Sometimes when I walk through the village, I feel as if I’m in a different dimension. Old men sit in their robes, smoking and watching impassively, women carry food in baskets on their heads and crowds of children, grey with dust, appear as if from nowhere, laughing, shouting “toubab” and falling over each other. In the West, we are separated from our environments by concrete, glass, steel, curb stones, pavements. Here, sand streets, strewn with animal droppings, merge into mud buildings crawling with insects. Scrawny animals wander through compounds, often entering houses. All illuminated by the hard white light and shimmering in the heat. It’s as one would expect, having been inundated with images of Africa in the papers and on tv. But they only present an idea and nothing can ever really prepare you for the reality.
I mentioned the buildings crawl with insects and animals. My house is relatively okay, but I’ve stayed in a many a hotel where I had the chance to investigate the flea to cockroach ratio. However, yesterday I had a little shock. I had remembered the rule of checking your boots for creepy crawlies, but hadn’t counted on a spider the size of my hand gripping itself inside, surviving my shake. I felt it wriggle as my foot entered. I’m not scared of spiders, but I’ll admit I screamed. At least it didn’t bite, unlike the scorpion I neglected to find in our tent back in Namibia. That one bit Mikaela, in the middle of the night. I then went into the toilet and saw an even bigger spider crawl under the rim – I have poked with a stick and tried to throw water up, to no avail.
This morning, I awoke to watch Mamadou chasing a meter long snake. He killed it as he was adamant it was dangerous. Unlike Vietnam, where I ate snake on a regular basis, this was slung on the fire.
On Easter Sunday, Khady prepared rice and fish and set it down on platters outside our terrace. She shouted to the local kids and within seconds we were surrounded by about 20 urchins, hungrily squatting around the bowls stuffing themselves with their hands, laughing at me and throwing karate poses for my camera. Although the village is mostly muslim, there are christians who treat lent as seriously as ramadan, so Easter weekend is a time of great celebration and the palm wine flowed freely.