Tea with Marmadou

Marmadou is my guard (his real name is Mohamadou but I thought for the first two weeks I was here his name was Marmadou and so now it is our nick name 🙂 ). He sits outside my door every night keeping a (mostly closed) eye on what’s going on as I sleep peacefully in my bed. When I first arrived Mahomadou was my first friend in Mali – he is about 50 years old and is kind, and gentle, and willing to listen to me blabber on in broken french for sometimes hours at a time. It has become a nice respite to sit with him from time to time to talk all about Mali and drink tea.

Tea is a ritual in Mali. There’s a simple reverence in the community of making and taking tea together. Tea sets comprise of a small wire charcoal “stove” (for lack of a better descriptive word) and are accompanied by two shot glasses and  two small teapots that sit on a silver looking tray. Each item is carefully rinsed and washed for every sitting. Bits of charcoal are broken and lit in the wire basket like “stove” and is fanned to fan the flames, and once hot is carefully placed by the host’s chair. The coals are slowly fanned, while the loose green tea leaves are dumped into the small pot and are left to boil. Once ready an absurd amount of sugar is added and then the tea is poured from a foot above into the shot glasses to mix the sugar in. The mixed tea is then poured into the second tea pot which is left on the coals to steep. It seems that the higher you can pour your tea the more cool points you earn. Shot glasses of frothy tea are then shared among the group over heated discussions of football, common chat about the weather, or sometime to talk about very little at all.

So even as life gets busier and I make more friends my own age I still make time for tea with Marmadou.