Hello all! If you haven’t noticed, the whole toubab thing is starting to get to me. I’m getting frustrated in general to be honest. I feel like I’m in a fish bowl. People point and shout at me constantly and neighbors will laugh and talk about the stupid things that toubab next door does. Not speaking the language is extremely isolating. I wish I could communicate better with everyone, it would make life a lot easier. This has made me realize how valuable it is to know multiple languages. What’s even more lonely is I miss being touched. I miss holding hands, I miss being hugged, I miss high fives, I miss kisses. I’m sure these feelings will fade but even though everyone is so welcoming, I still feel alone. Thank God I met my friend Jean Marc, a French Canadian who is interning at an NGO here. On Saturday he and I went to Bakau to look at the shops and go to the beach. The ocean has never felt so refreshing! And now I can say that I’ve swam on both ends of the Atlantic Ocean. He then introduced me to some of his co-workers who are from Burkina Faso and South Africa. We all went to a bar, drank Gambian brews, and watched the Champions League final match amidst a bunch of riled up Gambians. It was a much needed night out and speaking English never felt so right. We talked about a whole host of issues about Africa, shared some laughs and had really stimulating conversations. I really enjoyed it.
The past few days have been pretty lazy, though I did log in some hours at the archives. It is such a powerful feeling to hold documents from the early 1900s and late 1800s that were correspondence between The Gambia and Great Britain during the colonial period. I feel like I am getting a front row seat to history. Unfortunately I’m not finding the kind of slave documents I was hoping to find, so the direction of my project may be shifting. I’m really into education records and tracking the progress of women’s education here so I may talk to Dr. Sarr and see if I can do something regarding that. We’ll see.
Just like there are Christians in America who invade your space and shove their religion down your throat, there are Muslims here who do the same. I accidentally bought a woven Muslim prayer mat thinking it was a beach mat (seriously, it looked like a beach mat) and so many people thought I was a Muslim. When I told one women that, no, I in fact was not a Muslim, she sat me down for a talk. She told me all about the values of Islam and why I should consider converting. She told me she would teach me to pray. I thanked her for the advice and began to walk away but she was persistent. The language barrier did not help at all. She finally gave up and told me she was sad that I would be going into hell-fire and not paradise. I guess I’ll be careful about not buying prayer mats any more!
I know that these trials are just part of the experience. I am really starting to miss America, but with 17 days left I know I have a lot to still learn before I am back on American soil. I did walk to the store and I bought a sprite and a twix bar. I also eagerly bought spam for Musu to fix for dinner. It’s amazing how the little things can really help. Well, I must go plug in my computer before the electricity goes out again! Until next time…