Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Sukuta, The Gambia, December 12, 2018

I read my book this morning and then went to the family's home that's on the compound for lunch.  They have six children - four boys and two girls, and Mom and Dad.  Dad works as security during the night at the campground and Mom does laundry.  The kids are no longer able to go to school since the government changed and abolished free education.  One of the sons who is eighteen only has grade four.  The oldest daughter works as a maid.

I helped cut up onions and Mom prepared yassa-

ssing onions, spices and banga fish-

The spices are bouillon, salt, pepper, garlic and bay leaves-

The onions are cooking with a couple of chilis-

The rice is first steamed, just like making sticky rice, then it's put into a pot with water-

Then the cooked onions are put on top of the rice-

Everyone eats out of the same bowl.  I had a bit of a hard time with that-

After, I went back to Senegambia for a sim card in my phone and for wifi and beer.  

Some of the new and old money-

Looking forward to moving on tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Senegambia, The Gambia, December 11, 2018

I enjoyed my room until about lunch when I decided to go to Senegambia, really back to Gaya for the AC and wifi.  On my way out of the compound, I stopped to talk to Ahmadou, who wasn't home, and his Mom, to see if there was something I could buy her.  She seemed a bit flustered, shy and maybe embarrassed but finally said 'onions'.  Onions?  Okay.  So, I left to walk about 350 meters to get a taxi and visited with a man walking in the road who had just seen his spiritual guide because he needed advice about what to do with his musical career.  His shaman told him to just have faith and things would work out.  They prayed a lot together too he said.  Continuing on, whom should I meet but Ahmadou who was just coming home from the market.  I told him I wanted to go there so he took me.  I told him I was looking for onions so we bought about seven for 50 cents.  I was surprised at how few we got for the price and asked if there wasn't a place we could buy a big bag.  Sure he said and we went to a shop where I bought twenty-five pounds for $21.  Then I told him they were for his family.  He was quite gracious as we struggled to carry them home.  He called his brother who eventually showed up on his bike and he took them home.  Then Ahmadou invited me for lunch but I declined because I was on my way to modernity.  I asked if I could come tomorrow and if his Mom made yassa.  Sure he said.  So I'm going tomorrow around 11 to help his mom make yassa and to have lunch with the family.  He also invited me for tea tonight when I get back.  He headed home and I caught a cab for 43 cents which is the niconew price.  Niconew is how you say black person.  The little kids call us toubab which means white person so now when they call me that, I reply with niconew.  Anyway, the cabby was explaining that he has three wives and is searching for his fourth but that's all that's allowed in the Muslim faith.  They live in different houses and are fine being Wife 1, Wife 2 and Wife 3, at least according to him.  He seemed pretty arrogant so they're probably glad to get rid of him.  He only has five children so far. His Grandfather is responsible for developing Senagambia.  He pointed out all the land his Grandfather donated to the area and all the trees he planted.  He even pointed out his house.  Seems rather strange to me that he's driving a cab but TIA.  He also said that he can make anywhere from 150 to 1500 dalasi/day ($4.50 to $45).  He says he doesn't chase the toubabas, he relies on Gambians.  

I spent an hour or so at the Gaya - so nice and cool but only okay wifi because there were too many of us using it. They play a cd of Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones and Dean Martin over and over.  Oh well.  At least it's not pop.

From there, Leanne and I went to the beach where I had a few beers, swam in the ocean and pool, then made my way home for supper which was really bad.  It's unfortunate because every cook group tries so hard but sometimes it just doesn't work.  I got in a mini van to come home and there were 16 of us - 4 across in 4 rows sardines in.  The niconews get a kick out of having a toubab traveling with them and it just so happened I was sitting in the back and was the first to get off.  I yelled up to the front not to forget I was going to the camping and soon it came into view.  They pulled over and two people had to get out to let me out.  People from our group have been paying 100, 200 and up to 300 ($8) dalasi to get to Senegambia, when 43 cents gets you a priceless cultural experience!

 Now enjoying my room!  Looking forward to more Senagambia tomorrow after my lunch of yassa!  

Senegambia et environs, The Gambia, December 10, 2018

Happy Birthday to my Mom!  I hope she is having a great day!

We didn't have much to do today besides try to get some visas.  Michelle and I hopped in a cab with Nienke and Jono, in search of embassies.  Only Michelle and I have our Guinée visa.  Everyone needs that one, as well as Guinée Bissau and Liberia.  Most also need Nigeria but that one is turning out to be very difficult.  Many have filled out the forms, visited embassies and even paid the 200+ U.S., only to be refused.  As if.  Nigeria is probably like the rest of these countries.  A sh_t h_l _ - Donald Trump's unfortunately accurate description.  Take away the people and you have very little left.  Anyway......

We had a cab driver who bent over backwards for us but later I learned he charged $15 / person!  He took us to the former Guinée embassy and then found the right one.  He then asked the tourist police where the Liberian one might be and off to Banjul we went - 25 minutes away.  There he asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and we were told it no longer existed.  Yes, these are the kinds of struggles we deal with here on a daily basis.  Michelle and I got dropped off close to Guinée Bissau and Nienke and Jono carried on.  

While at Guinée Bissau, we joined the queue.  The woman handwriting the information into a big book and writing out the visas had made many mistakes with the Canadians's visas right before us so we made sure everything was correct.  4050 dalasi later, or $109, Michelle and I were set.  We've read that it's much cheaper in a town we'll be going through once back in Senegal so everyone else is waiting until then.  Whatever.  If it is, it is, and if not.... Either way, I have mine now.

After that, we hopped in a cab to go back to Senegambia, the tourist part of the area.  Michelle had  found an awesome restaurant called Gaya which has air conditionning, beautifull paintings on the walls and a North American menú.  It felt like I was in Saskatoon!  I had a couple beer, an awesome cheeseburger and fries-

We spent the afternoon on wifi and then left to go back to the local restaurant where we had eaten yesterday so I could pick up food for tonight's supper.  Back at camp, I was on cook group with Terry and Norm.  Supper was great but we had lots of leftovers.  When we have the opportunity, lots of people stay away and eat out - I can't blame them because I do it too.  After cleanup, I came to my own PRIVATE room and just enjoyed reading and being by myself.  Breakfast is at 9 tomorrow so I'm hoping for a great sleep and lazy morning!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Sukuta, The Gambia, December 9, 2018

Asado, the young man who lives at the campsite, arranged for his friends to come with a large bus to take 12 of us on a village graffiti tour.  All I can say is TIA.  We went to Kubuneh, an extremely small village where the paintings are almost 20 years old and in great disrepair-

This is the one I liked the most- 

A vulture-

Funny faces-

The toilets and showers at the local school where there are about 40 students in each class-

The school is sponsored by Seniors Without Borders-

The best part of the day was seeing the kids-

The market was very sparse and I bought some bouillon for the yassa I hope to make someday with cook group-

We moved on to Galloya where there were better paintings-

The oldest house in the village is abandonned and covered in hearts-

Leaving Galloya, we were followed by many villagers-

Saudi Arabia put in this well over 20 years ago to provide drinking water to the village-

Back in Sukuta, we ate mafé again with lamb.  It still wasn't flavourful enough for me but it was cheap - $1 US.  I hope to get that for my cook group contribution tomorrow night-

The kitchen in the restaurant-

And the toilet, the most interesting so far, a raised squat pedestal-

I spent the afternoon drinking beer and wifiing.  Tomorrow we are going to the Liberian embassy to get our visas which are such a pain!  Hope we can at least find it!

Sukuta, The Gambia, December 8, 2018

The Gambia.  So far I'm not liking it too much.  I should have known at the border.  There were lots of young kids with their hands out, begging at our truck windows for something, for anything.  When I was off the truck, they followed, often touching my shoulders or arms, begging and being able to speak English, asking for money or a soccer ball.  Then, in the Gambian offices, we Canadians were asked for 500 dalasi, or $13.45.  Victoria, from Norway, also was asked to pay but as soon as she asked for a receipt, it was okay and she didn't have to.  I wasn't that smart.  Today I left the camping compound and perhaps the only nice Gambian in this country, approached me.  His name is something like Abadabadoo - their names are ones I have never heard before and so I can't remember them at all.  He lives in the camping compound with his family - Mom, Dad and 6 kids.  He's 23 and finished high school but hasn't been able to finish his mechanic training because of the corruption in the country.  He doesn't work so was quite happy to take me to the market in search of a new battery for my phone.  We took local transport which means cramming into an old beat up minivan - so beat up that the side sliding door fell off and had to be pounded back on with a tire iron.  It only costs 8 dalasi (22 cents) to ride so it's a good choice. We walked a lot through the busy streets and while with him, I wasn't bothered, much.  If someone said something, he quickly said something back and that ended it.  Eventually we got to what appeared to be "technology place" and soon he was wheeling and dealing.  We moved on to a few stalls until he seemed satisfied.  I would pay 600 for the battery and 200 for installation.  Well, I'm not sure what happened but soon the battery was snatched away, there was a lot of yelling and the shop owner stormed back to his kiosk.  I desperately wanted my phone fixed so I negotiated with the shopkeeper and ended up paying 800.  Abadabadoo was very angry with the man, who is apparently from Nigeria and therefore greedy.  Anyway, the battery was installed and off we went.  We took another minibus to the beach and it was there that I paid for Abadabadoo to go home and with clear instructions on how to get home, I carried on.  I ran into April, Young Brian, Shelby, Hillary and Don in a restaurant with good wifi and that's where I sat for a couple of hours.  I didn't eat, but I could have had-

Oxtail soup I'm familiar with, but cow foot?

While there, a wedding procession went by, but it must have been the stag because I didn't see any women and certainly not a bride-

They swerved sharply as they drove very quickly down the busy street with men hanging out the windows.  They were shouting, changing and singing and some were waving big branches.  They went up and down a couple of times, gaining more cars in the process.  It looked very dangerous to me and I think they were probably drunk-

So, at the restaurant, I charged my phone to 100% and when I unplugged it, it was quite hot.  First warning sign.  Then I literally watched the battery lose power.  I wasn't very happy and hoped I could find the shop again by myself to get a better battery.  However, I still wanted to see the fancy hotels and the beach so left the restaurant looking for the water.  I found the Oasis Resort and it is lovely with many gardens, a pool surrounded by obese white people in bikinis - OMG it was disgusting.  I wonder what the thin Gambians think but more importantly, what the fat whites think and if Mexico all inclusives are like that too.  The beach however is lovely-

 and there are lots of places to spend the day-

I headed back to downtown, only to be constantly hassled "Hey Sister, how are you?"  They don't care, they just want you to come into their shop.  A man decided he would lead me to the mini van I needed to return downtown but we walked away from the street toward his friend the taxi driver.  I eventually found the minibus I needed and returned downtown.  Somehow, unless I've put it elsewhere, have spent a lot of money in one day, so needed to change some more.  In the first Western Union shop, instead of giving my 4900 dasali, she gave me 4100.  When I told her, she smiled and gave me the rest but it was all in 50s, so the one inch stack wouldn't even fit into my money belt.  I gave it back and took my 100 away in disgust, telling her she should be ashamed of herself and calling her a crook.  She kept smiling.  At the next shop, the man tried to give me a few bills that were smaller than the ones I'm used to so I refused those.  Who knows if they're real.  He too only gave me 4600 D. Crook.  I called him on it and he gave me the correct amount in the bills I wanted.  After a few minutes, believe it or not, I found the maze of tech shops and complained to the Nigerian battery man who took another one out of the 'special' case and argued with the technician - I wasn't paying any more.  Soon my 'new' battery was in and I decided to sit there awhile to charge it.  I got it to 50% and the phone stayed cool, then decided there wasn't much else I could really do.  The original battery was so good, until it died without warning, even though I bought it newly reconditioned less than 8 months ago.  It held a charge for what seemed like forever.  Now, I doubt it will make it through the night but at least I can shut it off when I'm not using it.  

In the maze of tech shops, I was followed, waited for, touched on the arms and shoulders, hissed at and told they loved me and that I was their friend.  I couldn't wait to get the hell out of there.  I found a mini bus and headed for home, only to learn I was on the wrong one but a transfer soon had me back to the campsite.  

Our main goal in Serekunda/Sukuta/Banjul is to get visas: Guinée, Liberia and Guinée Bissau.  We got here Friday night and of course the embassies are closed on the weekend so we're staying 5 nights for 2 actual working days.  I already have Guinée and we've now learned that the Liberia embassy doesn't exist and that Guinée Bissau is expensive and takes a day or two but if we wait until Ziguinchor, Senegal, we can get it for very cheap and in minutes.  So, that means I have nothing to do here at all.  

Supper was great and so was the visiting.  Tomorrow, we're hoping to go to a village that is filled with graffiti but we'll see if we can get it organized!  Not looking forward to meeting more hustlers! 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Palmarin, Senegal to Sukuta, The Gambia, December 7, 2018

We had an early start at 7 am.  Breakfast was from 6 to 6:30 and I woke up at 6.20!  Most of breakfast was put away and the water wasn't nearly warm enough for me to make my coffee.  Oh well.  We left on time for the Gambian border.

So far, Africa has been mostly the same:  tons of wrecky cars and people everywhere-

Once through the Senegalese and Gambian borders, which were relatively fast, we had to take a 20 minute ferry to Banjul.  As a Canadian, I had to pay $10 U.S. to get in-

Banjul is a big port with container ships-

Independence Gate is one of the highlights in Banjul believe it or not-

Carrying on, people were everywhere-

And the traffic was slow moving-

People are very friendly: waving and hollering hello.  At the border though, the young boys were a pain in the ass, holding out their hands, touching us and demanding money.  I bought some notebooks and quite a few pencils to give out but they probably took them back to the shops to exchange for money because they really wanted a soccer ball.  
We drove into the night, searching for the campsite.  We get lost or seem to take the wrong roads just about every driving day.  Lots of us use and we are following the route.  There's usually quite a discussion when we veer from the path we think we should be taking.  Sometimes like tonight, the campsite is incorrectly marked and it then becomes very difficult, especially when it's dark.  Eventually, a local jumped in the cab and took us to the campsite.  Most of us upgraded for pretty cheap, then cook group made supper which wasn't ready until after 9.  I don't eat that late so went to bed without any.  I'm not hungry in the heat anyway.  We are here for at least 5 nights because we have a couple of visas to try to get: Liberia and Guinea Bissau.  

Sukuta, The Gambia, December 12, 2018

I read my book this morning and then went to the family's home that's on the compound for lunch.  They have six children - four boys...