Waiting

The weather is a little cooler than yesterday; there is a breeze, but other than that, in the middle of the day, everyone seems to be waiting. Everything has slowed down. We are in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan. Those who fast are waiting for the sun to set. I am waiting to leave for home and the hotel staff is waiting for people to ask them something. The general feeling of lethargy is all around; so well described in Naipaul’s Bend in the River, though there is slightly more action in Bobo.

After a meeting in the office to tie up loose ends and review our work, past and future, I said my goodbyes and returned to my hotel to take a nap. It didn’t do me any good. i went for a short walk to pull some more money out of the wall. On the way back I walked past the two supermarkets. I felt like buying an ice-cream to give my throat some relief but the supermarkets still close several hours in the middle of the day – I would have to wait. I remember that supermarkets used to be closed when we lived in Dakar, decades ago – everything stopped during the middle of the day. Nothing has changed.

Then and now men lie on their traditional African chair planks, one plank inserted in another at a 120 degree angle – sometimes they scratch their crotches – it is the one pervasive image I have of African men that stands in sharp contrast to the women – always busy taking care of stuff or earning money. I watch the young men across from the hotel. Some sit in the same position for hours, never moving. They chat with other men and I wonder how they earn a living. Sometimes, when I cannot sleep at night I look out on the street, and there they are, still in the same position. It may be 1 o’clock in the morning. It is one of the big questions I have – why don’t the women put them to work?

The lethargy also creates a sense of ‘never mind,’ or que sera sera,’ a fatalism that whatever comes will come. Of course all this pertains only to the men I see in the street. Office men, functionaries, professional staff work hard, or at least they say they do. It has been a long time since I actually made 9-5 days in an African office and things have changed. With internet there’s always work.

I returned to the hotel, not wanting to wait for the supermarket to open. I am not even sure they have ice cream. Their dairy and vegetables cases are mostly empty, reminding me of Soviet stores in the early 70s –and I probably should not trust ice cream in a climate as hot as this one – I am sick enough as it is.

The lethargy has spread to me. My respiratory troubles make me not want to spend any energy on anything – it’s too much of an effort. But I don’t want to sleep either; afraid I have another sleepless night. And so I just wait, watch the hours go by. It is probably exactly what my body needs right now.

1 Response to “Waiting”


  1. 1 Judith J. Haycock July 17, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Sorry this has been such a difficult trip for you, Sylvia. Just getting back home will provide a speedy recovery. Hope to hear you are feeling better very soon…hugs, Judy


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