May we wake up one by one

by phil on July 22, 2014


All of these things happened last week: a passenger plane was blown out of the sky, villages were attacked and overrun, police choked a man to death, warning charges exploded on houses before real bombs fell on them, tanks fired on neighborhoods (later, a hospital), and a woman was stoned to death for adultery.

We have images and stories or at the very least glimpses of all these events. We can have them all at the same time, too. On twitter, where I get most of my news, they cascade down the screen in an infinite stream.

You look at history, and the world is apparently becoming less violent. But the access to violence as a spectator is increasing, and the level of ambient anxiety is through the roof.

(By the way, you should follow Mr. Siddhartha Mitter if you are on twitter. He will drop insight on the France national football team in one tweet and the Newark mayoral race in the next, while dialing up occasional commentary in nouchi – Ivorian slang. You should read his writing, too.)

Twitter is great. I’ve met a number of interesting folks through those 140 character exchanges, and some have actually become good friends. I have discovered new things to listen to and to read. I’ve stumbled upon vital but rarely discussed bits of history. Twitter helps me stay informed. And while hashtag activism has its limits, we have all seen the power of widely shared stories and images.

But sometimes it’s just overwhelming. Like last week. On television, they can only feature one story at a time. On twitter, you can have it all at once. Bodies falling from the sky alongside Palestinian children shot from a warship.

So I’m scanning this stream of horror, and every now and then it’s interrupted. In this case, I’m taken to a Malian village by way of Boukary Konate (@fasokan), who recently launched a project called When the Village Wakes Up.

Boukary’s project involves cultural preservation and inter-village communication. One aspect of the project aims to harness the wisdom of village sages. Reading about the project (you can support it here) reminded me of some of my favorite proverbs and expressions in Bamanankan. It was good to think about these during this past week. A virtual trip to a Malian village was just what I needed:

N’i mako tε mɔgɔ la, mɔgɔ mako t’i la

If you need nobody, nobody needs you. – Another way of thinking about this: you need everybody, and everybody needs you.

K’an kelen kelen wuli

May we wake up one by one – This is another way of saying, pass the night in peace. Think about it. If everyone wakes up simultaneously, there is a good chance something has gone wrong. If you wake up one by one, nothing traumatic has happened.

Ji tε masa dɔn

Water doesn’t recognize a king – touché

Gabugu ka koro ni misiri ye

The kitchen is older than the mosque

N se

My power – this is no proverb, and I have written about this on the site previously, but it’s worth sharing again. Greetings in Bamanankan follow this format: “how do you face X?” So, “good morning” is “how do you face the morning?” When you ask a woman “how do you face the morning?” Her response is always the same: “N se.” It literally means “my power,” but the cultural translation is “my power always wins against time.”

Bamanankan/Dioula is a rich language, and it is one of the most widely spoken languages in a large area of the Sahel (namely, a good chunk of Mali, Burkina Faso and northern Cote d’Ivoire). Boukary’s project was a needed detour last week, and I look forward to being back in Mali later in August.

Top photo: Part of the royal court in Tiébélé, Burkina Faso. Source.


July Travel Plans

by phil on July 2, 2014


Match day at the resto in Abidjan. It was a sad scene not long after this photo was taken. All my teams have now been knocked out of this World Cup, so I am going all in on Colombia. Vamonos!!

It’s been over a year since I was last overstaying my welcome on friends’ couches and visiting family in the states. The time has come. I will be heading out of Abidjan on the 7th, arriving later that evening in New York, God willing.

I will be in New York, Boston, Cleveland, DC, and New York once more, before Royal Air Maroc carries me back to Abidjan. There may be a few side trips thrown in for good measure. Send me an email if you want to meet up somewhere along the way.


Some thoughts on the World Cup from Abidjan

by phil June 12, 2014 Cote D'Ivoire

Previously: In 2010, I left hobart street in Washington DC for Accra, Ghana. I arrived one day before the Black Stars were to face off with Uruguay in the quarter finals of the World Cup. You can read about that here. Four years later, I am in Abidjan, and I’m throwing all my weight behind […]

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Neglected Photos from Mali and Cote d’Ivoire

by phil June 5, 2014 Cote D'Ivoire

I thought these photos could use a home on the internet, so here they are. Pretty typical scene at Djigui Koro, one of the best bars in Bamako. Somebody buys a case of beer and everyone digs in. This is a very efficient way to order. Bintou on the banks of the Niger in Segou. […]

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The Phone Cabin World

by phil May 19, 2014 Stories

Phone cabin in Abidjan at 2AM When this amount of time elapses between posts, I feel like I should write something really groundbreaking. That may not be the case here. A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that running a restaurant affords a certain familiarity with the neighborhood. One feature of our neighborhood, of every […]

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Saturday morning at the garbadrome, travel plans, customers that have had too much to drink

by phil April 19, 2014 Cote D'Ivoire

Despite living in a restaurant, I do try to eat out every now and again. And sometimes eating out means going to the garbadrome. Garba is the all purpose, fill-you-up, working class meal of Abidjan. The standard portion costs 50-60 cents and consists of attieke (granulated fermented casava. Looks a bit like couscous, and it […]

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