Eventful Easter Holiday

So the Easter holidays were pretty interesting. We headed off to Kaolack after Macky Sall defeated Abdoulaye Wade in the presidential elections (!) And stayed there for a couple of nights. Julia, Conor and Richard went to the Gambia a few days before me, as I had to meet my sister at the airport in Dakar. I took a sept-places from Kaolack to Dakar with Babacar and one of his friends. We got out in Yoff at the side of the road (rather than going all the way to the main garage, which with hindsight, would have been a better plan as it was evening), and then started walking down the road to get another taxi to my Project Trust representative Mr. T’s house. However, as we were walking, three or four men ran up to us and started grabbing for our bags. It was literally like a nightmare and I was absolutely terrified. I had my phone in hand and one of the men bit me in order to take it. I also got a huge bruise on my leg, but I’m not really sure how that happened. Other than that I was completely unharmed. I didn’t realise until after but my arms were covered in blood and I wondered if I’d been cut, but then saw that Babs had a gash in his arm and head and it turned out that the men had had a knife and stabbed him. He somehow managed to hold on to my clothes, but my handbag got taken, along with all my valuables. I was crying and screaming hysterically pretty much the whole time, but the boys were really brave and didn’t complain at all. We managed to grab a taxi to Mr. T’s after the muggers ran off and T was amazing, taking us to hospital (where Babs was given stitches with no painkillers!) and then to the police station. We were really lucky and the next day got a phone call saying that my passport had been found. Unfortunately, when we met the policemen they handed me my Project Trust ID card, which they had mistaken for a passport. Later that day, my real passport turned up, along with my ‘Say it in Wolof!’ book. This meant that I was still able to go to the Gambia and meet up with the other volunteers. The following night, I picked up my sister from the airport. It was so exciting to see her and I seemed to get a fresh look on everything here that I’m so used to now. We had a pretty terrible journey to the Gambia however. It was a long sept-places ride and very hot sitting in the back. When we got to the border, the police did not seem happy to be letting us through (as I don’t yet have my visa) so I had to pay a small fine. They then searched our bags, pulling out tolietries and taking pleasure in embarrassing us. After that, we reached Babs’ family’s house in Banjul. They were all really welcoming and we stayed there one night, stopping by at a random wedding that was happening in the next street. The next day, I rang Julia and we met up with the volunteers in Tumani Tenda Camp. We had no idea where we were going and got a taxi through a dark forest to what seemed like the middle of nowhere. Luckily, it was a beautiful place, all inclusive, with great food, lovely people and right on the River Gambia. We had a boat tour and swam in the river and walked through the forest. We stayed there for two nights and then had to go to Senegambia, as my sister’s mastercard didn’t seem to work anywhere else. Senegambia is a huge tourist resort full of Toubabs. It was bizarre going to a restaurant, which only Toubabs were eating at. We found a nice cheap hotel and went to a club called Duplex the second night, which was very Western. The guy who worked in the hotel came with us, his name was Dragon and he was slightly in need of a shower. In Senegambia they had a supermarket with loads of imported stuff from Tesco, way too exciting. There were also sex tourists everywhere, which was a bit bizarre. Old, white, usually balding or chubby men and women who come to the Gambia to pick up young locals in exchange for money. We saw them eating together at restaurants and dancing… I also forgot to mention how strange it is hearing everyone speaking English all the time instead of French. They say ‘ban time’ and ‘ban day’ instead of ‘ban heure’ or ‘jour’ and everyone says nice all the time! Dragon kept saying ‘nice to be nice!’ On the beach, someone came up to us and said ‘lovely jubly’ and another person tried to sell us cakes, claiming that they were ‘exceedingly good, Mr. Kipling’s’. After Senegambia, the girls went to Tangi, which was beautiful. We stayed at a hotel for one night, right on the beach and the second day there, we rode camels, which was very exciting. We met up with the boys and Babs’ family again in Banjul before going back to Kaolack. We went to the Albert Market in Banjul and a museum. On our journey back across the border, we waited about three hours for a ferry and when it finally arrived, it didn’t leave the port for about half an hour. We decided to get off and considered staying in Banjul another night, as there was clearly a problem with the ferry, but instead took a large pirogue with a motor. It was absolutely packed full of people and we had to pay men to carry us on their shoulders through the deep, filthy water. Great job. Conor decided to walk across on his own and got soaking and cold. The boat was quite fun but slightly scary and a kid was throwing up and being laughed at by pretty much everyone, especially his own sister. We got given life-jackets, which Babs was pleased about, as he can’t swim. Many people in Senegal seem not to be able to swim despite living near beaches. Once we got across the river, we met a hilarious man called Kevin who had clearly learned all his English from watching bad films and kept saying things like ‘let’s rock and roll guys!’ We had no problems with the border police on the way back and my sister was able to meet Master P and everyone when we got to Kaolack, ride a jakarta and see the half burned down market. When we got back to Joal, I got my sister a boubou and introduced her to as many friends as I could squish in, in the time she was here. On the weekend before she left, we went to Ile de Goree and the market in Medina and went out for dinner with Mr. T. I’m back to teaching again now and trying to get another class from one of the teachers who is striking. When my sister left, it got Julia and I thinking that we’re going to have to leave soon and we really don’t want to! We’re so happy here, it’s going to be a big culture shock going back, although obviously we’re looking forward to seeing friends and family in the UK again!

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