Friday, 15 August 2008

The Second Gambian Experience Part Two (Coughs And Sneezes Spread Diseases...)

Photo's from the top:-

Mariama, 'Neighbour' Ida and 'Tufa (is it raining then ?)
'Little' Ida.
'Ullo John... Wanna buy a motor ?'

The cold is taking hold and is not much fun.
We’ve gone to the pharmacy on the main road and I’ve got paracetamol and cough medicine which hopefully is going to start killing it off, but the reality is I feel like shit and the bloody electrics keep going off so the fan stops and the humidity hits home so I do my best to go back to bed and sweat it out.
Sweating is not the problem but sweating out the cold is.
I’ve been here four days and I haven’t seen Ebrima yet but I know he’s been over to see how I’m getting on while I’ve been sleeping so I just leave a message that when I feel up to it I’ll be over but right now I’m more a cough, splutter, sniff, danger to anything that moves on two legs…
The following day after taking most of the cough medicine and the paracetamol every four hours I’m feeling a bit better.
The cold is still there but it feels like it’s more under control so I get up and potter around the compound trying to interact with the constant stream of visitors who I’m sure just want to have a good moan about the rain...
I hate holiday colds and this humidity and dampness is doing nothing whatsoever to help me get over it.
Still, it stops raining in the middle of the afternoon and I make plans to cook my masterpiece.
I’ll definitely be needing Haddy’s help with the charcoal and some of the cutting up of onions and garlic but we pitch in with a will and soon there are a constant stream of people from outside coming in to see what ‘that’ smell is ?
Thankfully Haddy shoo’s them out as soon as it is polite to do so.
I’ve never been a good host when I’m cooking and trying not to burn anything.
The girls are hanging about watching the proceedings too.
Sainabou keeps taking little looks into pots while the twins just hover and Mariama and Pussy (the cat) both do their best to get underfoot while the local fly population have obviously told all their friends to turn up at Haddy’s ‘cos there’s some seriously good foodie smells emanating from it…
Mariama, do me a favour and get me the flyspray please.
There are about five hundred of the little bastards in a square yard of compound floor which I’ve just liberally squirted over.
Guess what ?
We ain’t troubled by flies anymore… Well, not for a couple of hours anyway.
That stuff smells horrible.
Nasty pyrethin based muck that works but clogs up your sinuses and makes the
Catarrhal tickle at the back of my throat ten times worse.
Still, at least the flies have gone for a bit.
I’ve told them about an hour and a half to cook a good one and get the flavours right so that’s what I’m aiming for and surprisingly it’s worked perfectly.
By the time I’m ready to serve, Haddy takes over and I have to remind her that it’s a fork or spoon job and not an all hands in the pot one.
Ooooer… It’s all gone quiet.
Nobody is saying anything but they are all stuffing their faces so that’s a good sign.
When it’s over and I can’t eat anymore (and neither can anyone else because it’s all gone) the girls all tell me it was very good so that’s a bonus.

You know what I forgot ?
What happens when meat thaws and gets frozen again (bloody electricity cuts) ?
I’ll tell you what happens to me…
I get a case of what the locals call ‘Banjul Belly’ and the Imodium I bought with me for just such an emergency is being totally beaten by the germ I’ve got inside my stomach.
Great !
Another day stuck in the compound, this time with the family’s complete supply of toilet paper…
What with my cold as well, I don’t seem to be doing too well this time out.

It seems that the only time you can get a hot shower at the moment is in the middle of the night after midnight or early in the morning (if the electrics have been working), when the local mullah starts calling the faithful to prayer.
He does this in dawn’s halflight even before the local chicken population has woken up.
SHUT UP… All of you. I need my rest. I’m knackered.
I’m totally drained by the bugs that are getting to me but he doesn’t know that so I forgive him somewhat.
I remember being introduced to him last time I was here but I can’t put a face to the memory.
Oh well, hit the shower and dry off then go back to bed under the mosquito net.
It’s now half past seven and the flies are beginning to awaken…
Don’t even mention the mosquitoes as they’ve been up all night… They never rest.
I’d lost yet another day to illness and it is now beginning to annoy me so I make a decision to do something with my day other than hang around the family loo.
The Imodium hasn’t stopped the Banjul Belly but it’s less troublesome.
At least now I can keep some food inside me even if it is for only maybe three hours.
That’s two hours and fifty five minutes better than yesterday…
The local cockerel has just ceased it’s interminable cockadoodle-doo and there is movement all over the village outside on the road, most of which is going to work for those lucky enough to have jobs.
Walking, cycling or yellow taxis with green stripes are the usual forms of transport up to the main road.
The old guy from Ebrima’s compound comes over to see how I’m doing and to wish me good morning.
It is about the only English he knows.
Haddy is looking after his money for him which has all been written down and logged in a big ledger type book.
His compound has no locks and he had been working for the last week at the port authority in Banjul and has therefore been paid but without locks on doors he cannot keep the money safe from anybody just walking in and taking it, so Haddy has become his local banksafe.
Slowly Fajikunda is coming to life.
The local kids of about Mariama’s age and under all seem to hang out opposite the compound outside the local convenience shop (bread, tinned milk, cigarettes, teabags, coffee, coca-cola, that sort of thing).
Much to the local shopkeeper’s surprise who usually gets one of the girls buying it, I’ve bought our breakfast baguettes already.
Ebrima appears from the opposite direction.
He has been out working since dawn as he cannot plaster in the rain and so far, so good, the sun is beaming in a clear blue sky and I apologise for constantly missing him through being incapacitated, but he shakes his head… It is no matter.
He is just happy to see me up and about as apparently there were some who were getting a bit worried about me.
Haddy sticks her head out of the compound, greets Ebrima and walks over to the shop where she asks one of the larger kids to nip down the road and get her a bag of charcoal for the burner.
He will of course get paid for his trouble, but for the children here even one or two dalasi can make a big difference to their own lives and real money in the hand is prized by the kids as their parents tend to keep theirs close and who could blame
them ?
So I sit and write in the shade of ‘Geneva’, and those who know me either as Chris (pronounced Krees locally) or ‘Ebrima’ come over to shake my hand and to ask if I’m feeling a bit better or just to wish me well.
They are so polite these people…
Being rude, even to a stranger is not even in the vast majority’s vocabulary.
I am still a visitor, still a stranger in town and still the only white face here in the village but curiosity is beginning to get the better of some, especially the younger children who all seem to rush forward to shake my hand and to wish me good morning.
I see Mariama’s friend, little Ida this morning. She comes over to shake my hand and gently curtsy as she wishes me good morning and I ask her where she has been as I’d not seen her since I’d arrived ?
She tells me in her very halting English that she has been staying with her cousin and that she has been suffering from malaria.
I have pills to take everyday to keep me free of it that must be continued for twenty eight days after I return and yet the disease is still rife here.
Shit !
If I could wave a magic wand out here with just one wish I think I’d go for the eradication of malaria ?
It is an absolute scourge and I know Haddy suffers from it occasionally.
The sooner we can eliminate it from the world the better (and healthier) the world would become.

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