Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Mom, don’t read this.
Sorry guys. I wish more than any of you that I had a single story to encompass the whole title. Instead, here’s a few of the more entertaining incidents in what I would otherwise maintain is a quiet life.
I almost stepped on a snake. It could have been a spitting cobra, but I can’t make that claim. I was running on a pretty wide utility track through the bush just as the sun set low. Almost to my turn-around point, I looked down to see the ground move. There it was, 12 inches from where I planted my right foot - a snake. Maybe two and a half feet long, slate grey with an orange underside; much like the spitting cobra on our “Harmful Snakes of The Gambia” poster.
As a rule, Gambians hate snakes. When they corner one in a clump of grass, everyone picks up a stone or stick and makes mulch. Consequently, there aren’t really many snakes around us. The last and only other time I saw a live one was during training when our group came upon a Beauty Snake (non venomous) eating a lizard. We all leaned in closer and closer until all of the sudden it decided that the threat of us outweighed the benefit of its meal. It uncoiled, hissed, made a wide circle and slithered into the grass faster than we thought possible. Everyone in the group jumped back but I jumped straight up and screamed, in a really high pitched voice, “Shit Monkeys!” Honestly. I think Rachel might have stepped forward to defend her helpless husband. Life and death situation and that’s what I yell: shit monkeys. This time around, on my own in the bush, with not a single other soul to witness my proximity to DEATH or bear testimony to my courage, and I calmly stepped away and breathed a manly, “Woah!” Honestly.
I was at the main office a few weeks ago, taking advantage of the open computers late at night. It was and time to eat. I stepped out onto the quiet street and walked a short way to one of the Lebanese owned fast food places on the main strip. As I walked in the door, an attractive waitress snapped at me “Ki Fii!”, Wollof for “Come here.” I don’t speak much Wollof, but I still want some credit for knowing a local language, so I replied with the Mandinka equivalent, “Naa naa bang!” “No, you come here.”
So it began. I quickly ordered my shwarma as the three waitresses gathered around testing my language. Flirting doesn’t really work for me. In fact, it makes me incredibly uncomfortable. This was compounded as I realized that I was the only customer in the place and so there were no potential distractions to pull them away from me. Amidst the interrogation, I briefly wondered, “why are so many waitresses working when there are no customers?”
The Lebanese owner who was manning the grill walked by, completely ignored me, grabbed the first waitress by the arm and whispered something in her ear. She walked back to me and asked if I was interested in something-something. Like I said, I don’t speak Wollof, but somewhere in my head a slow, heavy gear made a quarter turn with a loud clicking sound and some dim understanding dawned. I hate awkward situations so my eyes scanned the room. Shwarma almost done, check. Exact change in my pocket, check. Clear path to the exit, check.
“I don’t know what that means,” my voice cracked as if I were thirteen.
“Do you want sex” she coolly clarified.
“Ummmm, no, not today, but thank you for the offer,” I stammered as I less-than-deftly stood up, strode to the grill, snatched my food from the Lebanese pimp just as it hit the bottom of the bag and left my Dalasis in mid air. The next day my girl (her name is Kadi) waved amicably to me and Rachel and asked our friend if I was married. Thank God.
My mobile was stolen on the ferry on Saturday. How many times have I felt hands probing my pockets. One of the busiest travel days of the year leading up to Tobaski and I don’t bother to put it in my bag. Sheesh.