Home Opinion Tomorrow is another day- Gambia Diary, Day 3

Tomorrow is another day- Gambia Diary, Day 3

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_We wait for about half an hour for another ferry. It comes, but like I said earlier, there is no rush. Officials are on hand to ensure that the passengers from the other side disembark before letting us eager passengers get on the ferry. I watched them come down… in fact I hear the luggage is constant…human beings with various agendas, cars, trucks and animals. Of all the human beings on board, I was fascinated  with  this  foursome  –  two  Oyibo women  who looked like they were in their mid thirties or early forties and two very young Gambian men. They must have been in their early twenties, and very ready to give the Oyibo women a good time a la Gambian style eh… It was obvious in the way they stroked their hair and how the boring looking women responded…life at last…I imagined them thinking. These rugged raunchy Gambians had probably touched their hearts and God knows where else in places their fellow countrymen had no clue… Africa my Africa…indeed  we are a wonderful people and yes indeed, we will rise again. Anyway, we get on board and are ready to go. We actually leave but yours truly did not realize it. All this while I wondered why we were stationary and the houses around us seemed to me moving around us…bush meat… na una sabid…I like me like that! We arrive at the village of Barra 40 minutes later at 10.30am. Adam takes us through the terminus and through the local market to meet our taxi driver, who has been waiting for us. In the market, he stops to grab a quick meal. “Let me buy my breakfast,” he says. His breakfast is steamed mutton and bread. The mutton is steamed in a very interesting way; in large mobile ovens. Interestingly, the mutton is spiced and barbecued on hot coals, it is put into this very unique oven, which cooks it in its own juices. This way, you have a combination of grilled and steamed mutton if I am making any sense. “I’d try it if it was cooked in a cleaner environment,” said my dear friend Ndidi. I wonder who has maggots now!

_We get into our taxi and head for Albreda Juffureh, the land of birth of Kunta Kinte. There we will go on a 20 minute boat ride to St James Island where the slaves were kept back in the day. To get to St James Island, we go through different villages by taxi. It’s about an hour and half by road. Adam is unable to talk in-between mouthfuls of his fascinating breakfast so the driver is saddled with that responsibility. Not that he minds though. He proudly tells us he’s royalty. Mbanyick is his name and his grand- father is Alkali Senghol, his father is the district chief.   As we go through villages, Mbanyick gives us the alert. First is Essau village – yes, Essau the character in the bible whose birthright and blessing was stolen by his twin brother Jacob. Ndidi and I don’t get it initially as a result of his pronunciation. When asked to spell it, we realize that he’s talking about a bible character with whom we are slightly acquainted. “This same bible,” I tell Ndidi. “Yes, oh, she says, we are all jokers, Na one God born us.” I say nothing. Mbanyick does the talking instead. We are enlightened of more villages as we go ahead the long dusty road  –  Samir,  Mendykunda,  Dumiadu…  somewhere  in-between villages, we see a GT Bank sign…all hail my people! And then we continue… the royal driver’s mouth in full gear… Rakyidumo, Aljambro, Sidanaunku, Jubakolonce… at this point, I am sleepy and not really getting the names or spellings right, but I am certainly not about to deflate the royal driver’s enthusiasm so I let him go on… Lamin, Naimi, Mbante and finally Albreda… phew!

Another tour guide joins us but I did not ask his name. He’s mandated to take us through the Albreda tour and James Island tours. He has to do it as he’s a son of the soil, his right to greatness perhaps as compensation for the robbery of his land. A landmark greets us as we arrive. It’s a freedom landmark. It has a cannon and a blue red and white flag towering above it. They said back then that you could gain your freedom if you swam from St James Island to this spot and touched the pole…Ndi ala!e Of course no one made it! Just by this landmark about 15 metres away lies a quaint little restaurant. It’s a little beige bungalow with a separate restroom on the outside. To get there, you may have to pay homage to a few donkeys and kick some stupid little cat…I loved it. Again the steward in the restaurant is very friendly. He is not very black. He is an Albino. He says we should place our orders before we go on the boat ride as meals take time to prepare. Ndidi and I both order the garlic prawns. She asks for rice to go with hers, I ask for chips but later change my mind to rice. The Albino finds it all very amusing. He laughs and playfully hits my shoulder. What kind of over familiarity is this? He should thank his stars we don’t use them for rituals in Nigeria! Just kidding…he is a very nice man!

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