Too much has happened to tell a complete story… I have not had much internet access for a while now. I will try to summarize the last few jam-packed weeks. My apologies to anyone who has been worried about me!
My travel buddy Josh and I left Bamako, ready to be in the road, but sad to leave our newly growing community. We started at the festival Sur Le Niger, in Segue. The festival was similar to the festival in the desert, but more Malian and less international. Lots of incredible music as well as dancing, a Dogon puppet show, and all sorts of fun.
After the festival, we headed back to Timbuktu to try to figure out the enigmatic and famous place that we had visited for a short time before. We were planning to go on a ten day camel trip into the desert. The person that we chose to be our guide happened to be some type of scam artist however, and we slowly realized that his story didn’t add up. The last straw was when I caught him trying to hide money in the pack that I was leaving in Timbuktu. It was a very bazar, and we fled his house, convinced that he was planning to sell us to kidnappers.
While we were frantically trying to find a bus to get back out of Timbuktu, (less then 24 hours after we had made the 2 day journey to get there,) we ran into Marc, a retired french man who has a guest house in the outskirts of the town. He was so nice that we decided to stay, and met a new guide, Mohammed. We made new plans and this time successfully set off on a camel journey.
We walked, and rode camels, both in the daytime and at night, for 8 days. We camped, drank tea, joked, and the days bled together. We passed Tuareg camps and camel caravans that were en-route to the salt mines near the Algerian border to bring salt back to trade.
Somewhere along the line in the desert, my video camera was stolen, along with my phone and some cash. It put me in a quite confused place as far as my artist project goes, but I think a solution just showed up, (which I will explain later.)
We returned to Timbuktu tattered by the sun, the carum-carum (this thorny plant that is hiding everywhere in the desert) and exhaustion from the journey. We slept deeply, and then suddenly felt claustrophobic in the town in the middle on nowhere.
We left on the public ferry boat down the Niger river. We passed lots of villages and nomadic camps, as well as a hippopotamus (I was happy to check hippo spotting that off the list!)
We ate fresh fish, and slept on the freezing roof of the boat with the cheerful crew. The journey was three days long. but we finally pulled in to the port town of Mopti. Josh and I parted ways here, as I wanted to stay and explore the local pottery, and he wanted to continue to Ghana.
I am still here, renting a room that is about 8 by 8 feet and has no power, but the family I am staying with is cheerful and generous with their rice. I sleep on the roof and wake up to morning prayers.
In Mopti, I have found the ceramic pottery community that I have been searching for the whole trip, and I am in no hurry to leave. I made a life-sized sculpture of one of the brick makers who works at the ceramic place, and spend every day learning about how the people here make pottery, as well as get clay, make glaze, and fire things, all of which are really exciting to me.
I also met an Italian guy who is building a water purification system out of pottery. He has a camera that he is going to give me in exchange for making a video about his project, which is really amazing, and a solution that showed up at just the right time.
Today, the girl who lives in the house I am staying at is getting married. I think she is about 17. The courtyard is filled with about 12 gleeful girls putting on clothes, make-up and hair extensions. Two days ago they were all over here putting henna designs on their hands and feet. Across the world, but the group teenage-girl-culture seems super familiar, (though with babies running around on the floor). I have been to african weddings before, in fact yesterday I was pulled into a little wedding dance circle, (and then the bride wanted to take lots of pictures with me.) But I have not ever been around for the wedding preparations. It is pretty fun and festive.
OK friends, I will write again as soon as I have internet, and begin documenting artists again as soon as i work off my new camera and own it, so hold you horses if you donated money to the artist project! I will find someone to give your money too!!