I was told Ramadan began on Friday. On thursday night I was alone in the provincial capital of Zuiginchor for some business, so I took the opportunity for steak, chips and a couple of beers before my self imposed fast for the next month.
I felt a little hungover on Friday but didn’t allow myself my normal coffee. I just drank water and felt that terrible hunger you get after a few drinks. I kept it up and drove back home. I’d taken public transport as I wanted a break from driving and it’s far cheaper if travelling alone. There was a long wait at the gare routiere and I remembered everything I didn’t like about the public transport. Half way home, torrential rains fell and the car leaked, right onto me. I was dropped on the highway a mile or so from my house and waded home through vast red muddy pot holes, starving by this point. I felt things wriggling across my feet but was unsure if it was worms or snakes.
Then I performed a classic Fenton maneuver – I hit a mud slick underwater and felt my legs go from beneath me. I was wearing a back pack containing my lap top and camera, neither which are particularly cheap. Twisting my body mid air (the Fenton flop) I turned and landed on all fours, my chin dipping in the water. My laptop and camera always come before the potential for injury or broken bones.
When I reached the house, Khady was there with her friend. I told them I was starving and couldn’t wait for the 7pm end of fast. They both burst into laughter and told me Ramadan begins tomorrow.
After the rains, mushrooms started popping up, some big enough to house a large gnome. They don’t look edible, but then again, the Senegalese don’t eat mushrooms – Khady and I once had a mushroom pizza and she thought it was like eating slime.
Odd but true
When Tony the blind traveller left, he bought me a locally crafted neckless made from small bits of bone. The other day, a parrot landed on my shoulder which seemed fun, until he pecked at and ate half the neckless.
We don’t seem have a good track record with pets. Toubab, our puppy, disappeared some months ago and we’ve given up hope of seeing the little fella again. Jaifonday the kitten appeared one evening into our lives. Then, last week he disappeared as abruptly. We’re not sure if he wandered off on his own accord (unlikely as we have better quality leftovers than many around us) or was attacked by a monkey, large lizard or dog. I’m not quite as upset as I was about Toubab, but I’m still pretty sad about this.
The Salty Life*
I grew up in a lovely clean house and my brother and I did a lot of housework for our pocket money. This has made me quite house proud and handy with a hoover. But here dirt doesn’t bother me too much, as long as bathroom and kitchens are clean. Everyday here is a battle against the dust and dirt, much like how I’ve read it would have been in Europe a hundred or more years ago. The interface between ground and house is minimal. The chicken used to stroll through the house to get from bed to its feeding ground – sometimes defecating along the way. The bathroom has no roof, which is nice but every morning brings a new layer of dust. As the genie takes it’s daily stroll, a fresh whirlwind of dust coats us – partly because all the trees were cut down outside our verandah creating a semi desert**.
|My car cleaner|
We don’t yet have a fridge, hoover or washing machine, which means daily trips to the market, regular sweeping with a few twigs bunched together and daily hand washing – anyone with children will understand how much washing we have, especially as we don’t use disposable nappies (American readers: diapers). There are advantages – we have no qualms about Gulliver throwing up on a new carpet or the occasional goat appearing in my office.
* Sal means dirt in French and Khady will often say things are “sal-ty”
* It’s now a green pasture though and there’s not much dust now the rains have started.
It’s still hot and wet and is likely to be till the autumn. I spend most of the day dripping with sweat (I’m a day dripping, one way ticket to hell!). The insides of my arms are sore from resting damp on the table as I type. We’re currently trying to eat our evening meal before dark and retire to the bedroom as there are literally thousands of insects buzzing around any illumination (this is a rainy season phenomenon). I pick flies from the air vent on the back of my laptop with tweezers. Jaifonday the cat spent evenings chasing, playing with and eating spiders and scorpions. The numerous geckos think it’s Christmas.
And do you know what? I don’t care and I love it. Many toubabs evacuate in the rainy season, but, so far, it’s great. It’s cool when it rains and there is a clarity in the atmosphere that’s great for photography. I may change my tune when I get malaria and am digging Kermit out of the Somme, but for now I’ll carry on dancing about in the warm rain.