hello hello. i'm back, in one piece and not all that worse for wear. maybe my pockets are a little lighter, but hey, travel will do that to you. now that i have been to 4, count 'em, 4 west African countries i feel my perspective has grown enough to present you, gentle reader, with this list.
THINGS THAT ARE EXTREMELY HELPFUL TO LIKE WHEN LIVING/TRAVELLING IN WEST AFRICA.
1. WAITING. for transport. for someone to call you back. for your phone to have service. for your visa. for the immigration guy to come back with your passport. for your food. for your check. for your laundry to dry. for water. for the airport to get power back so you can check in. for prayers. just waiting.
2. MAYONNAISE. on anything. and while we're on the topic of food...
3. BREAD ON PASTA. carbs can only be improved, clearly, by the addition of more carbs. sold.
4. PALM OIL. yumm.
5. AKON. this one is probably the least negotiable.
6. CELINE DION. this one is much more important if you are a male.
7. SPEAKING LANGUAGES IMPERFECTLY. if you're not mixing your french with your wolof with your english with your malinkee with your pulaar with your krio, what are you doing? just use your hands a lot and point.
8. GREETING. this will be 95% of your interactions. just follow the format.
9. LAYERS. it doesn't matter if the patterns match, just throw on some more fabric!
10. MAN LOVE. there's a lot of hand-holding, lap-sitting, leg-touching, male friendship. it's ok, you have 3 wives. you can be as comfortable as you want in your masculinity.
11. CHECKING FOR QUALITY BEFORE YOU BUY, THEN SAYING IT'S NOT THAT QUALITY FOR A LOWER PRICE. do it.
12. SHOUTING/ LOUD NOISE. it's the only true way to be excited/talk on your phone in a crowded car. or a house. or anywhere.
13. TALKING ON YOUR PHONE IN FRONT OF EVERYONE ABOUT ANYTHING. privacy? pshaw.
14. MARRIAGE PROPOSALS AFTER ANY INTERVAL POST MEETING YOU. but your walk is SO smart!
15. PEOPLE KEEPING THEIR PET MONKEYS ON SHORT TETHERS. i guess it is protecting you from rabies.
16. THE CALL TO PRAYER. you haven't heard it till you've heard it echoing around the mountains. amazing.
17. BOOBIES. you're going to see them. breast-feeding is beautiful and natural. so is taking your shirt off when it's really hot out and you're a 50 year old woman.
18. TAKING ANY FREE RIDE YOU CAN GET. this one is especially important when you've been waiting on the side of the road for several hours.
19. CONSERVING OR FINDING ALTERNATIVES TO TOILET PAPER. the more you travel, the better you'll get.
20. MAKING LOTS AND LOTS OF FRIENDS, SEEING NEW AND BEAUTIFUL SIGHTS, ENCOUNTERING CRAZY ANIMALS, AND NEVER SLEEPING ENOUGH. just do it.