Sunday, May 2, 2010

maybe i'll never leave site again.

and not just because things are going really well there. which they are. it's been a really good few weeks, and when it came time to come back here (i'm doing some oyster work) i was really dragging my feet about leaving. but leave i did. and it's nice to be here, with a fan on, sitting in a chair that has a back and a cushion, with the feel of cool tile on my feet. but i think the real reason it's so nice to be here is because the process of getting here was comically drawn-out and convoluted. i'll try and be concise, but get comfy, cuz that's not exactly my style...
i set out from home later than i intended, which was my first mistake because it was sunday and nobody likes to do anything on sunday (or friday, of course). but i was helping with the laundry and lost track of time, and then was heavily pressured to stay for lunch, which typically happens around 3 here. after lunch, i headed to drop off some seeds at a friend's compound. she was out, which was fortunate because she missed seeing me spill my bag of Moringa seeds all over the sand. luckily, i managed to corral some kids to help me collect them. then one of her sisters asked me to save her a seat on the gelly (the typical transport method, a van that is stuffed to the brim with people, luggage, and various other items such as chickens, gas cans, buckets of fish, photos of the gelly driver and the gelly,etc) so i went to the carpark and boarded the waiting gelly, taking care to save a seat for my friend. in due time (we'll say 30-45 minutes) enough people came and after some shouting and searching for the driver and apprentice, we set off, stopping at my friend's compound (it's by the one road running through my village), horn blaring, as she calmly strolled over and boarded. yes, the driver honked the horn the whole time. no, it did not quicken her pace. her 2 year old daughter chased the gelly crying as we rolled slowly away, with one last horn blast for emphasis.
and then my water bottle leaked through my bag and all over my pants. yes, it was unpleasant, but i am fortunate to be in such a climate that it dries rather quickly.and i managed to extract my mobile and wallet from the bag so my documents were safe. the rest of the trip was uneventful.
so i arrived at the first carpark and boarded yet another gelly to continue my journey, trying to ignore the wet spot on my leg and the confused glances it invited. this gelly also filled up slowly (who wants to go anywhere sunday afternoon?), but luckily i had a book with me, which served the dual purpose of giving me something to do and giving me an excuse not to talk to the man sitting next to me, who immediately upon taking his seat asked me which country i was from and if i was married. as we rolled along, two men in the front of the gelly started having a conversation about how we should all live like the prophet and how Allah is the only way, but only one felt that way. i suppose their "argument" was really about religious freedom, but it was a lot of back-and-forth and clearly no conclusion was going to be reached. everyone in the car noticed, we were all exchanging looks and chuckling to ourselves, except for one older man who listened quietly for about 10 minutes, and then could no longer restrain himself. he began yelling at the two men in the front, saying that they were distracting the driver, which they may have been. however, he did not seem happy with their response (silent), so he got to his feet and yelled more and more. apparently he used to drive for the embassy in Dakar for 22 years. and he doesn't want to hear anyone's thoughts on Allah. at this point, other passengers were trying to reason with him, which caused him to lash out at them, which made him even angrier. at all times about 3 people were standing and shouting at each other, ostensibly over how this man didn't want anyone to distract the driver. those of us who weren't yelling were laughing, but more in the "this is really uncomfortable and i'm nervous" sort of way. and one lady in front of me was recording the angry man's impassioned tirade on her cellphone. but i guess the still-shouting man had a point, because the driver was indeed distracted, and we got a flat tire. so we pulled over and moved the shouting match to the road side, with one very angry "i told you so" addressing the whole group. somehow everyone calmed themselves by the time the tire was changed (maybe 30 minutes) and we all piled back in, ready to get going. lesson learned?
they started fighting again. and this time, they tried to bring me into it. "let's ask our white sister here" they would say, and the whole gelly would look at me, and fall silent. and i would tell them in english and mandinka that i wasn't going to comment on their arguments. they wanted me to take sides on religious freedom. and then on who was responsible for environmental degradtion. and then, to ice the cake, the man sitting next to me asked if i had a boyfriend, and if i could tell him my pet name for him. i have never been so happy to get out of a car.
but now i am here, and ready to get to work. ready to forget that in a few days time i'll be back on the road. ready to believe that it was a fluke and that many people willing to argue for that long will never be on the same gelly with me also present, and that if this happens again it will be an hour ride, not 2 and a half. ready for action.

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