A small parrot lives in a bamboo dome at the entrace of the cafe. It's clear from the amount of food scattered around his cage that he makes out like a bandit, and isn't remotely interested in the piece of avocado I'm trying to feed him by hand. I'm feeling forlorn and have come to him for comfort, but he's settling in for a mid afternoon snooze and my presence is harshing his mellow.
I give up and eat the avocado myself. The morning has not gone well. I am still recovering from what in Mali passes as a shower - or what other people refer to as a weak dribble of water over a reeking pisshole in the ground. After opening the stall door of the communal bathroom and experiencing an eye-watering blast of uric splendor, it takes me five minutes to man up enough to step inside (barefoot, of course - no flipflops). As I wash my hair with a bar of soap, I close my eyes and try to enjoy the feeling of being clean, of the lovely sensation of water pooling around my feet.
Frantically wiping the soap from my eyes, I look down and gape at the steady stream of urine that is flowing from the stall next door and onto to my feet.
"Excusez-moi!" I shout through the stall, hopping on one leg. "S'il vous plaît arrêter pisser sur moi! Je suis de bain!" I am not even sure that "pisser" is a real word, since "please stop pissing on my foot" didn't feature prominently in my French 101 textbook.
"Désolé, madame..." says a disembodied male voice.
When the gender of the urine reveals itself, the horror I feel in every fiber of being is multiplied by infinity. It's even worse than I thought - it's MAN PEE. Anyone who has ever lived with a man knows that man pee is infinitely worse than lady pee, and almost as foul as cat pee. It's just a fact.
This is the stuff of nervous breakdowns, I tell myself as I fumble with my clothes. It will be a fucking miracle if you leave this country without some kind of scatalogically-induced meltdown.
But it's not the MAN PEE that's killing me as I poke the sleeping parrot, it's being yelled at by the nice man who runs the hostel for reasons that are completely unclear to me. Not even the bird can cheer me up in my wretched, shamed state.
Rasta has borrowed a moped from a friend (he seems to have friends wherever we go) and offers to give me a ride to some of the old villages around Djenne. I am instantly cheered - Rasta is a good egg and it's impossible to be depressed around him.
* * *