I’d been traveling a lot, meanwhile Khady had been supervising the completion of rooms that were hired out over the Christmas and festival period.
She’d finished off composting toilets, worked on the garden and generally prepared for the 40 or so people that would be passing through over the next three weeks. No chance for a break yet.
I checked out a bit of the permaculture convergence that my friends Carlos and Miguel had been organising with local communities in Kafountine. With workshops about rocket stoves, woodland crafts and permaculture techniques I was sorry I was so busy and only made it for a short time.
I cooked for about 25 people in the mud oven on Christmas day itself, including my friend Simon and his new bride Emily who arrived that day. With a token bit of tinsel in the trees and roast chicken, it wasn’t massively festive but then again, most guests come here to escape the excesses of back home.
The next week or so is the busiest of Abene’s calendar with the Festival. A group of us went to the opening ceremony and watched a koumpo dance down the street. For the next eight days we’d host leisurely breakfasts, folk would head off to the beach or to explore locally, then following a buffet meal, would head down to see some performances.
I myself caught a few nights and found the final evening to be the highlight with performances from my mate Saly and Wakily, Gambian kora maestro Tata Ding Ding (who for much of the performance was invisible beneath a crowd of fans who smothered him) and the Guinean Djembe master Babara Bangoura.
One evening, a chicken managed to climb up into a tree above our bar with the obvious consequences – thankfully before we were eating – and the local lads managed to chase it down. As I was about to worry how guests would react, I was thrilled to see that everyone found it hilarious and were totally into the “this is Africa” spirit.
We ran a day trip to Ziguinchor and whilst guests went on a boat trip (sadly the dolphins weren’t playing the game today), I got myself a multiple entry Guinea Bissau visa and renewed my Senegalese residency, all in about half an hour which astonished me.
Even more guests arrived on New Years eve and Khady stepped up to the mark with a feast of salads and grilled fish. For more than two weeks, she and her team were cooking for 15 or more people every evening and her food was never less than excellent.
After the feast and g&t’s we walked down to the beach, following the flow of the thousands arriving from across Senegal and Gambia to celebrate the new year. Several beach parties were in full swing, Guinean drummers and dancers performed in circles around camp fires, a dj played at Kossey hotel and I bumped into many friends both local and foreign, before carrying a passed out Gulliver back home. Happy new year!