Tag Archives: Mamadou

The Inklings: Chapter 68

On Sunday afternoon Mamadou carefully cleaned the tools he’d been using and put them back in the giant garden shed. The back door of the house was open and he could hear Binta and Rose talking in the kitchen. They were discussing details of the renovation plans. It was hard work to get things happening in the right order.

Before Mamadou went inside he had a look at the garden. He had made good progress. The wall was gone and the pond had been dug. The stream was taking shape too. During the week Mamadou would have to help Rose and Festus with the house renovations but next weekend he’d be able to get back to the garden and he’d probably be able to finish the stream and waterfall. Then the fun would really start because he’d be able to start planting.

Mamadou made a mental note to remember to work out how the water pump for the waterfall would work, and then he went inside. He was feeling pretty tired by now and hoped Binta was ready to go home. Rose and Binta were sitting at the kitchen table and had just poured cups of tea from a large pot.

“Where’s Ousman?” asked Mamadou.

“He’s playing chess at Beth’s place” said Binta. “Sit down and have some tea”

Mamadou was too tired to think much about who Beth was. He wouldn’t have minded some tea but he was scared to sit down. He thought if he sat down he might not feel like getting up again. He needed to get home and have a shower before he fell asleep.

“I might walk home. I need to have a shower” said Mamadou. Then he realized he was really hungry too and so he added “I’ll make something for dinner”.

As Mamadou walked home he was thinking about freshly cooked rice with spicy tomato stew on top.

After a shower Mamadou felt re-energised and got to work in the kitchen. Half an hour later dinner was ready. He looked at the time. It was a little bit too early for dinner so Mamadou washed the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen benches. He was so hungry by then that he didn’t care if it was rude to eat before Binta and Ousman got home. He decided to take advantage of their absence by eating dinner in front of the TV and sat down on the sofa with the remote control in one hand and his dinner in the other.

The usual channel Binta watched had lawn bowls on so Mamadou changed the channel. The next channel he looked at had a movie that looked interesting so he started watching, but pretty soon there was an ad break. Mamadou watched incredulously as a special cleaning substance that cleans dishwasher drain pipes was advertised. He shook his head and wondered who would be stupid enough to think they need the inside of drain pipes to be sparkling clean.

Next was an ad for a machine that sanded rough skin off feet. Then an ad for a box you stick on the wall that automatically dispenses poison to kill insects, with special emphasis on how lethal the poison was.

Mamadou was disappointed by the stupidity of what he was watching. He thought of all the people in the world who longed for what he was enjoying right now – good health, good food, a comfortable home and time to relax. How disappointing to think that when the people who were lucky enough to have what most people wanted spent their time relaxing their brains were assaulted by claims that they needed to fix an unending series of imaginary problems before they could really be successful (and happy).

To start the story from the start, go to https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/


The Inklings: Chapter 57.

Wednesday was a blur for Mamadou. He spent most of it in his head, walking around imaginary gardens, although he was vaguely aware of Ousman and Binta coming and going, and he remembered drinking a very nice cup of tea.

As the sun was setting, Ousman watched his father as he walked back and forth on the footpath outside the house. Mamadou frowned as he worked out the last details of his design. Then mosquitos started biting him so he came inside and worked frantically until midnight – drawing a bird’s eye view of the garden and the doing several sketches of what it would look like to be in different parts of the garden.

Mamadou woke on Thursday morning with a sense of purpose. He had done his homework. The plans for Rose’s garden were ready. By 8:00 am he was ready to go and drop them off.

“Where are you going?” asked Binta when she saw Mamadou heading out the door.

“To give Rose these plans. She needs them today” answered Mamadou.

Mamadou noticed that Binta was ready to go somewhere also. She was wearing a brown suit and nice blue earrings.

Binta had assumed that Mamadou would be looking after Ousman while she was at work, and only just realized that they hadn’t discussed it. She wondered how she should best explain the situation.

“I have work today” said Binta. “I’d assumed you would be looking after Ousman. He doesn’t need much looking after really, but he isn’t used to waking to find nobody here. What if you wait until he wakes up and take him with you to see Rose? It is still a bit early to call on Rose anyway”.

Mamadou understood. He realized he had a lot to learn about how things worked around here. He wondered at what age children were left to fend for themselves.  Mamadou watched Binta walk off down the street, then closed the front door and sat down to wait for Ousman to wake up. At 8:15am Ousman quietly opened the door to Ousman’s bedroom and slowly walked in, watching his feet as he stepped and treading as lightly as possibly on the floor boards. Ousman was still sleeping soundly. Mamadou looked at Ousman’s face. He could see things that reminded him of himself and of Binta, but at the same time Ousman was completely different to them both. Mamadou hoped that he’d be able to let Ousman be his own person.

Mamadou was sitting at the table looking proudly at his garden plans when Ousman woke up. It was 8:30am. Ousman ate a banana for breakfast as he and his father walked to Rose’s place. They arrived just before 9am.

“I think we might be a bit early” said Ousman. “Did Aunty Rose say to come this early?”

“No, she just told me she needs to have the plans today so I thought earlier is better” said Mamadou.

“Let’s check whether she’s up and about yet before we knock on the door” suggested Ousman. He wasn’t sure when Rose got up in the morning but he imagined she wouldn’t be ready for visitors before 10am.

So Ousman crept up the front steps and peeped in through the crack between the curtain and the window frame. He could see two figures in the lounge room and from the shape and the way they moved he thought they must be Rose and Amanda. They seemed to be having an animated conversation and he could hear laughing. He took a step back, walked to the door and knocked. Ousman thought he heard someone rushing up the stairs. Then Rose opened the door.

It took Rose a couple of seconds to compose herself when she saw Ousman and Mamadou. When she noticed the roll of papers in Mamadou’s hand she realized what the visit was for.

“Come in!” said Rose enthusiastically, giving Ousman a hug.

Mamadou was feeling nervous. He hoped Rose would approve of his garden design.

Rose unrolled the drawings and gasped as she looked at them. After looking at each of them she laid them out on the table so Ousman could see.

“Magnificent!” said Rose, when she’d seen them all. Ousman looked at Mamadou proudly. Mamadou smiled, but was still feeling nervous.

Then Mamadou explained how the garden tied-in with the house. How the greywater would be cleaned as it trickled through the series of ponds and how it could then either be sent to the greenhouse or along a channel he liked to call ‘the river’, watering the fruit and nut trees, flowers, berries and veggies as it wound through the garden, all the way to the frog pond in the back corner.

Rose giggled and explained that if India was there she’d probably know some term that experts used to describe such a system. Rose gathered up the drawings and they all went out to the backyard to see how the design would fit with the topography of the yard. Luckily for Rose’s budget, the land sloped downwards to where Mamadou wanted to locate the frog pond and it looked like it would be possible to gravity feed the whole system. Mamadou wanted to get started straight away and asked Rose for a shovel. Rose laughed and told Mamadou that they couldn’t start anything until Zikpi had been to film the ‘before’ scenes.

Ousman, Mamadou and Rose spent the rest of the day alternating between caring for Festus and creating a project plan for the renovations and garden. Ousman liked the way they had to work out how each step of the various jobs would fit in with the rest. Mamadou liked the way that it looked like he was going to be very useful. Rose loved being able to be part of a team, and Festus liked the way that Rose’s plans were going ahead despite his broken leg. He looked forward to being able to help though – he was glad that, according to the project plan, his leg would be better before the project was over. He imagined that the last few scenes of Zikpi’s documentary would show him working really hard to get things finished on time.

The Inklings: Chapter 50

To read the story from the beginning go here.

Mamadou was crying as he walked around looking for things to put in the bag he’d just been given. He was incredibly happy and incredibly sad at the same time. He folded his clothes and put them in the bag, then added a pile of letters and papers. There was still plenty of room for his drawings.

Saidou and Howa tried to smile as Mamadou walked away with his mostly-empty bag. They were happy for him, despite his leaving making their own situation feel more desperate, and they were going to miss him. Mamadou didn’t think it was fair that only he was being given a new place to live. He imagined that Howa and her baby or Saidou would be much more valuable to Australia than he would be.

As he plodded towards the car waiting for him outside the gates, Mamadou tried to imagine what it was going to be like when Ousman met him at the airport.


Fanta was feeling a bit guilty as she rushed into Syafika’s house with a suitcase and a sweaty face. Rose, Binta, Syafika, Ousman and Festus all looked up from the kitchen table in surprise.

Fanta knew that Binta and Ousman were going to be at Syafika’s place that morning because Syafika had rung her yesterday to complain about how they were all having a meeting to go through Rose’s renovation plans. Fanta had explained that she couldn’t come to the meeting because she was going away on a short holiday and made sure to mention she was going to need to go to the airport.

“Can someone please drive me to the airport” Puffed Fanta. “I ordered a taxi but it didn’t arrive.”

“I’ll take you” said Festus and he got up.

That was what Fanta had hoped wouldn’t happen, but fortunately India had unintentionally helped with Fanta’s plan by parking her car across Festus’ driveway.

In the end, it turned out just as Fanta had hoped and she, Binta, Ousman and Syafika were soon on their way to the airport in Binta’s car.

Fanta lead the others on a twisting and turning walking tour of the airport as she pretended to be working out where to go to check her bag in. Then she stopped near a roped-off area and took some folded-up papers out of her pocket and started looking at them.

“What are you doing?” asked Syafika. She noticed that a stream of people had started coming out of an arrivals gate and they were standing in their way.

Fanta held up a piece of paper facing towards the stream of people. Syafika realized it must have been a sign but couldn’t see what was on it. Then a man walked over to them from the arrivals gate, but he seemed more interested in Binta and Ousman than Fanta or her sign. That’s when Syafika realized she’d been tricked.

Binta thought she was going to faint when she saw Mamadou. Ousman took the longest to work out what was going on and when he did he gave his father a hug and tried to understand what his father was saying but didn’t say much back. Ousman was too worried about how his Mum was feeling to be able to come up with conversation.

The car trip back from the airport was very awkward. Fanta felt like she should have been explaining things, but at the same time she didn’t want to interrupt anyone’s thoughts so there was silence for most of the way until Binta realized she didn’t know where she was supposed to be going. Where was Mamadou going to be staying?

“I have room at my place”, said Fanta, “But…” Fanta was going to add that Mamadou probably wanted to stay with Ousman, but she couldn’t work out how to phrase it – she didn’t know what Binta was thinking and didn’t want her to feel pressured to make room for Mamadou at her place.

“Dad is staying at our place” said Ousman.

“Ok” said Binta.

“And Mum will be really angry if we don’t get back to inspecting her renovation plans” added Syafika.

So they all went back to Rose and Festus and after a bit of explaining they were soon all sitting around the kitchen table drinking tea and looking at Rose’s drawings. As Mamadou sipped his tea he was hit by a wave of tiredness and relief. The conversation around him was peacefully incomprehensible. After he swallowed the last sip of tea his head fell forward onto the table and he started to snore softly, like a purring cat.

If Syafika hadn’t been so concerned about the changes Rose wanted to make to their house she probably would have started laughing when Mamadou fell asleep on the table, but she was too distressed by the thought of having to use a composting toilet to have any sense of humour.

Ousman got a small cushion and put it under Mamadou’s forehead and put a blanket over his shoulders.

“Won’t the composting toilet stink and attract flies?” asked Syafika. “And what will our visitors think when they have to use it?”

Rose proudly opened a brochure on composting toilets and read out loud how the model she’d selected had features that prevented odour and insects.

“But why do we have to move the bathroom and laundry to the garage?” asked Syafika.

Festus explained that it would be easier to build the new bathroom and laundry where the garage was and then demolish the old ones because otherwise they’d be without a bathroom or laundry while the changes were made.

Then the doorbell rang. It was India, who had come to apologise to Festus for parking her car across the driveway that morning. Before India could launch into her excuses, Rose delightedly led her over to inspect the renovation plans. Soon Rose was busy pointing to various features and explaining how they were going to install a urine-separating composting toilet, plus a greywater treatment system, rainwater tank, solar panels and solar hot water system. But Rose saved the best bit for last. Where the old bathroom and laundry were, they were going to create a greenhouse with an aquaponics system.

When India left she was in a bit of a daze. Rose started telling Festus that if he did a good job, he’d probably get lots more work from other people in the street. Syafika tried again to convince Rose that the new bathroom was not a good idea.

“But Mum, how are you going to pay for all this?” asked Syafika.

“I’m going to sell the car” answered Rose. “We hardly use it anyway. Your Dad can use his van to do any shopping that we can’t carry home.” explained Rose.

“And we can put up a car port in the driveway and rent it out to India” suggested Festus. “Then I can park my van across the driveway”.

“Yes, but we have to put a green roof on the car port” said Rose.

The Inklings: Chapter 34

Binta wondered why it was that after arguing with someone she always felt so much better, even when nothing had been resolved. Ever since she’d yelled at Fanta, Binta had felt much more positive about what had happened. She and Ousman had started talking again, and most importantly, Binta wasn’t angry with him or Fanta anymore. She wasn’t quite ready to admit that she was happy about what they’d been up to, but she was excited to think that Ousman might soon meet his father. She wondered what Mamadou would think of their son and before she could stop herself, Binta started wondering what Mamadou would think of her now.

Binta remembered when, earlier that year, Fanta had given Syafika a painting done by Mamadou. Now she realized that Fanta must have known who Mamadou was when she met him on holiday and bought that painting. Indeed, Fanta must have already known who Mamadou was before she visited him – Fanta must have tracked Mamadou down and just pretended she was a tourist. Binta blushed when she realized that Fanta must have known who Mamadou was talking about when he told her (thinking she was just a tourist) that he’d been planning to marry an Australian woman until he found out that she didn’t trust him. At the time Binta wished she could have told her side of the story, but now she realized that she may as well go along with Mamadou’s version because it was true that she hadn’t trusted Mamadou. When it happened Binta thought she had good reason not to trust Mamadou, but now she could see that she had added a large amount of imagination to small inconsistencies in some of the things Mamadou said. In her head she had turned minor things into major ones and instead of asking Mamadou to explain things that didn’t make sense she’d accused him of things he hadn’t done.

“I should have known!” said Binta to herself when she remembered how every time she’d gotten angry with Mamadou he’d been able to turn things around and make it her fault. Of course it made sense that their arguments would always be at least partly because of things Binta did, so it wasn’t fair for her to assign all the blame to Mamadou in the first place, but Binta hadn’t been able to see that when she was angry. Binta hoped she was wiser now. She didn’t think that Mamadou would have forgiven her though and hoped that Mamadou wouldn’t let his anger at her affect his relationship with Ousman.

The Inklings: Chapter 29

The next morning Mamadou got up early. He was feeling much better. There had been a big dinner the night before, thanks to Saidou, who had brought home as much cassava, okra, tomatoes and onions as he could carry.

“If only there were some tea then life would be complete” thought Mamadou.

Mamadou took his letter and went outside, hoping to find a place that was both quiet and catching the early sun so he could have a go at reading the letter. He didn’t expect that he’d be able to understand it completely, but hoped that he’d be able to work out enough to help him decide what to do next. If the letter contained something he didn’t mind sharing then he’d look for someone to help him read it properly.

The letter started in the usual way, with a greeting. Mamadou skipped to the bottom of the page to read who the letter was from, but it wasn’t anyone he knew. Then he looked at the top of the page to see their address and what he saw made his heart start racing. He furiously started trying to read the whole letter.

The first paragraph seemed to be warning him of what was to come in the rest of the letter. Mamadou successfully read the phrase “I hope this doesn’t come as too much of a shock.”

Mamadou stopped and took a few deep breaths, then read on.

When he got to the bit that said “you have a son” Mamadou was shocked. He read it again and again, to make sure he understood correctly.

From what Mamadou understood, the rest of the letter was asking him if he’d be happy for his son to contact him and that his son would like to bring Mamadou to come and live with him.

Mamadou got up and ran off to find someone who could help him write a reply.

The Inklings: Chapter 27

Mamadou was hungry. He had a strong headache and wished he could have a cup of tea and a bowl of rice, but there wasn’t any. They always ran out of food before the end of the ration period. Last night Mamadou had given his dinner to Howa, because he’d noticed how her baby started crying more frequently in the last couple of days before a food delivery and suspected that Howa wasn’t always able to make enough breast milk.

Saidou had snuck off early that morning to try to get some work in the nearest town. Howa and Mamadou worried about him doing this – sometimes refugees were attacked when they left the camp because some of the locals resented them for taking jobs that they might otherwise have been given – but when the food ran out Howa and Mamadou lost the strength to worry. Saidou would always bring back food.

Normally (when he wasn’t too hungry) Mamadou would try to be useful – groups of men would gather together and go looking for suitable jobs, like helping build shelters and sometimes Mamadou would go to the camp school to help teach the kids. But today Mamadou’s hunger and headache meant he wasn’t up to much at all.

To take his mind of his headache and empty stomach, Mamadou decided to take a walk around the camp. He could see some cars coming in the front gate and wandered over to see if the people in them had any news. A crowd quickly gathered around. They were trying to keep a respectable distance from the visitors and the aid workers who were meeting them, but were finding it hard.

Mamadou watched for a while but nothing exciting seemed to be happening and he couldn’t hear what the visitors were saying over everyone else’s chatter. He had just set off to see what was going on at the camp school when he thought he heard someone yelling out his name. He turned around. One of the aid workers and one of the visitors were making their way through the crowd, waving their arms above their heads and yelling out his name.

Mamadou approached and the visitor, speaking English, asked Mamadou if he spoke English. Mamadou responded that he did. The visitor said “Good! This is for you” and handed Mamadou an envelope. The visitor was then mobbed by other people, who hoped he would also give them an envelope so Mamadou retreated, holding his envelope close to his body.

Mamadou walked back to the one room shelter that he, Howa and Saidou shared. Nobody was there. Mamadou could hear lots of voices next door and thought that Howa was probably helping the neighbours with their cooking (since she didn’t have any food to cook that day). Mamadou hoped that someone they knew would have enough food to share with them that night. People tried to make sure nobody went hungry but sometimes they all ran out of food at the same time.

Mamadou sat down on the floor, opened the envelope and took out the letter inside it. It was written in English. Mamadou had suspected it would be. He could speak English, but he could scarcely read it! “Maybe when my headache goes away I will be able to” thought Mamadou. He got up and went to see if he could find Howa.

The Inklings: Chapter 11

Mamadou sat in the sun, watching more people arrive. He wished he’d been able to bring his paints and brushes and some canvas. He wanted to paint the relief he saw on the faces of the new arrivals when they made it to a place which would seem like some kind of hell to anyone who hadn’t just been somewhere worse.

Mamadou wouldn’t have been there at all if he hadn’t climbed the tree to see what was going on in the village. From the tree he saw the village being invaded by a group of ugly young men.

It was well accepted by Mamadou’s ethnic group that they were better looking and cleverer than the other dominant ethnic group in the country and so when he saw that the invaders were all ugly he had an idea of what was going on.

Mamadou expected that the ugly invaders would punch the men of his village a few times (as a demonstration of their superior power) and then leave but what happened was so much worse. Mamadou was shocked at the ferocity of the attack. The village men, then the women and then the children were bashed, whacked and chopped using an assortment of improvised weapons. The only survivors were those who weren’t found – Mamadou because he was up a tree, a teenage boy called Saidou who had been out searching for a lost cow and a woman called Howa with a small baby strapped to her back who had been out collecting medicinal bark. Everyone else had been sticking close to the village, which was what they normally did during the wet season.

The guilt that Mamadou now felt was incredible. Although he knew that if he had tried to help he couldn’t have prevented what had happened, he would rather have been down in the village to be killed with everyone else than be alive, having watched but not done anything. Every might since then he’d had dreams where he’d see injured people still breathing and he’d be walking away, leaving them to die.

After the attack Mamadou had rushed to check everyone, hoping to find signs of life but had found none. It was only the return of Howa and Saidou that kept him from collapsing.

Howa quickly became hysterical when she returned and Mamadou had only just managed to calm her down and begin explaining what he’d seen when Saidou returned with his cow.

Howa had lost her husband and her two eldest children. Her husband’s brothers and their families had also been killed.

Saidou had lost his mother and sisters. His father and two older brothers were fortunately away.

Overall, 45 villagers had been killed. They weren’t Mamadou’s relatives but he considered them to be his family because he was closer to them than he was to his own brothers and sisters, who all lived overseas.

Saidou insisted that they leave the village. He wanted to go and find his father and brothers. Saidou’s distress was showing itself as anger and Mamadou suspected that Saidou was planning for revenge.

Howa didn’t want to leave the bodies of her husband and children. Mamadou didn’t think they should leave either. He felt their duty was to bury the dead in the proper way (although he knew that it was going to be impossible for them on their own).

Saidou eventually managed to convince Mamadou and Howa to leave by pointing out that they needed help and that his father and brothers would be able to organize it.

Secretly they were all also scared of staying.

So, they all set out towards the town where Saidou’s father and brothers were. The walk was many kilometres, but they hoped they would be able to return with help before sunset.

It was now weeks later. They were all in a refugee camp across the border and Mamadou didn’t see how any of them would ever return to their village.

Although Mamadou wished he’d known he should bring his painting supplies with him he was glad that they hadn’t known of the extent of the attacks when they left their village looking for help. He didn’t know how he would have been able to decide what to do if he’d known what was really going on.

It was only when they reached the town that they started to realize that it wasn’t just their village that had been targeted, but their whole ethnic group.


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