Last real evening in Mali... tomorrow I am going home. I have not ventured out of the hotel. A few meetings, lunch... a late coffee. Friends came by rather than us meeting around town.
One thing I had to do, however: have an after-dark drink at Amandine, patisserie, meeting place ice-cream parlour and for a long time an obligatory stop on the way home. Amandine around Christmas is a particularly strange place people returning for the holidays from Europe, the few expats that stayed and a relentless blast of carols (a lot of Céline Dion) ...in 98% Muslim Mali.
I have been away for more than a year and a half - yet the manager came to great me as it was just yesterday I ordered my usual poison... a Djino Tonic. The waiter needed no prompting either. A smile and a firm handshake ‘bonne arrivé...ca fait longtemps’.
Families - father, one or more wives and a whole series of kids, often all dressed the same - come for an ice cream. Bazin galore! Shiny, rustling, fabric that at times looks like plastic, but is made of beaten cotton. Malians in bazin 'float' - they amble rather than walk.
The two heavily armed police officers look bored. A Portuguese builder walks in and greets me quickly before taking his regular spot. Somehow things don’t change in Mali... and for places like Amandine, that’s a good thing.
Time to go home.