I’m a bit behind on blogs – still in Dakar. Let’s go home to Abene.
As happens to me so often, before reaching paradise, it was necessary to go through a little discomfort.
Bert and I left Vero’s apartment at 6am and were soon whizzing down the highway in a bush taxi heading for the Gambia. There was a one hour wait near Foundiougne and a ferry crossing but before long we approached the border. We were in, by this point, a Gambian plated car. The police flagged us down, still inside Senegal and called the driver over. It seemed there was a problem, but as a toubab and a passenger, I just kept my head down and let them sort it out.
It transpired that they wouldn’t accept the receipt for his driving license. Drivers must pay for a new driving license every year in the Gambia, but this year – like last – they still haven’t issued the license. I also just have a receipt. Last year I received my license in December about two weeks before it ran out and then I had to get a new one which I’m still waiting for. Of course, in Gambia everyone knows this and accepts the receipt as proof you’ve followed the correct procedure. But for the Senegalese it’s a money making opportunity. Over the next hour we watched as every single Senegalese plated car drove straight past and every single Gambian one was hailed down. I comment in my latest book that despite being ostensibly the same people, the Senegalese and Gambians don’t waste any opportunity to screw each other and there are constant petty border disputes. The irony is these borders were created by the colonial masters they’ve so proudly shaken off. It seems the petty officials have no vested interest in letting people get on and perform their business and until they’re paid appropriately I guess it’ll stay the same.
An hour or so later we were on our way but now cutting it fine to reach Abene that night. As we approached the river, it seemed there would be quite a wait for the ferry, so we decided to take one of the small wooden pirogues instead. Crowds of lads were hauling goods on their heads on and off of the fleet of boats bobbing up and down in the waves. As we approached, they lifted us onto their shoulders, along with my case, and strode through the waves dumping us unceremoniously onto the wobbly boat. Quite a nerve wracking experience with a new laptop, I-pad, camera etc on my back. Everybody got carried aboard the boat – not just the toubabs – as it floated a few metres from the shore in waist deep water. It was half an hour to cross and the engine conked out a coule of times, which was nice, then we were carried once more to shore, before getting a taxi into town. As we reached Bakau, a car in front started swerving, then its wheel fell off, rolling fast straight into our front bumper. Crikes.
I dropped books off at Timbooktoo and enjoyed chatting with Ous behind the till and the cool refreshing air conditioning. Bert and I decided it was too late to reach Abene so we stayed the night, enjoying a few julbrews and Dutch junk food – frikandels.
In the morning, after enjoying a quick meet up and book sale with an online friend Sandy (8 years in Gambia and who enjoyed the first book due to having experienced so many of the same things) we continued south in geli-geli’s reaching the border at Kartong. A quick dug out canoe ride and hairy speed along swampy tracks on the back of a motorbike and I was back in Abene hearing shout outs of my name. Excitement building, our gate loomed and before I’d gotten off the bike, I could hear the cries of “Daddy, daddy” as Gulliver came barrelling along, leapt and flew into my arms, hitting my chest and nearly knocking me over.
Then there was Alfie looking bigger, hair longer, spinning and shrieking “Daddy,” barely able to contain his excitement before also jumping into to my arms. Oeff the gardener was crying, Fatou, Khady’s sister started dancing, diola style and cousins Myamoona, Binta, Roogi and Demba went mad with joy. They really set the example I am coming to expect when I arrive somewhere. And then there was my Khady, smiling but calm, who took me in her arms and and breathed “you’re home my love” in my ear.