“Do I really need a guard? “ I asked when I arrived in Nara.
“I would say you do “, one of my future Malian colleagues said, “we all have guards!”
” What for?”
“Well, for fetching water, buying meat, chicken and other groceries on the market, cutting the meat, watching the house, sweeping, ironing, heating water in winter for the shower, feeding the animals, keeping the children out of the yard, chasing stray dogs…I think you are supposed to work here. If you don’t have a guard you will hardly find the time to work.”
“What animals are we feeding”? Project Animals? “
“No, your livestock, I mean. You are goanna breed some chicken I assume for the kitchen. May be a little vegetable garden as well. And by the way there is a guy coming over this afternoon to show you two donkeys. You can just pick one and negotiate the price. You will only need one for a start “.
“My French is not yet that good to negotiate prices”, I worried loud.
” He does not speak French, I think only Soninke”, my colleague replied.
When I understood that a ” charette” a popular local means of transport – a donkey cart on two recycled car tires with a matching donkey – was needed to travel to the public well in Nara, queue in line behind the ones who have arived before you, manually fetch water in buckets and pour them into plastic barrels on the donkey cart and then travel back to the house to off-load the water into two other plastic barrels stored at the house – an intense search for a guard started !
Kodjo Kamissoko, A Soninke man in his forties was the chosen one and occupied “the guard position” for nearly six years. He lived on the same property with me. He became more my guardian and advisor than guard. Apart from doing all the above mentioned tasks he made the best Arab tea in Nara, knew the gossip and new stories always first, was great company and totally reliable. I will speak a lot about him.
He enjoyed long night conversations around the fire.
And he did make light more than once !