Dead Toubab


29th November – 2nd December, 1999
And some Bambara benedictions….

For Ramadan (Selijin) and Tabaski (Seliba)
I BAN BEE SAN BEE
Good feast
SITIGIYA LA
May you have a long life
SAN MIN TENYIMAN YE AN K’O SELI N YONGON FE
May we celebrate other feasts other than this years’ one
K’I SI KE NEGEBERE YE
May your life be as solid as an iron-stick

(Response to all of this is: AMINA (Amen)

For marriage (Furusiri)
ALA M’A KERA HERE YE
May it be a success
ALA K’AW KAN BEN
May you understand each other
ALA KAN’A KE NIMISE YE
May it not be a regret
ALA KA KE KURU SABATILEN YE
May it be a serious marriage

For Baptism (Denkundi)
ALA K’A DA HIRIME NOGOYA
May his food be easy to provide
ALA K’A KE SILAME YE
May he be a Muslim
ALA K’A BUGO A DOGO YE
May he have younger siblings
ALA K’A DOGOIN CAYA A KOROAN YE
May he have more younger brothers and sisters than older ones

For deceased (Saya)
ALA K’A DAYORO SUMAYA
May his resting place be cool
ALA K’A KE SILAME SU YE
May he be a Muslim corpse
A DESERA SI MIN NA ALA K’A O DI A KA MOGOW MA
May his remaining folks get the lifetime he did not reach

As soon as you arrive at the funeral place, you start off by saying: MIN KA DOGON ALA YE (That’s little for God to do).

Funerals are an odd arrangement here, for a woman there is a lot of crying, nothing more. For men there is a special grave dug, a trip to the mosque and talks on death and the deceased. For children it is creepy – about 1 -1 ½ hours after death, the child is buried, no ceremony or anything. As there’s no real concept of the time of birth, people accept it, and it’s not a huge tragedy.

Last night I cooked Q dinner by candlelight and oil lamp with opera playing. We visited the neighbours’ house, Q’s guardians. We sat around all night around a bonfire, talking and laughing about nothing in particular. Q was joking with the women about their sex lives, and they fell over laughing. As usual, there were fart jokes about the yams they threw on the fire and roasted for us. As we watched the stars we drank tea and lounged around. One guy was insistent I learn Bambara (Bamanankan):

IH-NIH-CHEH = hello, and thank you
IH-NIH-SOH-GOH-MAH = good morning
IH-NIH-T’LEH = good afternoon (12:00-3:00)
IH-NIH-WOH-LAH = good evening (3:00-sundown) note to self – don’t confuse this with ‘ih-nih-woh-loh’, which means ‘how is your penis?’
IH-NIH-SUH = good night

IH KA KENE? = how are you?
TOH ROH SI TEH = fine
or you can say N’SEE = fine (f) M’BAR = fine (m)
EH DUNG? = and you?
SOH-MOH GO DUNG? = how is the family?

IH TOH GOH? = what is your name?
NEH TOH GOH = my name is…(Oumou Samake)
HERE = peace
AMINA = amen
HA KEH TOH, NN M’AH FA MU BAMANANKAN = I’m sorry, I don’t speak Bambara
AH WOH = yes
AH YEH = no
AH-BANAH = I’m finished (end of a meal)
DON-DOURNI = a little, a little

TIGI = vendor, seller (eg boutigi = boutique)
N’YAGEN = toilet
GWARR = shade, homemade awning
DUGOTIGI = village chief
LOLO = stars
GEE = water
GEE BE WAH? = do you have any water?
BOOROO = bread
TOO LOO = oil
TOUBAB = foreigner

Today we had breakfast and wandered around the lily pond and under the mangrove trees, watching people making mud bricks for their houses. Then we went on a grand tour of the school and local hospital. The school was full of the most unruly kids who burst out of their classrooms to greet us. Q strutted about slapping and hugging them, which was very funny.

Later we went to the pub which was in near-darkness, and given a glass bottle of tonic water and a plastic sachet of gin. We later listened to the BBC on short-wave radio, which all the Peace Corps listen to.

*When you give clothes to Aid organisations, (instead of giving them to kids to wear, as I believed), these are re-sold at the markets. The Malians call this ‘dead toubab’. Because why would anyone give away their clothes unless they were dead?

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