17 September 2007

Quotes from The Gambia and wider travels

Before I enter these, I must wonder how much of West Africa's internet usage is young African men posing as women and exchanging emails and instant messages with white men overseas. Hopefully the fiscal returns justify this...

First, a couple of quotes from a headmaster/principals meeting way back in March, discussing logistics of a prospective Cluster sports day and other issues.

Headmaster #1: "So it's agreed - three schools will contribute a sack of rice, the other eight will sell theirs and contribute the money."

Headmaster #2: "Don't forget to put the rice in another sack or the bitiks [stores] will try to cheat you because they know you shouldn't sell it."

Later, Cluster Monitor: "And, by the grace of God, your school will have a [football] field."

Headmaster of Bati Ndarr Lower Basic School: "God - sometimes he ignores things."

CM: "You! You are a Fula!"

August 1 - On the second day of our journey into Guinea, the driver took advantage of the rain and tossed some Omo powdered soap onto the windscreen. He then turned on the wipers to administer his improvised washer fluid. As I laughed at this display (carried out while driving), one of the passengers exclaimed, "C'est Afrique!", a familiar refrain after our night of breakdowns and washed-away roads.

August 3 - Exchange overheard on our abortive first attempt to reach Mali(ville).

Passenger: "Are we turning around because of the accident?"

Driver: "No, no, this is a different engine problem."

The accident in question took place just a couple of minutes after we left the car park/garage as our driver inexplicably veered off the road and into the gutter. We all got out and literally lifted the car out (gutters are deep in West Africa). Some time later the engine started acting up and the driver elected to return to the garage.

Sierra Leone

"I hear that in America they call the African a 'sex machine.' Is this true?" Fellow passenger on the road to Bo, while the driver attempts to fix the axle.


Christiana, from Sierra Leone: "What you're doing is illegal."

Liberian police officer: "Just give me something small."

All ECOWAS citizens are officially free to travel through member states without visas or paying fees. As the ride from the border to Monrovia demonstrated (with 10 police/immigration stops on a 150 kilometre trip), this often matters little to low-paid officials. As far as extracting bribes, the Liberians on this stretch of road are the worst I've seen in my West African travels.

Christopher, a Nigerian in the car that was hit up so often for bribes: "Ghanaian taxis are really comfortable - only one person sits in the front seat."

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