PMB man’s dramatic days in Mali

2012-04-07 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG construction electrician, Warren Blomeyer (24), who was stranded in Mali as the country was in the grip of a coup recently, has described the surreal experience of being in the midst of the drama and chaos.

He flew back to the comfort of his home a week ago.

He chatted to Weekend Witness from his home in Chase Valley Downs this week, composed as he related his story.

Blomeyer said it was all systems go on the night of March 20 for him to return home.

He arrived at the airport and checked in, but was at that stage oblivious of what was to come.

Blomeyer was only told that his flight had been cancelled while he and his fellow passengers were in the boarding queue.

He heard gunfire all over.

“No one knew what was going on at that stage. I was scared because I didn’t know what was going on.”

He managed to make his way to a nearby hotel in Mali’s capital city of Bamako where he stayed for three nights and two days while gunfire was blazing and the roads were blocked.

Blomeyer said the hotel’s restaurant was in a separate building.

He said while they were dining the soldiers raided the place.

One let off a shot.

The soldiers also helped themselves to drinks.

He said: “They were searching for government officials.

“There were three British guys who were in a complete panic when all this was going on.

“They were ducking under the tables and behind pillars while others including myself were silent.

“It was like in the movies.”

Blomeyer had been in Mali since November, working on a construction project.

As a believer, he said he prayed as he usually does every day.

“When you’re faced with this situation you pray that you’re in safe hands,” Blomeyer said.

He later moved to Markala where he spent seven days before he flew back home.

His unforeseen extended 10-day period in Mali was not all bleak.

“I networked. I also tried fishing, but wasn’t too successful and so I just relaxed.”

He said he was in touch with his family. Because every channel in Mali is in French, he couldn’t pick up what was said on the news.

His family acted as his informant and would tell him about the developments of the coup from the news agencies locally.

Blomeyer said the first thing he did when he arrived home on March 31, was to devour his stepmother’s roast chicken, and dived into his bed where he slept soundly for the night.

“The food in Mali is so bland, whether you’re eating chicken or sheep, everything tastes the same.”

On the whole he said his experience in Mali was an eye-opener.

“At the hotel I was staying at people would come and park their cars and leave their keys inside the car, with the car doors opened and go and spend 20 minutes in the hotel. They don’t touch anything.

“At the construction site, when we were working no tools went missing.

“I think maybe it’s because of their religion.”

About 90% of the Malian population are Muslims.

He said the people in Mali are peaceful which made it pleasant to work there.

“The experience didn’t have too much impact or affect me that much.

“This was just another chapter in my life,” he said.

When asked if he would go back, Blomeyer said he has seen enough of Mali — but he might go back one day, in a 4x4 when he has retired.

He thanks everyone who prayed and sent SMSes wishing him well.

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