3/22/07

The Gambia, version 1.3

Below is what I've hammered out in very brief spurts, one before we went out to Dankunku, and one this morning on Greg's laptop in the apartment. It is extremely disjointed because I just wanted to get stuff down, and flesh it out later. Enjoy! We fly out of here tomorrow, Friday, at 11pm, and are back in Indy Saturday early evening. Hopefully I will find some time to post on Sunday. God bless you.


15 - Thursday
Left at 7am to walk a couple kilometers to Rebecca's school, the Banjul-American Embassy School. Good discussion with the headmaster about the school being an oasis in many ways, about teaching children to care for others at a young age, and about the state children are in when they arrive... some incredibly intelligent, some no english at all, some with discipline problems, etc. After using their internet, Greg & I walked down the road to Bakau, looking for a small bean sandwhich shop but instead got a bit of a walkthru of Bakau by a local lifeguard who is a tour guide on the side and is one of those guys who will just approach foreigners out of the blue and talk his way into a few hours with us. With no hint of pay from us, we walked the back streets with him, running into DuDu the Kora player, and eventually coming back onto the coastal road and having lunch at a restaurant with the man. We didn't buy his lunch but did give him our leftovers, and we picked his brain on Gambian culture and history. Came back to the BAES in time to see some of Rebecca's kids on their way out. Rebecca & I went for a run to the coast and along a trail there for a mile or so, to a public beach farther south, where Rebecca ran stairsteps and I kept running south, eventually passing the Sunset Inn where we stayed last year for a couple days. We didn't do anything that night, Rebecca made us some pasta and I read for awhile.

16 - Friday
Abdoulie (Doctor) arrives at 10am and we walk to traffic light and catch a taxi/van to SenneGambia and get in another that's heading out and passes by Aboka and drops us there for us to go in and see the nature preserve with trails, monkeys, baboons, birds, crocodiles, herons, tortoises, hyenas, vultures, and trees. Some of the monkeys and the baboons ate small pieces of candy we gave them, most friendly though the baboons were caged pretty well due to their aggressive solicitations. Doctor tossed some stones towards the hyenas and we even got one to get up and come over near us and another group of visitors with their children. We then rode back into town to Serre Kunda where there is a Barrou (family name) Kunda (compound)... met up with many of those that I had met last year including Jauseng (Ja), Pa, and others whose faces I remember better than their names. Brothers of Rebecca, children, and new children. We had lunch with Doctor, and played volleyball with a bunch of the neighborhood boys. Rebecca came and we sat in the compound talking, listening to music, eating ground-nuts, and smoking. After cleaning up @ Rebecca's, her friend Lamin picked us up, and then Ana, and drove us to the Atlantic City restaurant in Bakau where DuDu and his band were playing. We ate there and then went to Allasin's house and sat and watched The Godfather, part 2, with a few guys before Allasin drove us to "car wash", a nearby club. It was somewhat quiet night for that place, but we stayed till about 1:30. Not the first time, but probably the most persistent time, a random guy tried to get me to smoke with him, including bringing me back into the dj's box for a bit before I left. Stayed up another hour or so reading.

17 - Saturday
Late morning, walk along "main pipeline" towards Serre Kunda to go to Rebecca's bank and super market, pass by US Embassy, see Goneh's husband a driver, and one of Ba-Omar's wife's brothers, teacher on a bicycle who wanted me to stay in the Gambia, said he was very grateful for a math education he received from Americans. On the return trip we stopped in a local salon and asked about cutting Rebecca's dreds off sometime soon, something she wants to do due to headaches. Though I'm using sunscreen and am not very burnt except the back of my neck, I'm getting sun poisoning on the tops of my hands, without burns. Stayed in this afternoon and finished State of Fear. We walked to the same beach we had run to before, and hung out there for a bit, Greg getting some video of football players, and I left to follow the coastline towards Bakau. Trying to make it to 7pm mass, I cut up to the coastal road and was sweating a lot by the time I arrived, and the priest was on his homily at 5 till 7 so their sign must be wrong. Sat dripping with sweat through mass, took some pictures inside afterward, and then walked back to the apartment. I got turned around and couldn't really tell what road were what in the dark - roads that seemed like major highways during the day were merely 2-lane roads w/ sparse traffic and no street lights at night. Thankfully nobody gave me trouble even though I went through all the various different types of neighborhood, and a few bittick owners eventually pointed me in the direction of traffic light. We ended up just crashing that night.

18 - Sunday
Up at 6:30am to quickly pack and get picked up by Lamin to go through Banjul to the ferry that would take us to the north bank. We waited there for Dembo Barrou for a couple hours and then rode the ferry with a PCV Rebecca knew named Debra and a couple hundred other people and 20 or so vehicles. From the north bank we got on a Gelly Gelly (spelling?) and I got to experience my first ever attempt at being pick-pocketed. A couple hours later we stopped in a small town, had some food, bought a bunch of water to bring with us, and got on another Gelly Gelly for another couple hours. We got dropped off about a mile from another ferry crossing, this one a small outboard motorboat seating 10 people and bags. Dembo had a wheelbarrow and some gardening tools with him, and we had also met up with a teacher Rebecca knows who had a large metal case with her, plus a friend of Dembo's who just had a boom box with him playing some tunes along the way. After crossing, we started walking towards Dankunku and about a mile into it two of our younger brothers Famina and Senny showed up each with a donkey cart to bring us the rest of the way. Many children greeted us on our arrival, though it might have been larger if not for the recent death of an elderly woman. Ba-Omar and his wives and children met us at Barrou Kunda and we stayed around the compound that evening. Mr. Jyang and his uncle stopped by to greet us, it was his grandmother who had passed away that morning. We took bucket baths that night.

19 - Monday
Washed and greeted Ba first thing in the morning, then spent most of the day sitting in the compound and walking around the village seeing people. Ba killed a turkey for us. Many people, few of which we will remember names but include Goneh and her children, Jyang and his relatives, and in the late afternoon we walked to Mt. Carmel to meet Mr. Saunyong and his crew, including Peter Jammeh as well. They walked us back in the dark, and then we had an evening filled with greeting people and enjoying our little time with them. An old man who is friends with Rebecca and a very good Kora player came and played for us, and the Dankunku scout troop came and marched/sang some for us, and many of Rebecca's friends came to greet her/us. We stayed up late into the night drinking Ataya and Ley, with Mr. Jyang, his uncle, Dembo, and Hannah the current PCV there. It was close to 2am when we went to bed.

20 - Tuesday
Rose at 6:30am to pack, have breakfast, and be off. Ba had bought us no-no - curdled goats milk - and powered rice - and those mixed with sucuro (sugar) made a very good Chaukery for breakfast. A proper finale for the consistently "too good" meals they were giving us. This time Musa took us in the donkey cart back, just one because we had fewer bags (including some new clothes Ba gave us, minus some shirts we gave to Ba and to the scouts). Ba prayed over us just before we left and prayed over the donkey cart and our belongings. It was an emotional time for the family, as they love Rebecca very much. At the ferry we had to wait for the 2nd one because we'd been moving slow in the morning. We packed in with a family who seemed to be moving everything they owned. We then caught a Gelly Gelly a couple miles after the ferry, made it back to the town we'd eaten at before, and this time had egg sandwhiches and tea, before getting on another Gelly Gelly that had a bit of engine trouble as well as people trouble, but not much. There was a sick man with us and the man in front of him kept complaining that he was pushing his seat back too much. At the next police checkpoint (check everyone's id/passport, the 3 of us were always the only toobaub's/white people), the driver asked the police man to settle the dispute between the two men. He told the sick man he could stay if he would stop pushing, and he opened his window and told him to keep it open. We waited for an hour or so at the north bank near Banjul for the big ferry, were briefly stopped on our way out by the ferry officials so they could look over our passports, and then Lamin drove us back to the apartment. We took time to clean up and then walked down the road to a Lebanese restaurant for some hummus and a small meal, before crashing that night.

21 - Wednesday
Rebecca's last day off, we slept in till 8:30 or so, then eventually went to get a taxi into Senegambia to see the markets, walk the beach for a bit, and eat at a Jamaican restaurant. Ital Rundown is an excellent jamaican meal. Met with Ana, her son, and her friend, and walked through Bakau and bought some small items and met with Rebecca's friend NeyNey. Back to the apartment for an awesome breakfast-for-dinner by Rebecca and then crashed somewhat early again. Rebecca and I had gone for another run this afternoon, same route.

22 - Thursday

Rebecca's back at school today, we're going in to see them again..