11 April 2006

PCVs in The Gambia!

From late February, 2006. Here is Saikouba Demba, Fatou Jallow, and yours truly (Malick Ceesay), in Farafenni, Saikou's town. I don't know what's on Saikou's mind, but the mustache (not sported since 1999)was grown out in anticipation of an abortive birthday celebration for our friend Keba. Perhaps next year...

A Sojourn in Dakar

Of note in Dakar, where I took a brief holiday from April 2-7. I stayed with relatives of my host family in Njau, and was unemcumbered by greeting and other obligations I face in village or down around Banjul. It was a few days to myself, where the anonymity of a big city with lots of expats meant I could choose my spots and practice my Wolof (my French is now non-existent, but everyone in Senegal speaks Wolof) when the mood struck.

On April 3, I made the rounds with a Togolese man named Ali Francis, a friend of my host Cheikh. Ali is something of a small business man and, although he speaks little English and Wolof and I no French, it was interesting running errands with him. We visited a couple of banks, a church's basement kitchen (where one of his clients was cooking lunch), and several clothing stores where Ali picked up a few knock-off t-shirts. One of these stores had a little DVD player showing old Michael Bolton music videos. Dakar's different from The Gambia.

In the afternoon I just roamed around town. The next day happened to be Senegal's Independence Day, so I was treated to large crowds feting this anniversary and, yes, the impending arrival of Muammar Khaddafi. In addition to the obligatory posters of Senegal's (non-despotic, mind you) president, Abdoulie Wade, there were just as many of Khaddafi. Oil money will do that for you.

The next day while relaxing around my host's compound (interrupted by a couple of walks on the beach some 300 metres away), we saw the Independence pageantry on the TV. Khaddafi has just started growing a mustache and goatee. Due to the greying of his facial hair (in contrast to his locks, which remain a suspiciously glossy black), the salt and pepper effect merely made him look dirty. I also saw Charles Taylor on the news, and surmised that he has now arrived in Sierra Leone. So, although Khaddafi enjoyed the adulation of the Senegalese (I cannot imagine him getting such a reception in Libya), it may have been a bittersweet moment as one of his proteges is now in the dock.

Visiting Dakar, with all its amenities, is a bit incongruous, what with near-constant electricity, running water, and many other consumerist goodies. This was best typified by my uncle Al-Haji Laying, who was also visiting from Njau, and is just a few years from Old Pa status. This is a man whose energy use consists of having someone use cooking charcoal to brew some ataaya for him, yet one morning I came out of the bedroom to discover him on the computer using his best Fana Fana greetings (How are the home people? Hope nothing's wrong? How is the work?) while speaking to relatives in America over Skype, a program that up till then I had only read about in The Economist.