Sunday, 2 October 2011

Think This Through With Me...

The best thing to do is stay away from them but unfortunately we all now live in a political world and if you don’t take note of what is going on around you, then you find there are problems further along the line.
We’re not talking party political politics either, family politics cause just as many problems, if not more ?
Hassanatou is due back from her college trip tomorrow, and Hassanatou is not talking to Amadou, Ida’s husband and Omar’s Father.
She’s not just not talking to him, she’s blanking him totally.
The guy might just as well not be there for all the notice Hassa’ takes of him.
The problem has apparently been going on for a month.
So what caused the problem ?
That’s what caused the problem.

It arose one morning on the President’s clean up day, when everybody clears all the rubbish from in front of their compound and the municipal trucks come along to collect the bags of rubbish.
Hassanatou had showered and was still in her wrap-around towel and Sainabou was towelled-up and about to dive into the shower when the truck turned up.
Now with two complete sackfuls of household rubbish plus all the rest that had been swept up previously, there was quite a weight in the bags, and because both girls were not dressed for going outside, Hassanatou had asked Amadou to help them get the bags outside and lifted onto the truck.
Amadou’s answer was to tell Hassanatou that he didn’t do ‘women’s work’ and that they should carry the bag out themselves…
Now it’s one thing to say it…
But it’s quite another to act it !
Amadou wouldn’t lift a finger to help and so the two towel-clad girls had to manoeuvre two sacks of rubbish outside and between them lift the bags onto the truck, causing all manner of mirth and admiring looks from the truck gang and totally embarrassing the pair of them in the process.
If you don’t believe me, try lifting a sack of your own household rubbish above your head whilst dressed in only a towel ?
It isn’t that easy to do without an accident happening to the towel...
As far as Hassanatou was concerned it was the last straw, and so she blew her stack...
Lazy… Pays no rent… Pays nothing for our electric… Pays nothing for our water…Eats our food… Gets us to baby-sit his child and won’t even lift a finger to help in cleaning up or taking out his own family’s rubbish ?
That stops now.
And she did.
From that moment on, she refused point blank to have anything whatsoever to do with any of it, if it appertained to Amadou, Ida or Omar.
As far as Hassa’ was concerned, Ida was Amadou’s wife and she could do it all.
She was not going to lift a finger to help any of them.
She wasn’t prepared to cook food or share her food with them, neither was she prepared to let Ida use the family’s charcoal to cook with.
‘Amadou is your husband, let him work to provide you with the things you need, it is not for us to keep you fed’.
And we’ve just walked in on all of this ?
Great !
Sainabou and Husainatou are doing their best to try and keep the peace while  Hassanatou is not there, but it has been an uphill battle.
Amadou thinks ‘women’s work’ is beneath him and refuses to do any,
Ida needs somebody to keep an eye on Omar because he is into everything right now, plus, Omar’s nose had been put out of joint by Jalika coming into the family, and so he is behaving as all bullies do, by being as spiteful as he possibly can toward Jalika.
Jalika won’t take any form of bullying when it’s directed toward her and is apparently fighting back in her own sweet way, although to be fair, we hadn’t seen it occur since we’d arrived.
Mariama and her best friend Ida are both getting older, and neither of them particularly want to baby-sit Omar because they have their own things to do.
In Mariama’s case, she daren’t even get her drums out unless somebody else is playing with her, because otherwise Omar will attempt to muscle in and mess about with them.
And what’s more, she is right when she says that they are her ‘tools for her job’ and she does not want people to play about with them.
Until she decides not to be a drummer, then I think she is perfectly correct to have that attitude, but then, that’s me…
Gambian politics are not my thing unless they affect me directly.
I have enough problems with U.K. politics to want to get involved in another country’s politics… Even another country’s family politics...
The problem is, I am involved whether I like it or not ?
Problems, problems, problems…

So with all that in the background Haddy and I are heading off to Banjul to visit Uncle Pa, and then to see if Hadim is about in the market ?
We spend a pleasant hour with Pa in his office.
He has a larger one now, on the top floor of his compound, and thank the Lord for that.
The previous one suffered from a total lack of space.
I think it had previously been a walk in cupboard ?
This one is beginning to feel the same but at least he can get another chair in it, and, it has a window to let some light in.
That is a definite improvement.
Finding his mobile under the clutter on the desk, or the computer mouse without following the connecting wire is virtually impossible, but it’s definitely a major improvement on the last one.
Visit over, we go back downstairs and walk to the market.
Hadim has his own stall now in Banjul’s craft market.
His younger brother Badou has one also, and since they’ve both become friends and what shall I say ?
Colleagues and teachers, I think is the right way of putting it, in Mariama’s drum education ?
I’m always happy to see them.
The craft market in Banjul is around the far side so the easiest way is to literally follow the road around the left hand side from the entrance and then turn right when you see the wooden or cardboard signpost, or whatever they have up on the day ?
This is where the travel companies bring their tourists and coach parties.
You can haggle to your hearts content over the price of anything and sometimes you can get a serious bargain.
But… The political problems of the world’s banking system and the resulting recession has hit hard, and the tourists are not coming as they used to, and now everybody is scrabbling around for a little money.
Things are hard everywhere, but in a poor country things are hardest of all.
Hadim is not there.
Apparently he had a gig last night.
Ok, fair do’s, that’s understandable.
Badou is, and he greets us both with outstretched arms and a big hug, before telling us that we are welcome and that he hopes we brought along lots of friends and tourists with us so they could buy lots of gifts ?
Is it really that bad ?
Apparently it is.
Shit !
That ain’t good.
Those in the craft market are just about scraping a living.
I’d done thirteen and a bit years as a market trader in the U.K. and gone through one major recession so I’m a little bit clued up on what their problems are.
It’s pretty much like it is in the U.K. but unfortunately nobody believes that in The Gambia if you’re white.
To them you are just a ‘tourist’ and you have money to spend because you come from a rich country and can afford your flights and hotels etc…
Nobody believes that you can be in the exact same position as they are, if you’re white.
So they play the ‘screw the toubab’ game, and screw them for anything they can get.
It’s difficult not to feel insulted when they try it on, but I can at least understand why they persist in doing it.
It’s just difficult to live with, when it’s happening to you.

I left Haddy to talk to Badou while I went for drinks at the small café, and what do I get ?
‘Hey… You’re back… Do you recognise me ?’
It’s a big guy sitting at one of the tables…
Think, think, think…
‘Drum practice right here, right ?’
‘You remembered…’
I ask him how is it going with the band and he tells me it’s not so good ?
The band has slimmed down somewhat to an eight piece and they’ve had to let the singers and dancers go, but the eight piece is practising hard and has some new material that they want to record for their second album, when they have managed to save the money.
They are not quite ready yet, but they are practising every Friday at Jokor, the nightclub at Westfield, and would I like to come and watch ?
Oh yes…
For sure I would, and could I bring Haddy and Mariama, because she’d love to watch the guys playing ?
‘Ah… The little girl who wants to drum… Yes, please bring her, too…’
‘You’ve heard that she wants to be a drummer, then ?’
‘All the local drummers know that she wants to be a drummer…’
Well don’t that just figure ?
I tell him we’ll be there, but right now I must deliver the drinks or Haddy and Badou will be pools of grease if they don’t get something cool in them.
He laughed…
‘I am Macumba… I will see you tomorrow.’
‘It’s a date… See you there at about seven-ish’
Now I know why I like going to Banjul ?
Stuff just happens.

When we arrive back home we find that the guys have been round to fix the water pipe, so thankfully we can wash the dust off.

Cold water only, but any water is better than none at all.
Then we greet the constant stream of visitors to the compound…

Fatou had sent Sainabou some shoes from the U.K. and Sainabou was in absolute hysterics just looking at them.
They were ladies fashion type, and had a high heel that was at least six inches from tip to shoe.
The precarious balancing act required to walk in them without going over and breaking an ankle or two was keeping everybody in absolute stitches of laughter.

Awa, who had popped over for a visit on her day off, was going to be the bravest of the brave…
She was actually going to attempt to walk in them.
Everybody has their fingers crossed as she straightens up and takes a couple of faltering steps before wobbling, stopping, re-balancing and trying again…

Hmmm… Not sure they are suitable for even the fashion conscious younger members of the family, but what do I know ?
Haddy is off trying to sort out a meeting for one of her committees, so it looks like I’m the dj for the rest of the afternoon ?

That evening we tell Mariama about the invitation and ask her if she’d like to go ?
She just looks up at us with her ‘serious’ face and utters one word…
She certainly wasn’t expecting that, I know that much.
Still, It’ll be an eye-opener for her, watching the guys play.
We’ve probably ruined any form of concentration in lessons at school for tomorrow, but hey ?
She doesn’t get invites like that every day, so she might as well make the most of it.
It feels like it’s been a long day when we finally crawl into bed.

The guys turn up early to fill in the hole above the pipe, which is nice.
At least that means Gordon can go back to his normal wall and not have to keep a wary eye out for a marauding cat.
Gordon ?
Gordon is the house gekko, and he lives inside or outside the bathroom window depending on the weather or his mood.

He’s a godsend when the mosquitoes are out in force, so nobody attempts to harm him except Princess, but so far Princess hasn’t yet learned to climb a vertical wall…
Oh come on…
He’s a gekko for God’s sake, so what would you have named him ?
I think Oliver Stone would be quite pleased that his ‘creation’ lives and breathes in reality ?

We spend the morning with Haddy’s sister, who has come to visit.
In the afternoon we are visited by two of her Aunts.
I get the feeling that they are looking for handouts and presents above and beyond the shoes and material that Haddy has brought over ?
It’s strange…
There is no way that we can afford a monetary handout, it’s been hard enough to get the fare over here, but that ‘screw the toubab’ thing is always at the back of my mind.
Why is it that because you live and work in the U.K. you are supposed to be rolling in money ?
I don’t know and I don’t care.
What I do know is that we are finding it hard enough over there and I have a full time job.
Nobody who has inferred that we have loads of money is either maimed or sick, so why not find a job yourselves ?
I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s not impossible.
When we get back, we are going to have to up the amount we send to the kids just to keep the younger ones in school and everybody fed, which leaves nothing for anybody else…
It’s hard times on the planet, believe me ?

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