You never ever want to piss off the Malian Military. But, there are worse things that could happen, and it happened today.
We’ve had a family as our guest in December 2013. We never really knew them, but we heard tell of this couple working 115 km south of us near the Ivorian border. We first met the father of the family at some Field Security Training last March while in Bamako. Since that time we hoped for an opportunity to get to known one another. There are few of us in this corner of the country.
Well, this family had to be in Sikasso to meet with their agency’s field director. They stayed in a hotel one night, had their meeting, and we invited them to stay with us the next night rather than in a hotel. Most West African Hotels offer the promise of a nice stay, but they usually disapoint too- broken toilet flusher, half working things, hard beds, pretty looking; but uncomfortable furniture. We have the room in our new place, so we extended the invitation, and they accepted.
They have seven kids, aged two months to twelve years. Wow, not many people with seven kids these days. They are a wonderful family and the kids are a delight. We had good chats with them too. That night we somehow managed to crammed them all in to one room, on two double foam mattresses, and a thin sponge.
We visited for the evening, and had great chats. The dad and I walked through the market last night to “Le Nid” for shawarma sandwiches. They too had experienced the “Al Baraka” restaurant let down. Potential, but very sad most of the time. So we introduced them to “Le Nid”. We brought the sandwiches home and they thought it was very good, as well. Glad we could expose them to some of the newer delights in Sikasso; there are not many. We had a great chat while we waited, and I think that we discovered we are on the same page about many things.
I was up early this morning working in my office. Then their oldest son woke up and sat in the office with me. About 6:30 he and I went to the bakery around the corner to get baguettes, and my wife cooked up a load of eggs and oatmeal for breakfast.
About ten in the morning, three of the kids came to my office saying there was a man at the door asking for their dad. So I got up from the desk, the dad and I went to the door, and there was a soldier with an AK47, fully dressed in camo fatigues, not looking overly happy.
I greeted him from behind the father and I actually kind of missed what he actually said to the dad, as I was a little out of earshot. My understanding was that the kids had thrown something off the balcony and it was falling on them sitting down below. The soldiers guard the Sahel Bank just below us, sitting there with their AK47’s. I apologized, saying we were not aware of what the kids were doing, as I was working in the office. I apologized and that was it.
As I walked back in to the office, I asked the dad what the kids dropped over the balcony. Well, what really happened was their son, Jethro, went out on the balcony and peed over the side, and it went sprinkling down below. The AK47 bearing solider simply said the kid made water over the balcony.
Oh my word, it made us all giggle. Kids, Eh?
This needed more than an apology from my door. So about an hour later I went downstairs, stopped at the shop there and bought a case of Coke. Then I went around the corner of our building to go see the soldiers, so that I could apologize properly. One of the smaller, but very vocal guys that we kind of know, saw me coming and said to me. “Hey Coulibaly, one of your kids pissed all over me.”
I apologized, and told him how I was in the office working and did not know what was going on, and that his parents did not know he did it, until he told them…. by then the Soldier with the AK47 was at our second story door. I apologized three or four times, and gave the case of pop as a gift, asking their forgiveness. They were gracious about it, commenting that it was not a problem because you never know what kids can be up to.
After I was sure they understood the sincerity of apology, I grabbed my soldier acquaintance and said, “With a little fertilizer, maybe you will grow up to be a big man now”. That sent him and the other two soliders into hysterical belly laughs.
At least we have a story to tell out of it, right?
No matter who you are, when a soldier comes to your door with an AK47 you always approach cautiously.
When giving your apologies to a pissed “on”, rather than the usual pissed “off”, solider, it takes some finesse.
Thank God for the great mercy of the Malian Military Soldiers on this one.