Hostages Or Hospitality? Goodbye Nestor

Nestor Dougnon Of The Now Former “Chez Les Amis” in Sikasso, Mali

Today in Bamako armed men stormed a Hotel, taking 170 people hostage. Special forces went in, most are free now, with reports saying eighteen to twenty eight bodies were found.  Everyone in Bamako is on pins and needles. It is sleepy out our way, but we stayed in for the day as advised by the Embassy, and local Malians.

It is tragic news, and we pray for the families touched.

However, let’s not talk Hostages, lets talk about hospitality.

Chez Les Amis was a simple basic low budget place to eat in Sikasso. Find Sikasso in any Western or European travel guide book, and you find Nestor’s restaurant listed under the cheap, but good, eats section.
Probably every Peace Corps worker in Sikasso region has eaten there.

But now its gone. That simple shabby building, with the seriously sloping floor that caused you to walk uphill to get to the back tables,  at the foot of Mamalon Hill in the center of Sikasso, is gone.
The building is no longer even there.

For four years we relied on Nestor’s noon specials. $1 rice and sauce dishes with the only three choices being tomato, baobob leaf, or peanut sauce, Saturday was riz-au-gras only day. Evening meals were frilled carp, steak, or half chicken with fries or alocho  for $4.
If we were in town, we were eating there four to five days each week. Mostly for $1 noon meals,  but also evening supper. It was easy and cheap, we could not cook it ourselves any cheaper, and certainly not faster after a long day in the village.

We tried dozens of places early on, but Nestor’s food was consistently the best, the cleanest, and most economical of them all. We have never been sick there. But have, at one time or another, at every other place. We had confidence there.

Of the same price bracket he was miles ahead. Other restaurants and the shabby hotels have poorer quality at two to three times the price.

Nestor was always sitting in his special chair, and we would chat almost every day. He called me “Mon Captain”, since I was a fishing captain in Canada. Lynn was his “Petite Soeur” because she was given the Dogon name Dougnon, like Nestor himself. Nestor always wore a top hat of every color, even pink one day.

We celebrated new years at Nestor’s restaurant before, the only people there was his family and my wife and I.

I called his phone number yesterday  and the young man answering his number said that Nestor had been very sick for some time, and is unable to take calls.  Judging that the building is gone as well, tore down. I’d say it was serous, and Nestor is seriously incapacitated.

I sadly asked the young man to pass on “Le Captains” wishes of healing, prayers, and blessings. Told them to thank Nestor for all he has done for us for so many years, over thousands of meals.  It’s sad, but we will probably never see Nestor again.

We came back to Sikasso with a huge gap to fill in our hearts, and yes, selfishly,  our bellies.  We relied on Nestor for food so much while working here, that we lost touch with other potentials.

Now we have to find  another economical place to fill the gap when we arrive back from the village starving and exhausted. There is a HUGE question mark for us over  a very critical aspect of our life here.

Here comes getting food sick again as we try to find a new watering hole.

Thank you Nestor. We will miss you, you kept us healthy and happy for years.

We went to the Mamalon for noon meal today and it was fine at double the price, However, at times there are men boozing up, especially if you get there in the later evening. So i don’t like to go there with Lynn and have them drooling as they do.

The Al-Baraka was (is? Now that they are back) popular with Peace Corps because it is near their Sikasso Base and is the only place with any variety outside the standard offering… like they have Sharwarma and burgers. But my wife has 50-50 success with getting sick there. I never have.  Burgers and shawramas are OK most times.. But with too much gristle in the meat to eat sometimes.

The good  old “Vieille Marmit” just across the way. But i can taste the bad water on the rice,  a murky taste, and it’s full of road grit too often for me. The dust just blows through the place. I hate sitting there to eat. But we will try it this evening for the first time this term.

Don’t know what we will do.

Mali for me is about the Nestor’s, not the Nut-heads acting out in Bamako.

I miss him…. he was part of our Mali ever since the beginning.

I wish Nestor all the best, what ever his serous situation is, that made him disappear.

UPDATE: A few weeks after this story we heard that Nestor, indeed, had died.  Sikasso morns an incredible man.

We mourn a friend.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Wayne says:

    HI Andy and Lynn. Sorry to hear about Nestor. A place like his are as rare as diamonds in a place like that and unfortunately few and far between. I’ve found one or two over the years.
    Be careful of the stomach, the water and being out in daylight. We are getting pictures of the hotel incident in Bamako. News here is 27 dead but all hostages freed. No numbers on injuries.
    We are praying


    1. Thanks for the note Wayne. We are certainly trying to be more aware of a lot of things these days.


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