I have had to sack our barman Beigna yet again, and this time he was d’accord: he doesn’t want to work here anymore. Readers of this blog will have followed our bumpy relationship and may be aware that this is now the fifth time that he is sacked. Let us touch briefly on the reasons for this latest and most probably last demise of Beigna, and let us simply say that his conception of his relative importance and position at Hotel Djenné Djenno did not coincide with mine or anyone else’s for that matter.
I have therefore had to rejig the staff, and have put the lovely young Maman in the place of Beigna as barman/receptionist. Maman has been in charge of running the MaliMali studio and shop. He has an accountancy diploma and should, theoretically, be qualified to take on a semi-managerial position here. The barman side will need some training of course, but he is very keen and learns easily and quickly.
He is a very innocent and pure young man. It is my guess that he is a virgin. He has a brown dust mark on his forehead five times a day from touching the ground in prayers. He recently became the object of ardent desire for an American visitor, a man in his fifties. Birgit and noticed at first that the American was hanging around and trying to talk to Maman, which proved difficult since the American spoke no French and Maman speaks no English. Maman was flattered by the attention he was given, and since he is naturally a very friendly person he was responding in a warm way. When the evening approached he became troubled and confused however, and asked to talk to Birgit. He told her that the American had asked him to be allowed to go and sleep in his house. Maman really had no idea why, and he said to Birgit that he had nowhere nice to offer him, and that his place was not suitable for a toubab. Apparently he had offered the American to come and visit his family the following day instead, but this had not been accepted. Maman was concerned that he had not been able to please the man, but he was adamant that he didn’t want him to come back home with him. Later on the man asked Maman to come and spend the night in his hotel room. Impossible as this may seem, Maman still did not understand what the man wanted. At this point Birgit decided to have a ‘friendly talk’ to the Amercan. She said that he needed to be careful because he could find himself in trouble here. The idea of homosexuality is really not accepted, and it can even arouse violent reactions, should it come to the knowledge of the wrong people. What may be acceptable and well-known in Bamako is not yet accepted here in Djenné and in the bush.
I guess that what both Birgit and I reacted against was the inegality of their positions which made the refusal difficult for the innocent boy. The American was rich and wanted something out of a poor African who might just have agreed to something he did not want. This situation would have been distasteful even if it had been a question of an rich old woman who was after his favours.