When I saw the chair on the right, with the baobab tree carved into it, I knew it was mine. Paco, the artisan knows me and Khady, so gave me a great price. Then he agreed to make one for Khady and Gulliver. They arrived about two days later.
Surprisingly, these traditional African chairs are incredibly comfortable, despite just being two chunks of hard wood. I quite happily sit in mine working all day, whereas my “comfortable” armchair leaves me aching.
Our recent guest, Melanie wrote a wonderful series of articles documenting her entire Senegal trip. Here’s her description of our place:
“We finally arrived at Simon’s home in Abene: ‘The Little Baobab’: what a haven, what a wonder. From the moment I saw the gates painted in the Senegalese flag opening and the welcome I received. I just knew that these days would be special, and they were.
Imagine if you will a garden stretching far and wide with every tropical plant and tree you can think of, traditional straw-roofed hut buildings and an open kitchen with its own straw roof cover with a huge well to its right hand side: this is The Little Baobab in Abene. I was amazed. I’d never seen baby avocado and pineapple trees nor a baby baobab tree growing either. I saw real aloe vera as opposed to the pictures you see on moisturising bottles. There were plants and trees all in different stages of growth and the bright greens and orange earth mixed with all the living colours were a dream for my eyes.
The guest cottage was beautiful in its construction alone. Inside you could look up at the elaborate wooden beam web ceiling that the straw was neatly packed into, the floor was tiled and lead to a separate wash room to the left and toilet to the right. All of this had been achieved by the labour of Simon, his partner Khady and their extended Senegalese family in the Casamance.
I slept really well that night in my hut under a huge mosquito net, listening to the sounds of nature all around me. I felt really alive and I was looking forward to opening the door in the morning to see the little paradise again, drenched in sunlight with plants I’d never seen before. And I wondered what would happen tomorrow…”
To read the full articles, which I thoroughly recommend as they give a superb impression of travel in the region as seen by someone for the first time, click on the links below.
A jungle blessing
A little while back, I took Kermit on a road trip, out past Bignona and up towards the Gambian border, to a tiny village where once upon a time I slept on the side of the road and was woken by a goat licking my face. Khady had been visiting her sister there and I’d gone to pick her up.
We arrived and I felt like Justin Bieber as the entire village crowded around to look, prod and poke. Some had never seen a whitey before. After lunch, I wanted to head back, to arrive home before dark, but Khady said there was an important sacred forest nearby and we should take the opportunity to be blessed and protected. I’ve been “protected” so much recently, I should be invincible.
We walked off through the warm rain, down a sandy track into rice fields and the forest beyond, followed like the Pied Piper by a large gossip of women – is that the correct collective noun? If not, I think it should be.
It was only women because the forest was sacred for females and the site of their initiations. Presumably for cutting too, but I won’t get into that. They made an exception for me, but upon arrival I was ordered to strip. I looked around at the 30 or 40 women, ranging from Grandma’s to young girls and thought, no, I don’t want to do that. They accepted that I leave my boxers on and then led me and Khady, who was wrapped in a sarong, deep into a jungle grove where a large gnarled tree grew. There was a lump growing from it that had been smoothed and smothered in offerings of milk and what appeared to be blood. We crouched in the gloom and then all had to shut our eyes, raise our palms to the air and chant. They chanted, singing my name regularly and crumbling biscuits and pouring more milk onto the wooden lump. When they stopped, I had to say “amine” and flutter my hands to the sky.
Khady told me the tree was home to a very powerful Genie and it very good that I had made the offering. I would now have good luck with my work. Not long after, I heard the publisher was interested in my book.
Partying in Ziguinchor
A few months ago I wrote about the horror of mirror dancing in Ziguinchor. Zuriñe sent me through some pictures of the evening, where I look a little worse for wear:
She also sent this one from our garden. Did I ever tell you I can levitate?