My new friend Baba

Trip Start Sep 29, 2010
Trip End Nov 29, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hotel Baracuda

Flag of Senegal  , Thiès,
Thursday, November 4, 2010

We spent one night in dirty Dakar, then headed south again to a small village called Ndangang. This village nestles on the shoreline of a region called the Petit Cote, where the Sine Saloum delta spills out into the Atlantic.  Salt marshes and mangrove forests cover this vast area making it a very idyllic picture-postcard setting.  Very beautiful.  What is more beautiful however is to make a new friend.

My new friend is called Baba.  Baba is 27 years old and comes from The Gambia.  To his Senegalese friends, he is known as Gambie and to his Gambian friends, Senegal.  We met Gambie while on our way to find some lunch one day.  He took us to his favourite café where we ate a local fish dish.  Very tasty.  Later that day we walked to a neighbouring village about half an hour's walk away.

The next day, Roger went on a pirogue (small boat) around the delta.  I had a better day though, as I went with Baba to another neighbouring village called Djlore, about an hour and a half walk on foot from Ndangang across the delta.  Many of Baba’s friends and extended family live in Djlore and I spent most of the day meeting them.  I was fed twice.  The traditional African custom of sharing food in a communal dish is a beautiful one.  Simple food (rice and fish) but a real treat and privilege.  Being a guest, and dispite my comparative wealth and well-being, I was the last one to be allowed to stop eating.  In fact, I was not allowed to stop until all the food had gone.  This was difficult at the end of my second large rice meal inside three hours!!  Very humbling hospitality.  We walked home before sunset.

The same evening, we met Baba again for a few drinks.  Baba used to work as a driver until he had his passport and licence stolen a few months ago.  Now he can no longer work as a driver and, because he has no passport, is living in Senegal illegally.  Roger and I had planned to leave Ndangang the next day for the Gambia and we suggested to Baba that he should come too to sort out his papers so he could live and work freely again.  At this suggestion, his face lit up.  Baba has the biggest smile you’ve ever seen; a naturally very happy person.  His current situation however meant that he was effectively stuck in limbo in a foreign country, with no legitimate means to make a living and thus no means to get home to The Gambia.  He spends much of his days fishing to find food or walking to Djlore to get a proper meal with his family there.  Our offer to take him home was therefore greeted with a huge "Wow, I will do that" ('wow’ being the Woolof word for ‘yes’).  This was a man who recognised an opportunity which may not present itself again for a long time and was truly excited by the prospect!

So the next day the three of us set off for The Gambia.  In all, it cost us 30quid to get us all there, including transport and food and drink for the day.  After his and his family’s generosity to me the previous day, this was a small price to pay.  And with him on board, he sorted out local rates for us all.  We said goodbye when we’d sorted ourselves out at a place to stay in Fajara, on the Atlantic coast.  We gave Baba 50Dilasi (2quid) to get home to his parents’ compound 30km away, hoping we would see him again before we left…
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Rach on

I remember you telling us about Baba last time we skyped- great story, good on ya Lukey, it's that sort of experience that makes a trip xxx

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