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It's a long climb, to get to the bottom of things

when life immitates English Lit.

GAMBIA | Sunday, 3 October 2004 | Views [421]

so the paradise inn was of course not so paradise-y. no water, no electricity, a no go. but being as how i had already walked two miles from the road with my pack on, i was loathe to give up and they sent me over to the kairo gardens, where i stayed for six days. the kairo is a paradise of sorts, mango trees bowing with the weight of sweet fruit, wild guava trees, oranges...did you know there are eight different kinds of mangoes? probably more, there are 8 kinds growing in my back yard. i have a hammock and stars and goats bleating in the night. the sounds of the hundreds of roosters crowing at dawn sounds kind of like bloodthirsty battles of light and dark, but i have the power to roll over and go back to sleep. except the morning when the ants almost ate me. now whomever is rereading the Poisonwood Bible in honor of my trip, stop before i get malaria or bitten by a black mamba. because the red mud has covered everything i own, there was nothing to eat but bread, peanuts, and water for three days when i was stuck in small upcountry towns, the villagers have tried to ask if they can have every possession i own, and the ants have tried to eat me. millions of them, falling from the ceiling, crawling through my clothes. biting biting biting. and i didn't have any food in my room at all. they came for the black ants, the spider, the moth, and i think they were seriously going after me when i woke up. dead ants are still drowning in my showered hair. everywhere i go here, i have a new best friend. girls, boys, give me their addresses and invite me to their homes within a minute of meeting me. i went once. no one spoke english. i felt really uncomfortable because everyone was looking at me expectantly like i would get up and dance or pull out some magic tricks for them. then the teenage girl proceeded to follow me the whole day, dressed in her best clothes and climbing on rocks at the beach, just to be friends with me. i have been known to have up to six visitors at my hotel in a day, whether i am there or not. one afternoon, we put on my modest mouse tape, played jenga, and ate mango and coconut. it felt like a weird parallel universe in which home and away began to merge into this unilateral place where we should all hang out together.
and i have seen the monkeys!!! i took a guide with me to abuko nature reserve. we walked in the exit, and above us was a bit thump in the trees. we stood still, looked up and saw chimp-sized monkeys! then once we got inside, a whole tree full of medium grey guys who didn't throw things at me, no matter how close i got. so slowly, slowly, i snuck upon their watchful eyes until i could sit at the bottom of their tree and make faces back at them without them running away. one crawled right by me on my branch just out of an arm's length away.
my guide was a bit restless with my seeming infinite fascination with monkey antics. they have little patience with me wanting to sit and watch the sunset or watch monkeys play. they want excitement for me. we got to the animal orphanage, where they keep hyenas, lions, and monkeys who need rehabilitating. though i think the hyenas and lion will never get to leave. i got to feed the monkeys peanuts- this also hardly seems rehabilitating...but i held their little monkey hands and let them pry the peanuts from my fist. they are strong little buggers. and one would make the same shocked face back at me as he reached out and snatched a peanut while i wasn't looking at him. my guide took me back to his house to meet his family on our way home. i was surrounded by kids and everyone else deserted me, so i started to make little people and cars and airplanes and boats out of paper. i tried to make a monkey and a horse, they were not so impressed with those effort. but i have learned that kids are indeed the same everywhere. they would rip the paper out of another's hands, destroy it so the first kid would start to cry, and then come back to me and demand another creation. i was causing such a lord of the flies environment that the parents found my guide and he collected me to go home. i am such trouble sometimes...
then i spent three days crossing the country. two of my buses broke down; so i got to spend a few hours in the bush each day. i got stuck for about five hours in Wasu, because your bus doesn't leave a town until it fills up with twenty people, which for some towns, twenty people takes days to find; so i got to see the stone circles. they have no archeological proof as to what and why they are there, this mini stone henge, but they think they are burial grounds. i also got to spend a few hours learning about african tire repair at the bike shop in wasu. every time, a kid would bring his bike, they would spend about an hour fixing it, he would ride off and return with the tire flat again in ten minutes. but he wouldn't seem frustrated in the least!! i have been in town covered with flies and trash heaps, hotel rooms that have either electricity OR running water, but never both at the same time. people brush their teeth with the stalks of mint plants, making their teeth pretty intact and strong here unlike morocco where half the country had no teeth left. and my driver stuck his hand out the window as we drove by, grabbed a hand full of mint leaves and stuffed them up his nose to clear his sinuses, all without hitting the brake once!
i went on a jungle cruise, having flashbacks to disney world. didn't get to see a hippo though, only more monkeys, a crocodile, and a huge lizard called a monitor. when i got to basse, my long awaited destination, i found that all of the locations in my rough guide had been flooded out. the river took back half the city at some point. i took a pirogue ride past the drowned houses, cars, and telephone booths. and i met more peace corps people playing phase ten and drinking beers at my hotel. and thus i head back to senegal to complete one more week before heading off to south africa. my malaria pills are giving me time warp dreams, taking me back in a christmas carol play of showing me my past and making me so grateful to wake up in strange african surroundings instead of highschool or college! they seem so real, so disturbing! well, i am tired of typing and you should save your eyes, president jammeh says cataracts are curable, i read it on a roadside billboard! i miss you all, emily

Tags: banjul, emily predny, gambia, predny, tanji

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