Day Fifteen - Saturday, February 9th, 2002 - Homestay - Sanyang Family

Last night there were dogs barking at one another all night as well as bedbugs in my bed. Not so good as I am now scratching all over, especially around the ankles. I only hope I can get them out of all of my belongings. I guess this is quite common with the hay mattresses and pillows that are used.

The noise at night was not so bad that I could hear the mosque call to prayers early (5-6) in the morning which, I learned later, the others staying in the town itself heard quite clearly.

I had a shower this morning using a bucket but I wore a swimsuit (I am shy) and dumped the water over my head in the small area set aside for bathing in the back of the house (just opposite the cook house). I had to fetch the water myself but that was not too bad (though it was VERY cold fetching the water woke me up a bit so that it was not as bad as it could have been). I shyly headed back with my towel wrapped around me to my room where I quickly dressed and realized that other than the women of the family I was the only one up so I sat outside and read and wrote a bit in my book.

Breakfast was served to me and the head of the household on our own on the floor of my room (which, I learned, was his room which he had vacated for me to use during my stay). It was a rice porridge with sweat and condensed milk sauce. It was quite good though, once again, there was far too much to eat (despite repeated urgings).

After breakfast I needed more water in my water bottle so we went next door to get Chris (who slept well though had some awkward conversations with her family) and headed off down a side path to the water pipe. We walked along the path as it passed a number of fields and small houses, stopping for a few minutes to chat to the local Iman (religious leader) before we realised that the tap had not yet been turned on for the day (evidently it is only pumped between something like 10 am and 5 pm every day). We chatted a bit on the way back to our houses and I was given a chair to sit in outside the back of my homestay house. I sat for a few minutes reading and writing before me and my host father headed back to the pipe to attempt to fill my water bottle again. This time the water was working and we stopped for a few minutes and got some fruit from one of the Iman's trees before returning once again to the compound.

There was a disturbing event that happened today. As I was sitting in the chair at the back there was a large bowl full of soapy water that had been left to one side of the area immediately behind the house (beside the bathing area). A few baby chickens (chicks) had somehow fallen into the water and could not get out. I tried to point this out to the mother and daughter but they did not seem to understand me so eventually I got very concerned as the chicks got more and more tired so I plucked them from the water and laid them out beside. One of the chicks breathed his last as I watched though the other two looked like they would make it (they kept breathing and twitching though obviously in some distress). When the mother realized what had happened she soundly berated the daughter for leaving the water out and I could do nothing but watch (and feeling guilty that I should have done something sooner and all would have survived).

My name is Abdouli Cham. Yesterday I was told that I would be given a Gambian name and this is the one that was given to me by Oustas (the father) earlier today. I now respond equally well to “Abdouli” or “Steve”.

Lunch was served and we followed it by my attempting to brew Attaya for the family. At the camp I have been learning how to brew “Attaya” which is a local version of tea that many people drink here. Essentially it is VERY strong tea with LOTS of sugar and is drunk VERY hot. It is prepared (typically) using a small metal tea pot on a bed of coals that are in a small metal bracket. Water is added and brought to the boil then you add a LOT of tea and then BOIL the tea for a few minutes before adding the same amount again of sugar (and perhaps even more sugar). Eventually you get a bit of a froth on the top of the tea, you pour out the tea into a glass then pour the tea back into the pot at some height in order to bring out a froth in the tea. The more froth the better. Anyway, I gave this a try for my family but it did not work terribly well but eventually we were interrupted by a visit from Chris and her host who came by to see if I wanted to go into town again for the beach. I was thankful for the break though felt a bit guilty at leaving…

Brewing Attaya Brewing Attaya at Sanyang Nature Camp (Courtesy Jane)

We headed off through the town and off to the beach. We showed Papa Joof and his sons the way to avoid the fishing area and head directly to the bar (we have learned these things over the past week here). Philip, Marcel, Jolanda and Gemma were already there so we sat around and discussed what was happening with each of the families. We had a relaxing time as I had a bit of a swim (very warm and calm today in the water).

Eventually we headed back to the town where I was let out to dump my things back at my compound before heading out for the evening meeting at the town centre. I had a bit of time so Oustas and I did a bit more vocabulary work before the car once again showed up for the trip back to town. When we got there we realized that there was a Kora band playing tonight behind the bank so they were just warming up and sounding VERY loud. I sat and chatted to Chris for a time before we were asked to pay for the music despite the fact that we were outside where they were actually playing sitting on a bench. We could not figure out why they were doing this so we walked away, learning later that this lady did not know what she was talking about asking for the money.

I headed off without going on, disappointing one young member of the Cham household who had come with me into town. He had assumed I would pay for him to go to the concert but I had indicated that this would only be the case if I went in with him (which I did not do). He was a bit upset about this and asked for a number of things from me as we walked back to the compound. It was very awkward for me and very unfortunate. I was told later that I had acted the way the parents would have appreciated so this made me feel better but I think I might have lost a friend.

As I sat in the back they were preparing tonight's dinner which was chicken with noodles. They were washing off the obviously VERY fresh chicken (blood stains in corner) leaving not one bit of the chicken to waste (I will not draw you a picture). I sat for a few minutes before I was invited into the front room to chat with the nursery school head master who we had met the other day. He is a very nice person and we chatted some minutes before being told by one of the older sons that we had to speak in Wolof – this killed the conversation somewhat. Eventually, the headmaster, myself and Oustas ate in my room on the floor – it was absolutely wonderful and was served with bread. The chicken was on a platter with a wonderful sauce and noodle bed. We finished it all and cleaned the plate with the bread (over and over again until Oustas was happy). I ate a lot (again).

After dinner things were a bit awkward as I was asked to dance (even though no one else was) to the music they were playing on the radio. I did not want to be a subject of amusement after a rather long day – though I am sure that is not how they intended it. I helped myself to some Attaya before heading off to bed. No trip to the toilet for me tonight – I will save it up for tomorrow…

⇒ Continue to Day Sixteen - Sunday, February 10th, 2002 - Fajara - Safari Gardens Hotel