before sundown we were back in the Mopti and I took Van’s earlier suggestion to go to the Hotel La Fleuve, which was a lot cleaner, and run by a friendly family that just sat around that casual Sunday and watched TV5MONDE French African TV.  Van of course was friends with them, and they welcomed us with open arms, particularly since they were getting no business in the dry season, as it was from the city center and in the shadows of the only big five-star hotel in town.

The rest of Sunday remained casual.  Van and I walked into town along the Bani River as the sun set down into the horizon (picture above).  After an internet session, Van said we might go to his family’s house for tea, if we could borrow his friend’s motorbike.  Van called his friend Coloumby but he was no where to be found — but we took a taxi to his tenement in the suburbs to make sure.  Coloumby had arrived just shortly after we did, but needed some help figuring out where to put his new 13” TV in his tenement apartment.  We arranged things around the 7"x7” space and figured everything out although they couldn’t figure out how to get the VCD player to connect.

I pushed a button and it worked like magic; they had it on Video 1, when it should have been on Video 2.  “I do this all the time,” I told them.

Van still owed me a meal, so I just ate a casual dinner with him and his friends, sharing a big platter of fries, fried plantains, pieces of meat, and bread they put in the center of the room.  We vegged out and watched some cheesy Bollywood movie dubbed in French until Van took me back to my hotel that night.

That night I felt as if I was home again, almost forgetting that I’d seen a snake beaten to death that morning.

Next entry: Western Unions

Previous entry: The Godfather

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments for “Casual Sunday”

  • First! Looking forward to the pics “Doug”, sounds awesome.

    Posted by Jordan

  • Die Snake! DIE!

    Posted by Marsha Marsha Marsha  on  03/27  at  11:52 PM

  • Love the “bored kid” pic.

    Posted by Ali  on  03/28  at  02:32 AM

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This blog post is one of eighteen travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: Trippin' To Timbuktu" (originally hosted by, which chronicled a trip through the West African nation of Mali in March-April 2006.

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