Friday, February 01, 2008

Everything must come to an end

Thank you to everyone who looked at this journal and I hope it was helpful in following what we were doing in Africa. The trip was very enjoyable and at the same time tiring. I now know why Africans take naps in the middle of the day, by sleeping they avoid the most sun intense part of the day and it also rejuvenates for the afternoon and evening. Certain areas I would definitely like to go back to and spend a little more time there, and obviously there are things I am content with experiencing once. The most enjoyable part of the trip for me would have to be seeing the schools and just the atmosphere of the African society. My least favorite part was constantly being heckled by people. I didn't mind talking to people who actually wanted to have a conversation, as in Joe. It was the people who just wanted to get money out of your pockets. If you have any questions feel free to either ask me in person or write a comment with the question in it. "It's nice to be nice" and it's nice to be home.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Day 20

Day 20 1/22
Today was supposed to be a nice relaxing final day. It turned out the complete opposite. Our wake up was earlier than usual and our breakfast was to be at 8:00. When we got to the house I noticed that Muhammad was just starting on breakfast. We skipped breakfast and went straight to the school. It was interesting to see the difference between Tendaba and this school. The school was much larger and was funded completely different. Each student had to pay ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­12,000 Dalasi for their tuition and books. Officials at the school were very friendly and open about our visit to the school. Although there were many students and teachers their facilities were still a little drab, but the learning atmosphere was much better than the schools at Tendaba Camp. We then left the school and headed back to the house where breakfast was waiting for us. Everyone was still dressed to impress being that we were to attend the Parliament for our rescheduled visit. When we got to Parliament we found out that we again would not be able to go inside and this time the reasoning was remodeling. So while we were in Banjul we ran a few other errands for individuals. Matt needed to go to the Police station in order to trade patches for some foreign ones. With the few cancellations we were able to get to enjoy a free afternoon. We traveled back to the house where we changed into our swim suits and headed for the beach. It was pretty early and the sun was hot. The waves again were powerful and we could not stay in the water for too long. We had the usual lunch again of a chicken sandwich and chips. If they gave us more chicken meat than chicken cartilage or bones the meal would have been half decent, BUT there was very little chicken on the sandwich and the service was awful. After lunch we relaxed for a bit longer and got into the water a few more times. Josh, Justin, Matt, Josh, and I were going to play a football game with a local boy who set up nets with his sandals and two sticks. As we were starting to play Matt and Joshed noticed a very large crowd gathered down the beach, so they decided to go and check it out. Justin, Josh, the local boy, and I continued to play. He was about 13 years old and his dream was to play football professionally. He definitely had the attitude to play in the majors because he insisted that he was going to score immediately. Playing in the sand was quite difficult because we could not get any footing and also the flat ball bounced randomly. Awhile later Matt and Josh came back and told us of some bad news. The reason for the gathering was because someone had drowned in the ocean and they were still searching for the person. When Matt and Josh had gotten to the place where everyone was gathered people were insisting that they go into the water to look for the person too. They wisely declined and noticed that not many people were able to swim out past where the waves were breaking. The search continued for the person and random buoys appeared to be hands waving for help; many people were fooled by these buoys. What surprised me the most was the lack of support in the water. There were a total of two boats in the water. One arrived about 30 minutes after the people began to gather and the other arrived close to an hour later. One man looked at us and said that’s why he liked white people, implying that we can afford boats to help out the locals in times of need. This occurance hit the group pretty hard, we wanted to help but we were unable to swim out into the ocean without any type of floatation device. So we had to stand along the shore helpless. I began to ask questions and some people replied that this in not an uncommon event. They suggested that about 2 to 3 people drown in the area per year. With this high amount of people drowning I figured that the area would be better prepared to react to emergencies of this type. The two boats that were out there we not even rescue boats they were simply boats owned by locals or boats owned by resorts in the area. When the tension had finally settled we had a new problem on our hands. Jesse who had bough a book earlier in the day was accused of stealing the book from the store. The owner of the store tracked him down at the beach about 6 hours after he had bought the book. The book was not cheap either, it cost him 600 dalasi for the book the first time and the owner insisted that he pay 600 dalasi and give him the book back. Our professor was not at the beach at the time, but we called him immediately. We were afraid Jesse was going to be taken to prison so some individuals tried to stall until Buba came. It was quite tense for awhile because the police did nothing to help and allowed everyone to argue. The whole thing was a scam to get more money out of us. Even when they were discussing the issues some people hung around trying to get money out of the situation any way possible. This frustrated us greatly and turned some people away from the whole Gambian society. We knew that the government was corrupt but we hadn’t experience any locals trying to scam us. After the situation was resolved we got on the bus and headed for home. We were to pack our bags and go to dinner where we shared thoughts of the trip and experiences that touched us. Tomorrow will be mostly a travel day where we have to be awake at 5 so that we can make our ferry in order to get into Dakar at a reasonable time.

Day 19

Day 19 1/21
This morning our plans were pushed back because Jerry was not feeling well again. They took him to see if he had Malaria and they reported that the tests were negative for malaria, so that was a plus. With this visit to the doctors our plans were set aside and we had to reschedule our school visit for tomorrow. Instead of going to the school we went to The Observer, which is a local newspaper ( While on the visit of the office we were allowed to ask questions to the writers and editors. Someone posed the question of what they can and cannot write. The response was given that they must show respect to the government and others. This means that they have a limited free writing and they are not allowed to say whatever they want. Also we noticed that the President is featured on every front page, always in a good way. As we were about the leave the chief editor tried to get us going about the freedom of the press and how their paper was much more democratic. We politely declined responding to his statements. We were all dressed up hoping to go to Parliament and see inside the building. We never made it through the doors because they were in session and could not entertain any guests at the moment. So our next best option was eating. Off to Ali Bubba’s. We sat down inside the restaurant where we were still bothered by people on the streets. They would either hold up items at the entrance to the restaurant and some were even gutsy enough to come into the diner. One person that did come into the restaurant continued to follow us even after we left Ali Bubba’s. We were given time to look around the Banjul market. As we finished perusing the market we went to our set meeting place where I was greeted by Joe. Joe is the person who led us around the Banjul market the first time we went. He was very interested in talking with me and possibly meeting up tomorrow. We made plans that he would come to the house at 5 PM, because I didn’t feel comfortable going to his compound. I learned that I lived in Old Jeshwang from our guide that gave directions to Joe so that he can come tomorrow. Joe is not like all of the other people here or at least it doesn’t seem so. After telling Joe I would call him later tonight we were headed back to the house where we were given a little time to get ready to go to the beach. At the beach the waves were stronger than they had ever been. They were at a point where I didn’t feel safe in the water. I swam out past the breaking point hoping that I would be able to stand, but I couldn’t. I simply got pounded by a few waves and turned in for the shore. Just as I was getting back to where I could stand comfortably a man who works at Leybato bar and restaurant recommended that we either stay out of the water or not go out as far. We listened to this after experiencing the waves. Because of the full moon the waves and high tide were at extremes. We had to leave the beach right before sunset. Some of us got some decent pictures of the almost sunset, tomorrow we are to go back for the sunset. When we were at the beach I felt the revenge of Senegambia hotel food. Hopefully this passes quickly and that I can travel home comfortably. Tonight we are to go out for the last time in The Gambia, no one really has the intentions of drinking tonight because everyone is scraping their pockets for every last dalasi. I have 100 dalasi left in my pocket which is $5. I have other money but I do not want to spend it unless I have to. We are all excited to go home and disappointed at the same time. It is a beautiful area but it also has its downfalls such as the hustling of the vendors.

Day 18

Day 18 1/20
Today was our free day we were to do whatever we wanted to do with one stipulation attached; you must get yourself to and from your location. We decided that we would go to the beach and to get there we would walk. So after breakfast we got ready to go, we packed up our bags and wore our swimsuits so that we wouldn’t have to change when we got there. Justin and I headed out before everyone else so that we could relax until lunch time. As we began walking we were in pretty good moods joking around as we past the stadium that we were about a quarter of the way there. We were joined by some children that also insisted that they were also going to the beach. At the intersection we went straight because that’s the way Justin thought it was. We continued to walk and walk and walk. We walked for just about 2 hours and realized that this was NOT the way to the beach. We asked a man who had seen us walking earlier if we were walking in the right direction and he told us that we had passed it up a long time ago. At this point we were tired of walking and turning down taxi cab rides. So as a taxi drove near he asked where we were going and I asked him if he knew where Leybato beach was. He said he did and that it would cost us 200 dalasi to get there. I looked at Justin and we started debating whether it was worth that much. I told the guy that we would continue to just walk and right after I said that he asked how much I would pay. We agreed with 100 dalasi and we got into the back of the taxi. We started passing some old scenery and still more old scenery. Through recognizable intersections and vending markets the taxi traveled, and at the first intersection that we came to while walking we should have turned right. I thought that was the correct way to the beach but Justin insisted that it was straight ahead and that no turns were needed to make it to the beach. In total it took us about 2 hours to get to the beach when it should have taken us at most 45 minutes. So as we got to the beach some people were finishing up their lunches so we decided to take our lunch break and get something to eat. We began to watch a soccer match on tv at the 40th minute in the game. Half time past which is 15 minutes and we were finally served our sandwiches at about the 80th minutes of the game. We were not happy about this being that we had been sitting at our table for about 20 minutes prior to ordering. They were running on African time which I no longer like. You might as well plan on being at least an hour late for everything. The people again are extremely friendly but they become annoying quite quickly. They end every sentence with either “man” or “you know” except the “you know” is not a question at all it simply acts as a period to the end of their sentence. The people also seem to have a memory problem or possibly the marijuana has killed their short term memory cells. The reason I say this is because they repeat the same thing over and over and over again. They will tell you where there compound is and in the next 5 minutes they will tell you where they live another three times. I know the people mean well but the saying “it’s nice to be nice” gets old fast when they ask you to stop and see their store when you have no intentions of buying anything. Hopefully tonight we are left alone as we head out to a nice restaurant where we are to be in semi formal attire. Again the people are nice but jiminy cricket please stop bothering me, they don’t even talk to their neighbors like they talk to complete strangers. I think it is truly because we are white people that lures them into talking to us. Going to the Senegambia hotel was a real treat from the usual food we have become used to. At the hotel they provided entertainment for us, which consisted of the normal drummers and dancers. This performance had a slight twist in that a man was a fire man where he twirled and spit flames.

Day 17

Day 17 1/19
Breakfast was followed by a ride to Leybato Beach where we took our test. I’m guessing the test took about an hour. After the test we took a walk along the beach to the same rock that we climbed before but this time we brought a camera with us so that we could take a picture. We later relaxed on the beach and basked in the sun followed by the usual chicken sandwich and tropical drink. Today’s drink was not as good as the usual. Usually I get my drink with everything in it. Everything consists of mangos, oranges, pineapples, grapefruit, and bananas. There is nothing but fruit in the drink and whole bananas and mangos are used in it. The second time I got the drink I helped the guy mix the drink. I crushed the mango and banana as he squeezed the grapefruit and oranges to get the juice. Once lunch was done I was extremely hot and got into the water and caught some nice waves. Today the waves were larger than they were the previous times we went. They were large waves but gentle, we didn’t get crushed as we rode the waves to shore. We had some bus complications this morning as we were told that our bus driver would be leaving us later in the day and that we would be getting a new driver. Our driver wished us health and prosperity in the future and a safe journey home. He did not speak English well so our tour guide translated what he was saying to us. We were then taken to the Bakau market where we had been once before. This time I walked down to the fruit and vegetable market while everyone else looked at the crafts. It takes about 5 minutes to walk from the craft market to the food market and on the way there we were approached by a man who offered to take us there by taxi. I told him we had a bus and we did not need a ride to the fruit market. I bought some mangoes while at the market where I had some kids pick out the best looking mangoes; I hope they gave me good ones. Justin and I started walking back to the craft market and we were followed by 5 boys they wanted me to get them a futbol so I told them I had one at home. They didn’t understand that my home is across the ocean. I asked if they could swim and a few said they could swim to go get it, but I didn’t allow that to happen. When we got back to the craft market some other children had congregated around us and we became surrounded by them. Often we can get them to dance for us as we clap for them and this time was no different than before. The children like to hang out with Americans and Tubobs. Since today is the Muslim New Year we saw some children with painted faces, running around in the field across the street. Some of the girls went across and played with the kids. I joked around with some of the kids and asked if they had girlfriends and if they did I asked a little about them. They always got shy and tried avoiding those questions by asking me questions like “What’s your favorite food?”. Although we had to wait for our bus we enjoyed the company of the kids and it made the time pass much quicker. It still hasn’t rained here yet and is sunny everyday, its like July without humidity except there is barely any green.

Day 16

Day 16 1/18
This morning’s breakfast was the porridge flavored with bananas. It was very tasty and was accompanied with bread and eggs. We then went to see Charlie the crocodile at Kachikalli that was known as a sacred pool. In this pool there are approx 50 crocodiles and Charlie is the only one with a name who is about 40 years old and is very large. Some of these crocodiles I did not especially like because I thought that they could attack at any moment. We were told that they would not attack us because they are well fed. Also this area is used as a fertility area for women; they go into an area where they are bathed with the pond water which is supposed to promote fertility. For the men, this area is where they were circumcised. This procedure was done under an elephant tree. The tree was very strangely shaped, it had fingerlike roots that were about 5 feet apart. After seeing Charlie we went to Sultan & Sweets where I had the chicken and rice for I think at third or forth time. This time was definitely better than the last time because the chicken was quite moist. If I were to get this type of chicken in the US I would expect to pay somewhere about 15 dollars for this meal, but for the whole group of 22 people to eat was about 75 US dollars. The half of a chicken, rice, and coleslaw costs about 4 dollars, now I see why Buba likes to go to Sultan & Sweets. After lunch we went to the Brikama craft market where they made all of the trinkets in their stores. I bought almost all of my gifts here and had the guy make me a pair of spoons that were to match another piece I bought. I traded 3 shirts today for a couple of the items and then the people wanted my sandals. I tried to explain to the guy that the sandals I had on were the only sandals I had left, but he begged that he would give me his sandals in trade for my sandals. Even though my sandals are a little old I was not about to trade my sandals for some random guys shoes. On the way home we stopped at a jewelry store again hoping to get better deals, the lady working there was not having any of that. At this time we were all pretty tired and headed back to the house for dinner and to study for our test tomorrow. For dinner Muhammad made us squid that we bought yesterday and it was amazing. Muhammad is a very good cook who tries to give us Americanized foods yet still makes some African cuisine for us so we are not too comfortable.
Some of the lectures Buba gives us I don’t agree with, such as the colonialization of Africa by European nations.

Day 15

Day 15 1/17
We woke up and had breakfast at Muhammad’s. He is a very nice man and does anything he can do to make us feel at home. After our lecture about nationalism we drove Senyang fishing village about 35 minutes away where we were to go to the beach for the day. While at the beach we went to a fish market where we bought squid for the next day and also I bought a HUGE shrimp. I was later told it was a different type of shrimp than what we normally eat in the states, but this shrimp put the jumbo shrimp to shame. The fishing village was not modernized with large fishing fleets, but instead had boats made of wood and men pulled in their own nets. The whole area had a potent rotting fish smell to it which at times was hard to stand. That smell though was better than some areas where we have been exposed to the smell of sewage in open drainage systems. At the beach we saw a very large jellyfish, it was a little bigger than a basketball and we were lucky to see it on land and not meet up with it in the water. We had lunch at the village, which for me consisted of fish tenders. Later in the evening right before sunset there were some drummers who entertained us and actually let us try to play with them. We appreciated the lessons and thanked them as they left. The day was full of sun and some individuals found that the hard way by getting fried. I was very pleased with the day of relaxing on the beach even though the beach was not as tidy as most American beaches. We drove back home after saying our goodbyes to the Gambian Tobacco smokers and had dinner as soon as we got back to the house. I asked one of the maids to cook my shrimp and she did so for me. She steamed it but as I said before it had a little bit of a different taste. It tasted more of a piece of shark than it did shrimp. I ate it plain because we did not have any type of cocktail sauce. We got to go to I-link where I updated my blog and checked for emails. The sun wore us out and we were ready for bed early in the night. Our bathroom was still not fixed and it is beginning to smell so we took our showers in the main house where the plumbing was fully functional.