#4, (final) Senegal/The Gambia, Jan. 9, 1995

In the Campement Fromager there was a huge fromager tree between the Campement and the water, where many people sat all day long. The branches spread out at least 50 feet from the trunk. The couple that ran the place was very nice to me, the only guest.






I walked around the village and was asked to take pictures of a group of women as well as invited to take tea at another house where there were two one-month old babies (different mothers).





The Campement opened in ’87 and has a circle of rooms (about 8-10) around an affluviam, which is a thatched conical roof that sends the rain water into a central collection place. The bucket shower was nice—all tiled, and the toilets flushed but with a bucket of water.









The rooms only had two beds and mosquito netting—no sheets or pillow cases, but the whole place was so pretty and tranquil!







Mamadou, the proprietor, had carved a big statue of a woman, with cattle horns, out of a tree and had carved two other faces on the door posts. He said the statue was ‘just for fun,’ not religious, but it looked significant anyway. There were four or five real baby crocodiles in the base of the statue. And there were several hammocks of which I made good use!

Dinner was some greasy but quite good fish, served with French bread. Then next came barracuda with onions, rice, and with an oily sauce, served separately. The proprietess told me that some people didn’t like much oil, so that was why she served it separately. This was followed by a tiny banana and a green tangerine, both very good.

After dark Mamadou showed me the phosphorescence in the water, which is caused by a harmless tiny protozoan.

In the morning, after my petit dejeuner, Mamadou and I and a boy, to run the boat, went to Karabane Island. We saw the church, the ruined slavery collection point—from here the slaves went to Goree Island off Dakar—and had a nice conversation with an American, Dennis, who runs a hotel here now, but who spent time in the Peace Corps 30 years earlier and then with USAID. We talked with other people, too, and visited the 100-year-old French Cemetery. In the afternoon we went fishing. I caught a five-pound Capitaine and a similar-sized barracuda. Mamadou caught a small barracuda. We used lures that were about six to ten inches long, which we trolled behind the boat. When we landed back at the Campement, Mamadou cleaned and cut up the fish right in the water, using a coconut half for a chopping block. During this process, a man squatted and urinated into the water, not 20 feet from where Mamadou was cleaning the fish! I took some comfort in that the fish was deep fat fried (no batter) so presumably that sterilized it!

The next morning after my wake-up call (rooster crowing) I had my breakfast. At noon and in the evening, I was served separately and first. Then at another table a communal large round plate was brought and at least four men would gather to eat. I think the custom was that everybody who was nearby got invited. Mamadou ate with those men and his wife and children ate privately in the kitchen. The wife and children did not sleep at the Campement as they have a private house in the village.

When anybody came into the Campement or anywhere else, everybody shook hands in greeting. Among the older people the greetings were very elaborate—many rapid exchanges. If they were too far away to shake hands, they put their hand on their chest and bowed slightly. If hands were soiled or occupied, an arm was offered. Most of the men wore Western clothing and American tee shirts that said things. Mamadou always wore a bill cap; one said ‘Las Veges’ and one tee shirt said ‘Texas.’ Interestingly most of the tee shirts had English words on them, rather than French, and yet very few could speak more than a few words of English, but appeared fluent in French. They normally used their native languages, though, which were Diola, Wolof or Peul around here. All of the women wore African dress—pretty prints with skirt, tunic and headgear. Many had their hair straightened or braided.

Mamadou seemed to be kind of a ‘village elder’ although he was young. Earlier in the day an older woman came to see Mamadou and explained some problem for a very long time. He listened attentively and then gave his advice for quite some time. I gather he’s kind of a favorite around here, and I can see why. He’s very nice, hard-working and quite resourceful. He knows everyone, and seems to be liked by all. He doesn’t smoke (a rarity!) and when I asked him why, he said, “For sport!”

I was served my Capitaine fish for lunch, after which Mamadou and the boy took me by boat to catch the Joola, which had come from Ziguinchor and was on its way to Dakar. It would stop for me and a few other passengers here, but only out in the water. I was hoisted aboard into a little port on the ship. It transpired none too gracefully, but with many hands hauling on many parts of my body, they pulled me up into the ship. I got a reclining seat for the 13-hour ride to Dakar.

In Dakar the next day I took the ferry to Goree Island. I had been there before—it is quite a spectacular place—very beautiful and very historical. It was the final collection point for slaves before they were put aboard the big slavers and sent to the New World. How sad to see the House of Slaves Museum, with its door of no return.

In Dakar, I got my flight for home but ran into a huge snowstorm! As we neared New York, the plane was diverted to Bangor, Maine, as all airports on the eastern seaboard were closed because of 20 inches of snow. I spent two days and nights at the Ramada Inn in Bangor, and then was flown to New York. It turned out that I was very lucky to have stayed in a hotel as hundreds of people slept on the floor of the JFK airport for two nights.

When I got to JFK there were check-in lines that snaked all around the airport and I knew I would miss my flight if I waited to check in my big suitcase. So I made a dash to the gate, asking help from a young man ahead of me at the security line to hoist my big suitcase on to the conveyor belt. He said, “You mean this whole thing?” I managed to get checked in at the gate through total chaos and confusion because I had luckily gotten a confirmed reservation on a 5:00 PM flight going to San Francisco, which I had made at 3:00 AM the first morning in the hotel when I couldn’t sleep. So I wheeled my big suitcase right on to the plane! When I got into the plane the flight attendant said, “There’s no room for THAT in this plane—“ so I looked confused and said, “Oh, what should I do?” She said, “Well, put it there, then, and I’ll take care of it!” Hooray!!! I was on the plane, I think in the last vacant seat, but I got home that night!

Home, Sweet Home!


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