Part VI: The Home Stretch
January 4, 2007
Being back feels like a welcome overstayed, or like 3rd year law school: you’re ready to leave and don’t really want to be here anymore. I’m more tired and worn out all day than I would have expected. I spent some time relaxing in the sun at the Kairaba Hotel and popped into work to try to check my email but, in fitting Gambian fashion, the internet was down. For dinner, I went to a wonderful all-you-can-eat Mongolian Grill at the Green Mamba. I ate a ridiculously exorbitant amount of food, but it was great value and a great meal.
January 5, 2007
Popped into work again. It feels like being there on the weekend, or being at work right before holidays when nothing is getting done. People are still coming back from vacation, so nothing is really happening and nobody is around. I’ve largely started to tune out the country and am looking forward to leaving. Next week will be slow and dull.
January 6, 2007
Started writing up my trip diary. Not much else I want to do in the Gambia. My thoughts are really set on leaving, not on doing a flurry of activities before I leaving. I started slowly figuring out how I might be able to pack up my souveniers.
January 7, 2007
In a change from the last couple of days, I decided to head out today and enjoy a bit more of my time here. Light-headed and feeling slightly drunk from NyQuil (I’ve caught a cold from the weather changes, presumably), I took in a good British lunch (a contradiction to be certain) at Churchill’s, then I took a leisurely stroll through the palm trees and rice fields of Kotu. I was very much alone, with just a few cars and field workers in the distance. The weather at this time of year is quite gorgeous and there are certainly some picturesque elements to this country upon which I will look back fondly. I walked back for an hour along the beach to take in the ocean. The large number of bumsters out and about I will look back upon with far less fondness. I finished up my afternoon with a daiquiri in Senegambia. An impulse purchase with money I didn’t really want to spend, I decided that I couldn’t go back to Edmonton not having had at least one tropical drink on a patio here. Happy Ukrainian Christmas.
January 9, 2007
Attended my last Hash last night, at a new-ish Hungarian restaurant up at Cape Point. The walk was pleasant, as I’m taking the opportunity these days to appreciate what I can before I leave. Dinner was fun and celebratory, and I treated the 71-year-old Brit who has kindly been giving me rides to and from the Hash since I started. I thanked the group and got a signed t-shirt as a memento. Heading home, I reflected on the familiarity of my surroundings and the various routines I’ve gotten accustomed to over the last five months. Joining the Hash was unquestionably one of the major things that helped give me a sense of comfort and belonging here in the Gambia, exposed me to various places, and provided information and helpful guidance when necessary. Young, old and older, the group was fun, laid-back, unpretentious and welcoming.
January 10, 2007
On my list of “things to do” before leaving was trying the last of a list of restaurants, The Clay Oven, the most notable Indian restaurant here in the Gambia. Headed there for lunch yesterday. It is in the tree-lined, upscale neighbourhood of Fajara. Heading inside through a long hallway filled tastefully with Indian art, I was seated in the empty dining room, an airy room with white walls, ceiling and floor, yellow chairs and window drapes, white and blue coverings on tables, and assorted Indian art lining the walls. In a nice atmosphere of music and sunlight, I had a small tasty lunch of samosas and some chicken, particularly enjoying the sweet chutney sauce for the samosas and experimenting with various others for the chicken. Tasty and enjoyable, but not great value for the meal. In this country, if you wish to venture away from the basic Gambian or tourist fare, you can expect to pay North American prices. Which isn’t a big deal, except when you’re but a few days from leaving. It was worth it, though, to have something a little bit different in a pleasant atmosphere.
January 11, 2007
I returned to the Green Mamba last night for one last all-you-can-eat, and once again enjoyed a fabulous meal in their wonderful, laid back setting. It is likely my favourite bar and restaurant here in the Gambia. I debated whether to spend the money to go back there, but when you get a soup, bread, all-you-can-eat Mongolian grill of fish, prawns, tuna, chicken, pork, beef, and various vegetables with 5 sauces (peanut, banana, spicy, sesame, oyster) to choose from, with fresh fruit salad for dessert and attaya green tea for the equivalent of about $14, I won’t be able to enjoy such a thing when I return. I enjoyed the food, enjoyed the largely jazz music, and the comfortably cool weather in this oasis just off the Senegambia cesspool. It’s too bad they didn’t open the restaurant earlier in the trip, or I would have been there every weekend. On the other hand, maybe it’s good that they didn’t, or I would have been there every weekend. I also enjoyed chatting with the Hungarian waitress there who I met a few months ago, who’s doing a Masters project here in the Gambia on the romance tourism culture before heading off to Sudanese refugee camps in a few months.
I have largely finished packing. Surprising how quickly one can store away 5 months of living into two humble suitcases. My house looks even emptier now.
Finished the last of the Dickens Christmas novellas yesterday, “The Cricket on the Hearth”. A rather interesting tale, following in the same formula of “The Christmas Carol” and “The Chimes” of downtrodden yet honest folk, contrasted with almost comically unpleasant characters, ultimately enjoying the spirit and gift of happiness. I found it a bit annoying in this particular instance as a rather interesting and compelling story was made worse for me by an almost deus ex machina-type feel good ending, with equally unbelievable changes in previously sinister characters.