New Year's Eve in Africa
Trip Start Dec 28, 2007
6Trip End Jan 15, 2008
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My past two mornings started badly because I have not woken up on time. Luckily, this morning I woke up naturally, but we were already supposed to be at breakfast. While I was finishing packing, Professor Roberts called, but we were fifteen minutes late at that point. Apparently, we were not the only ones who slept in. Perhaps out of all the different aspects of the region that we encountered, we have embraced "Gambia time" or "West African Indeterminate Time (WAIT)" most fully.
In Kaolack, we went to visit the imam, but he was sleeping. While waiting in his compound, we talked with a man from New York City who was now living in the city. Again, we were excited to hear English (even with the heavy New York accent). It was almost amusing to hear him repeat the same concept of "brother" when considering its use on the streets back in the US.
Another religious leader served as a guide and took us to the mausoleum to give a special prayer for us. Emily and I were hesitant to enter because we weren't sure if it was allowed (I was almost disgusted with myself for having already acclimated to my second-class status). Professor Roberts asked the leader who assured us that we could. After taking off our shoes, however, we were intercepted by another man. This man would not even let the boys proceed because we were tubabs. There was a confrontation over whether we had the right to be there or not. Even though our guide insisted that we had the imam's permission, we simply left after the confrontation simmered down. (For Americans who are not used to open arguments, we were alarmed by the loud words and threatening stances, but apparently this is not unusual because it is a way of trying to assert one's authority.)
Again, the majority of the day was spent on the bus as we traveled to Tambacounda. We stopped in a small village, where a woman was kind enough to bring us to her home to use her bathroom. Though it was just a hole in the ground, we would soon come to prefer such bathroom stops over the stuff, smell and often broken toilets in gas stations. At the time, however, we were slightly uncomfortable and slightly amused by the chickens running around. On our way back to the bus, Professor Roberts was excited to exercise his Mandinka in speaking with some of the people in the compound. (Despite the semester of classes, none of us were comfortable enough to even attempt to exchange greetings, though I could somewhat understand a few of them.) Through the exchange, Professor Roberts explained that they wanted one of us to stay in the village with them to learn Mandinka more fully. When Roberts asked which once, they pointed out Olivia without hesitation. This continued to be a joke for our group. I responded that they would want her even more when they realized that she was the cook of the group.
We were also stopped twice by the military along the way. At one point, they examined the back of the bus (where I was sitting with Ross) to point out how we needed to keep the cooler of water on the roof of the bus. We passed a lot of time attempting to find a song to sing a cappella, hoping to have a brief performance at the end of the trip. We figured we could put something together in the two weeks we had and though this never came ot pass, it was a good way to pass much of the time on the bus.
We stayed at the Ninki Nanka, a smaller hotel that seemed more intimate because only our group was there. They had planned to put together a small celebration for us, but the president had forbid any festivities for the three days following the death of the khalif. We had our own fun sitting around, though we could not have any music or be too boisterous. We stayed up until midnight to have a toast. Though it was not very eventful, I was content and would probably say it was my best New Year's Eve yet.