It's amazing, but I return home in less than two weeks. Time didn't fly but with public transportation, which I love here in Africa, a great way to see the folks, a short one day trip can extend to 2-3 days what with missed ferries and fatique. Try fitting three healthy adults into a seat meant for three for a two hour+ trip, talk about there is no word for what one feels when her feet hits solid ground.
Such was the case with the trip from Koalock to La Somone. I stopped asking how much longer, how many cities left. Why ask? I don't know what a kilometer is, compared to miles. Is the 50 on the highway equivalent to 40 or 60 MPH? The same is true of the hectometer for acreage. I haven't a clue how large that is. If football fields are the same for soccer and American football, then I have some point of reference, but again there are certain details I will figure out when I get back home, like how in the world I decided to travel to another country without even the basics of the language.
I guess the kindness to strangers certainly applies here. That and the ancestors certainly have been with me, that and many kind people, especially my Gambia family and my Rufisque family, especially Miuhammadou Diang, who has been more than a kind guide and companion for much of the journey in and out of Senegal.
I don't know what I would have done without his language tutoring and assistance on the phone when he couldn't be present. Many a time, I gave the phone to taxi drivers in different cities and asked them to talk to Pape. And I don't know what he said, but I they were always very protective of me and made sure my connections were correct.
I am at Pape's Uncle Ousmane and Aunt Adama's house. We came here for respite after a grueling day on the road, two tours, one of Jawarah Village in Gambia and then another quick interview and tour with Sister Viola Vaughn, director of 10,000 Girls, in Koalock. We then went by the shrine of Cheikh Ibrahim afterwards. My what an impressive structure --so lovely.
I am not impressed by people who insist on alms. This woman grabbed me and told me to cover my hair, it was covered just not all of it. These Senegalese women want every stray strand under wraps--whatever, but in Rome.... So I put my sweatshirt on with the hood and with a nod of approval from her I proceed.
So anyway, this gatekeeper, whispers loudly, to her campanion while I am getting myself ready for a repeat inspection, "American...". American what wasn't necessary, just the "American," was explanation enough.
I forgot my batteries in Dakar and one can't find alkaline batteries strong enough to use in a digital camera in Senegal or Gambia. I am running through 4-6 batteries a day for a 2.0 GB Scan Disk.
Today, when I finally got up, packed, becasue I thought I was leaving, it was about 11ish. We piled into Uncle Ousmane vehicle and went for a drive to look at the properties he and his partners are developing and the land for sale. I forgot the name of the project. Africa-something. I'll have to get back to you on the name.
The properties are high end, lovely with a traditional look--thatched roofs and multiple rooms. Others look like townhouses. The project is ten years old and I don't know what the influx of new persons, many non-Senegalese will have on the personality of the area, but Samone is a tourist area, so it's mixed already with mostly French, which I found interesting, the colonizers fratenizing with the formerly colonized, but hey I am not being critical...post-traumatic slave syndrome looks a lot like neocolonialism.
Black folks are working and black folks are in charge. Riding around with Uncle Ousmane, everyone waving at him and giving him the greetings, was like being with a celebrity. It was the same last week with Assan --football star. Everywhere we went, folks would come up and say hi. People even recognized him when the sun went down. Now that was impressive.
It was the same with Moudo in Banjul. We were watching the masque and one of the persons in the pagent left the group and came over to say hi. It is so cool watching Senegalese and Gambians greet one another. The greetings of peace are followed by how are you and how is your family and did you sleep well and often a prayer for your safety while traveling to your next destination. The new year added another layer to this ceremony. Oh, the young women curtsey. It is so cute.
The girls from the villages do this more than the girls from the more urban areas. However, at Suzanne's the young girl who helps Nene, does this cute bob and Grand Yoff is certainly not a village.
Okay, we get in a paddle boat and cross the lagoon to one of the beaches at the mouth of the Atlantic ocean. There were three of us and then we needed help steering so the boats owner switched places with Uncle Ousman and he shifted to the front of the boat facing up, while I pedaled, and Pape brought up the rear. We were doing fine until a motor boat rolled by us and tossed water in our boat and made waves pushing us away from our destination. I was like, hum, can I stand up in this water? I certainly can't swim.
On the other side, where we'd parked, we met women who fish for oysters which they share the profits from jointly. Uncle Ousmane bought a couple of buckets and took them home, for his wife to cook. They spoil quickly. This evening the folks were digging the seafood, tapping them on the gound or opening them with a knife. There were piles of shells. Did I mention that I am allergic to seafood and red and black pepper and citrus? It's been hard eating here, but I have enjoyed watching my friends enjoy their meals. It looks and smells good.
At the beach, after I stepped onto rocks to climb up to the shore, I immediately went for a walk along the shore. Oh my goodness, it is so lovely...I can hardly wait to get back tomorrow. It is the most beautiful beach I have ever been on and the saddest too.
These large boulders cover the inlet. Scattered I found one to sit on and watch the waves rise and fall high enough to avoid getting wet. After sitting there for a while, at least an hour, these guys with fishing poles came up and claimed rocks nearby and one guide spoke to Pape about his claim to my rock. I moved grudgingly and found a smaller rock to sit on, not nearly as large, I quickly became drenched and the guy with the pole vacated my rock.
I guess the juju worked, but I kind of liked my new habitat, so I stayed until I got too wet. The weather was warm so I dried and this was no easy feat, in jeans--yes, I know, I should have worn shorts, but I didn't bring any even had I dared.
Hum, bathing suit? I couldn't find it before I left.
So we head back for the lunch and I can't eat it; it's the national dish, rice and fish with stewed onions. I eat some rice and stewed onions. Uncle Ousmane is not happy that I can't eat the meal.
Pape finishes my part off and we go for another walk. It's like a new beach.
The tide is out and all of a sudden I see heads and faces...and eyes staring at me, lots of eyes. I am reminded of August Wilson's first play in the cycle, Gem of the Ocean, (the last play he wrote, I believe, or maybe the last one written was Radio Golf). In any event, he wrote the plays out of sequence, yet all together they represented 100 years of emacipation from reconstruction to redevelopment (now in more ways than one).
These rocks were not white, rather charcoal black, like fossilized coal, the kind that volcanoes spit out. They seemed to ask for a ceremony, a burial...500 years after they washed a shore. The saying "we stand on the shoulders took on new meaning as I looked at the boys with fishing poles standing on these heads with eyes.
It would be the perfect place to have a Maafa Ritual. I could see us spread across the beach blessing these artifacts, representative of thousands who remain abroad souls wandering looking for a way to get home.
My camera battery had finally died, so I only have a few photos, nothing of when I climbed inside the cirlce of rocks to get a better look. On this same beach were layers of shells where one would normally find sand.
It was beautiful, I scooped up hand fulls of the shells. Pape said people use it inside their homes on the walls like a mosaic.
While on the beach the first time, I met a muscian playing one of region's indigenous instrucments: it is made from a gourd with a metal thumb pick in its mouth. He was a native of Sierra Leone. A war survivor, his is an interesting and sad story. He shared stories of music being stolen and one song in particular was a major hit almost ten years ago, and it is still being played. I heard it on the radio.
Oh there are lots of mangroves here. Oysters eats them and can be found at their roots. I have to run now.