Thursday, January 20, 2011

Brikama, Pirang, Bakau, and a Little Bit of Culture

These posts will soon become more condensed as I have neither the time, patience, or energy to do one of these every day. Yesterday I met with Degoede at his house in Brikama. Brikama is much more hustly bustly than up here, despite the greater amount of commercial stuff up our direct, as Brikama is a major crossroads. We hopped another Geli Geli (sp?) to Pirang, a larger but more removed village up river a little.

There we met with Gary, an older toubob (white man) actually from Rockville MD (small world huh) and Jeremiah, the community leader about a solar project in Kitty (I have no idea how to spell it, but it sounds like that) which is down near the southern border of Senegal. Things look good for the project, and after the talk we walked around Pirang, where I entertained all the village children with some soccer tricks.

The tour culminated with this GIGANTIC tree, called a Baobao Tree (Adansonia digitata), the pictures really don't show just how big it is. Definitely the single largest living organism I've probably ever seen.

The ride back was also very interesting. If you keep to yourself, most people will do pretty much the same, but if you're friendly, they're eager to have a conversation with you in whatever language you might both share (I've spoken English, German, Spanish, and what little Wolof and Mandinka I know, which is essentially none). Once you start a conversation with one person, everyone wants to know who you are, where you're from, why you're here, where you're going, etc. The type of inquiring tone people use here (and I have a feeling this is true for a lot of Africa) seems very crass, almost like they're angry about something, but this seems to be just a cultural difference. Everyone I've spoken to here has been incredibly friendly and good natured. I think they sometimes don't expect me to say hello or ask how they're doing as a lot of the European tourists don't (they won't even say hello to me). Another very different thing is the way people look at me. Especially the younger women seem to give me a long up and down that seems very similar, ahem, to how a person in the U.S. might "check someone out". This was very surprising and a little concerning to me at first, but I've come to realize that this is likely not the case at all. Anyway, on to today. 

This morning I decided to head to the beach to do some, uh, research for my project. The KSAC preferred beach is a long 3 mile walk along one of the main roads past apparently the only functional stop light in The Gambia. Also past a time traveling travel agency, no Deloreans in sight, though.

The beach is quite nice.

I discovered that by trying to head north along these rocks only to come to an impasse (well, without swimming anyway) with the tide apparently coming up.
Also saw some Paramilitary people training on the beach. Or maybe national police. Or maybe Police Intervention Team. Or maybe State Guard. It was very difficult to tell as they all had on shirts with different stuff on them. Which brings up another important fact for The Gambia (and a lot of Africa), no civilians with any type of military-esq clothing or equipment.
I actually accidently fell in with a group of them on my way out, and walked with them behind their formation for about a half mile, which surprisingly didn't seem to bother any of them haha. I was then followed by a bumster by the name of Fanta from the beach for another considerable distance. I knew he was going to try to get something from me, but I stopped anyway and talked with him for a while. He invited me back to his house where he did all kinds of weird ju-ju stuff (his words, not mine), where he gave me this special water I wiped on my arms and face and head that would protect me or something. He then asked if I wanted to make a non-mandatory (but apparently obligatory) donation of rice to the orphan children (who were conveniently absent) so that I could be blessed and prayed for by his imam grandfather (who he would intermittently go into different buildings in his compound and speak to, I guess he had attained some sort of Buddhist enlightenment and could be in more than one place at once). He and all his uncles and friends became clearly upset when I said I couldn't donate the 1500 Dalasi (almost $60) and told me I could leave, but were relatively friendly about it. Fanta then showed me back out to the road (I think he had tried to get me lost on the way there with a contrived route, but I'm pretty sure I would've found my way out). On my way back I had planned on sneaking into the national stadium to use the gym, but saw a huge gathering there so decided to check it out. It turned out to be a sizable high school track meet, with fans numbering in the hundreds. The running was very interesting, I watched three girl's 400m events, and many of them ran without shoes and would strip off articles of clothes I guess they decided was hindering them about a quarter of the way around, pulling off hats and t-shirts and tossing them to the ground. After returning to the house (now), it is time to work on my project.

P.S. This just in, I was walked to the other side of the house and found this

A little gym Mohammed made a while ago. Pull up bar and concrete dum/bar-bell!!! So incredibly perfect that it was obviously planned.

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