Teaser 240: I Never Came to Them, Except Roland

Once the Mali military had concluded their interrogations with Hama, which lasted for days, the government actively dissuaded foreigners from traveling the highway between Bamako and Gao, and the U.S. encouraged all American travelers to stay out of that area of Mali. In the six months of my absence few foreigners ventured to Gossi or Gao, almost all being humanitarian aid, usually of food or medical. That's how Stanley got through and the other doctors who worked or were continuing to work at the Gossi medical facility, nearly complete. What it allowed me to avoid was a deluge of reporters and media people descending upon my location. The Mali government simply dissuaded them, even to the extent of threatening to withhold military assistance. The military now regularly patrolled the highway, but they would advise media representatives they would have to temporarily reassign these patrols. There weren't a whole lot of Western media folks brave enough to venture to Gossi or Gao with no armed support, since the government refused to allow their mercenaries to accompany them. It meant they never got closer to me than Bamako and I would have to come to them. Easy enough. I never came to them, except Roland, when he called me from Bamako.

Jeremy and the six members of Chuck's movie crew had stayed on at Jardin de la Paix, renewing with some difficulty their visas with the Mali government, which caved only at their united persistence by allowing them one-month extensions. They were all in the process of renewing once again, but I asked Kitana's father to give me the contact in the government to discuss all of this personally. During a very short and cordial phone call with the representative all had their visas extended for another month with the promise I could intervene the next time. I advised him before I ended our discussion by expressing my deepest appreciation and Chuck's movie crew was becoming less necessary as there was little construction remaining. They would be leaving Mali soon but Jeremy may want to stay to complete his first year in order to produce a more compelling documentary. The government representative understood the significance to his country and would attempt to make Jeremy's visa extension more lengthy. He would have to contact me later. It eased Jeremy's mind enormously and he hopped aboard with his camera while our two vehicles drove to Bamako to escort the first media person who would set foot in our little garden, Roland and his small crew.

Arriving at his hotel Roland was initially disappointed I appeared in standard T-shirt and jeans, though I wore my modest sandals. “Then, you and your crew can wait at the garden until my new robe and turban are completed by Janet and I will wear them for your interview. You can do some shooting around the grounds at will. No one will interfere, but I will not wear the robe and turban I wore when I returned. Those are my traveling clothes. Janet is sewing my garden clothes, so I wear these until then. You're not afraid of waiting are you? You're not in some reporting haste, are you?”

Roland laughed. “No, I work for BBC. Harm's way is a required job description.”

“Why do you think I talk with you and not the Americans?”

“I think I should not comment on that statement, Al-Barrak.”

“As well you should not, Roland, out of required media diplomacy. Come. We have a long drive and we'll talk, off the record of course, but it will allow you to formulate your interview more completely. You may ask me anything, other than what is a matter of confidentiality, as we discussed last time. Have they changed the plural of penis yet?” It brought the entire group into fits of laughter.

Before we left Bamako we picked up grinding stones and grinders to go with them, with plans to build a small milling operation. There was grinding for herbs and leaves but we hadn't received any wheat kernels yet. It would arrive soon, even though we would have our own common wheat when harvested. As large as the area planted for wheat, it would never meet our annual flour and bread needs and we knew it when we planted. We wanted our own organic wheat because it was a crop easily produced in our environment, we could run ongoing experiments with it, and it allowed us to dedicate a large area of our cropland which would produce a viable crop with extremely minimal water needs.

I devised with Jens—who had long ago taken on the responsibility of all my web sites—to appeal through my cooperative fund web site for organic wheat, what would remain once the crop had the chaff removed. I knew this was an activity most wheat farmers still performed themselves, since it made their wheat crop more attractive for sale and raised the price appropriately. Jardin de la Paix, through our official announcement, preferred to purchase unprocessed wheat, which we intended to grind ourselves into flour. We also preferred to purchase from smaller farmers who could certify their crop with our own inspectors, for which we promised to pay at least twenty-five percent above the current wheat price in whichever country we were considering. We further promised, should their wheat crop meet or exceed our expectations, we would contract with each farmer/owner exclusively in the foreseeable future with our promise to pay fifty percent above the current wheat price. I knew I could find responsible and trustworthy people all over the world who could inspect a farmer's crop and investigate reliably any farm operation—to certify its organic component—and aid organizations all over the world could bag and ship it. Direct with the farmer/owner meant cutting out middle-men, from commodity brokers to money-lenders. Their contributions, as far as I was concerned, were zero.

- Just Desserts, Segment Twenty-NineInextricably Bound” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

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