29 October 2011

Chebo Ceesay

Today I learned that Chebo Ceesay, my host father in Njau, The Gambia, passed away yesterday, October 28, 2011.

Chebo was a kind and thoughtful man, and an independent thinker. He travelled for work as a younger man, spending time in Mauritania, Cote d'Ivoire, and on a Spanish merchant ship that plied the west African coast. He even lived in the Bronx for a spell.

I could always rely on Chebo for useful advice, and contrarian perspectives on Gambian and international politics. I enjoy chatting with and listening to him as we took in BBC World Service reports.

One of my favourite memories was sitting under the mango tree by Chebo's radio listening to the penalty shootout between Cote d'Ivoire and Cameroon in the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals. After the first five players from each team made all of their penalty shots, it was time for sudden death. We listened incredulously as the commentators announced an amazing 11 shots made by each side, until Samuel Eto'o missed the 12th shot for Cameroon, leaving Didier Drogba to finally win the match.

Chebo always had humourous stories to share. These included Chebo's getting lost on his way home during his first night in New York, when he wandered around the Bronx for eight hours. Another favourite was about the time his Njau neighbour (and Bronx hot-bed mate) Ebou Secka got food poisoning from monitor lizard meat and Chebo could hear him groaning through the night from his compound across the way.

Perhaps the best story ended with Chebo urging me to ask the Alkalo (chief) of the Sey Kunda section of Njau "Ana sa beneen dalla?" ("Where is your other shoe?"), a cheeky reminder of the Alkalo's youthful indiscretions.

Chebo was a good husband to his wife Maram, and a good father to Omar Dye and Alhagie Sait. I wish them all well and they have my sympathies.

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