Monday, May 3, 2010

Did you just call me white? ...Did you just ask for money, again? :( I love Africa!

I feel I just take ages to write about things on here but I'd love to be caught up... I am currently doing this 'danish study - email people back - danish study - figure out contract things for home - danish study - possible blog post?' thing.  Which is where I am now! And since Africa was soooooo amaaazing I figure I should get on to tales about that because seriously people, it changed my life. It's been terribly long since I've been there though now so I will just forget the chronological order of things and tell you whatever I feel like.  

(then about a week passed before I finished this - seriously, how did I get so busy! I thought I didn't ACTUALLY have to do schoolwork here...if only Purdue didn't take the actual grades and it was just a pass fail...)

So, Africa, where should I even begin? I love it, I hardly got bit by mosquitoes.  Apparently it's not the season for that so I'm glad I didn't bother with malaria pills!  Especially since they were 1000 kr....Wow this is difficult when I wait for so long!  

Besides amaaazing food (a lot of peanut sauces as they farm peanuts, rice, and fish), the Gambians themselves were entirely interesting.  They did not hold back on asking for money, which was the only annoyance of the trip.  Here is how it would be - we would say 'how far is the walk to the ATM? and the taxi controller man would say 'its impossible to walk, you need a taxi, will take two hours at least' and refuse to tell us the directions. Then KEVIN (this guy who tried to get us everrryyy day to go on some Senegalese official tour with him) would pop up, guilt us with things like "i waited for you guys yesterday, thought you said you would meet me at 6 (which we never said), and as soon as he heard we were just going to walk somewhere he would tell us 'oh, you need a guide for that, come, i'll get you one', then when we said no he'd say, no you cant walk that far ever, you need a taxi'.  Often we would just leave and walk.  Turns out it was a nice 30 minute walk! But even on the way there some Gambian followed us the whole way trying to get us to eat at this place or that, and then wanted us to guy him dinner? I really became ruthless in The Gambia, just a rude white woman!

You can really get yourself in some random and epic adventures walking around.  Once this man was all "hey, let me show you this, come come,' and as we were sort of just wonderful AND as I am traveling with a 6'5" white guy (yay intimidation factor) we decided we'd see what he had to show us, and turned out it was the poorest place I have even seen in my life, and definitely the dirtiest.  It had a ridiculously high orphan population and was just so....touching, especially when all the kids would come and go 'tobak, tobak!' (white person), and touch you and just go on in whatever language they spoke.  You have to ask a lot before taking photos of people's extreme poverty as well, but generally after asking them they were OK.  The kids though...the kids just break your heart, you want to do anything for them, especially to get them from growing up and turning into the swindling tourist guys.  This particular village sometimes has peace corps volunteers, which to most of the people I met on this African adventure was the only type of American and had ever seen.  However I wonder what they did there because it was still sooo poor, just building these mud huts that would be ruined in the monsoon season...I dunno.  This village also had an amazing trash dump...everywhere. Of just...pieces of cloth and bras (? weird I remember stepping on a few), and just paper...yeah...I'll have to put up some photos on here.

Lets see what else did we do....we went to markets in both Banjul the capital (such an amazing CAPITAL, I mean, I think Mt. Vernon is small and behind the times, this really puts you in your place!), and ...something that begins with an S...Serre Kunda!  which were supposed to be the biggest markets in The Gambia.  The ones in Banjul were super fun due to the fact that they had all the tourist stuff, so the necklaces and wraps everyone wears, all sorts of paintings and wooden things, and you could bargain like MAD. In fact i often just said horrendously low prices because i wanted to let them know i wouldn't buy it and they would go 'ok :( you're my first customer, i have to sell it'.  also apparently I am related to lots of dark complected people. Sister, sister come here, take this necklace for free, (which I did, thank you....person whose name I forgot.. I now only remember Fatima the fruit lady!)....but yeah. I bought so much stuff there and it was probably all less than 10 USD.  The Dalasi is a high currency though (I possibly just made up that term), so I'd be slightly alarmed when things would be 100 Dalasi, because I'd think, 20 dollars, no way! acting like it was the Kroner, when in fact it was more like three dollars....hehe...or the amazing ice cream we got in the Serre Kunda markets for 25 cents...

Speaking of those markets, those were not for tourists. Seriously, Daniel and I were often the only white people in sight. Also its difficult to really bargain there, our taxi driver came with us and we would give him money so he would get us Gambian prices....but I mean, we do have so much money compared to them and it's...obvious, we simply cannot blend end.

Serre Kunda was this endless array of market food and ... crappy clothes....for example, I saw a kid wearing a Dairy Queen polo, like a workers polo. Something I couldn't even buy at home.  Very interesting...but they sell it all and they at least didn't try to sell us a lot of that stuff because tourists just go their to look...And its just like you would think African markets would be like - insanely colorful, loud, music everywhere, people EVERYWHERE, busy like you can't imagine and we were on the least busy day....just amazing, I loved wandering the markets for sure. Our young taxi driver took us to the black markets too, where things that were stolen were being sold and we were given fishy looks...I think I also saw some prostitutes while I was there...but not sure, wasn't about to ask!  And then at the end he took us to this 'slaughter house'.  Was that ever a food science NO. I seriously don't know how I didn't vomit - it's almost as though the smell and the sights were actually that bad your body couldn't even register how gross it was. heads of animals just on the ground, everything is outside so flies are everywhere, but it was in this open walled barn sort of thing and really dark, and just piled on tables everywhere were random disgusting things, I hardly wanted to take out my camera to have it around that....but the people were awesome, trying to sell us these disgusting things as a joke, because obviously we were not there to buy...intestines?  The Gambians definitely had a good sense of humor.  Once, Bob (who I have mentioned before) said something like 'you all right?' but with their accent I decided to misinterpret it to make a joke and said 'did you just call us all white?' and he was so shocked and then laughing a lot, but they were almost making jokes about our whiteness and how to get BLACK AS EVER like them so figured I'd join in!

Before I go to bed (and tomorrow I'll have to load some photos) I will also mention this monkey walk we did once - went to the national park where the signs are all 'don't take peanuts' but our guide of course brought peanuts for us, and suddenly monkeys are everywhere, including jumping out of trees onto  my back.  It was amazing, it was magical, earlier we had petted crocodiles, oh and our guide let us know that basically everyone in The Gambia believes in pretty insane powers of ....herbs and stuff.  The would go on and on about how the president had found the cure for AIDS, don't you know? And so many other cures just from each leave on every plant, and also a lot of people wore these Juju belts I think, and seriously the guide for crocodile and monkey day literally thought that if I were to take a knife and stab him, his skin would NOT be pierced. He also told us the story of his circumcision.  Seriously the things you don't want to know, yay cultural differences! Alllways makes for an interesting time.  

I'm thinking Senegal stories and .... pictures tomorrow. Sleeep tiiiime! :)

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