It seems like it's been a while since I've discussed the regular goings-ons of village life.
When I first got to Mali it was rainy season. This meant most people were out plowing and planting fields. December was cold season, which meant harvest time.
Now it's hot season. How hot? Over 105 degrees Fahrenheit every day. A cool dip into the 80s at night. At this point it hasn't rained consistently since early October, so it's been pretty dry. Everything is brown. Rivers and ponds have significantly shrunk or disappeared altogether. There is no agricultural activity aside from herding cows. Dust abounds. Sun is abundant when not obscured by the aforementioned dust clouds.
What do people do you might ask? This part of hot season might be more appropriately labeled "home improvement" season. It's all about fixing up or building houses...Unfortunately it's a little low tech for Bob Vila or Tim Taylor.
How does "house building season" work exactly? Well, first you need to hitch up a team of cows to your cart, head out to the fields and bring back a couple cart loads of nice, clayey soil. Then grab a couple of old oil drums, fire up that trusty cow cart, and head out of town to the irrigation canal for the rice fields and grab a few barrels of water. (You do this by simply backing the whole cart into the canal... water up to the cows noses.) When you get back into town, start making mud. Add some straw to the mud. Then grab your favorite brick mold and start making mud bricks like it's 1999 and there's about to be a firesale on home masonry to get ready for the Y2K glitch.
Stack the bricks and let them dry in the sun. Once dried, make some mud mortar and begin making the walls for your new house, concession enclosure, negen, shower area, sheep pen, or ice hockey arena. (The thermal properties of mud bricks are truly astounding. What an R-value!) When it's time to start thinking about a roof, find some large cross beams and throw those on top of the walls. Then lay a dense latticework of two-inch diameter sticks across the beams, coating the entire ensemble thoroughly with about a foot of mud. Let dry. (If you've got some extra cash laying around you can splurge on a tin roof.)
If you're not building a new house you'll probably still be interested in doing some fix up work. You'd be surprised at how easily a house made out of sun-baked mud can come apart once it's endured a few rainy seasons. Solution: some mud and a mason's trowel. Apply a liberal coat of mud to whatever wall or roof is in need of some patch work. Then find your favorite shady spot and drink tea for the rest of the day.
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