28 December 2005

Al's Pizza in the Gambia!

Yesterday I went to visit the family compound of my headmaster/principal in Banjul. It was a nice visit, as we relaxed, drank ataya, watched a bad movie until the power cut off, and checked out the local gym -- the first in Banjul.

The gym wasn't bad, although a bit cramped (they're building a second floor). To be sure, it's an upgrade on the one in my old University of Ghana dorm, Commonwealth Hall. The Vandals (Commonwealth is known as Vandal City) had to rely on things like disk brakes for weights.

Anyway, Assan, my headmaster's twin brother, works at the gym. He also lived in the U.S., mainly in and around Washington, D.C., for 12 years. Assan worked mainly in restaurants, including the Armand's Pizza on Wisconsin Avenue. But he also worked for a while at my trusty Capitol Hill pizza shop, Al's Pizza. It's always fun when I get to make connections like these, and talk with people who know the places I know.

Interesting, too, is how someone who worked largely on the margins of U.S. society (i.e. in the kitchen of a pizza joint) can return to a place like Gambia and put his savings to really good use (since they're worth so much more here). Assan has also experienced the same difficulty, though, in explaining to Gambians that, just because the money goes further in West Africa, it doesn't necessarily follow that life is incredibly easier in the U.S. (although in certain ways it is).

But that is something that is very difficult to explain here -- trying to negotiate the culturally, socially, and media-driven chasm between comprehension of our different environments. I have potential visitors in the next year or so, which excites me about the opportunity to broaden perspectives of visitors and the visited (and, in turn, their friends and relatives).

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