- 25 March 2000
- Hotel Kairaba
- 339 KM
- 65235 KM
Departing Dakar took over an hour due to massive road construction. But before we reached the main road out of town, three different sets of policemen pulled us over at consecutive checkpoints about 100 meters apart. At the second and third police stop, we were forced to show the same exact documents we had shown at the first. An officer at the first checkpoint gave us a ticket since he said Fredrik, our webmaster driving the GWagon, had not signaled his blinker before turning. We all knew he had and no other driver signaled, but this didn’t matter a hill of beans. Senegal promotes itself as ‘Africa’s best democracy’ yet the people live in a police state. Many police officers are corrupt looking for money or gifts to ‘expedite’ things. One officer at the third stop blatantly asked for ‘something’. We certainly had nothing for him.
From here the drive through Senegal toward The Gambia was flat, dry and filled with bush, trees and beautiful birds. Once inside The Gambia, we reached the port town planning to catch the last ferry for Banjul. ‘Bumsters’, young hustlers told us to buy tickets here, no there, and to drive over here, no over there. They sent us to the front of the queue just as the ferry pulled away before our disappointed eyes. Jim went to negotiate a deal for the ferry to return for us; I talked with the handful of young boys hanging around the dock. One wore a Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey and I told him I’d watched Jordan play several times. With unbelieving, shocked eyes, he said, “Where? In person or on television?” These children had never seen a computer, but they knew about Michael Jordan. Another young one told me “most white women don’t sit down and talk to us”. I figured few “white women” take this ferry and those who do certainly do not miss it! The more we all talked, the more delighted I was we’d missed the ferry.
The young boys asked where I lived and wanted my address for “when we visit America”. I found out smoking among young people is viewed as prestigious here. A 12-year-old said, “Smoking is good. It makes me look cool,” inhaling a brand called Hollywood. I asked where all the girls were. “At home helping with dinner. They are not allowed to hang around much after 7 p.m.,” one told me as it was now after 8 p.m.
David Parker, an older teenager, told me, “Computers are at the university,” but he seemed lost when I tried to explain my www address. One of the oldest present, a university student, called himself “an Universalist”, and studies livestock since he said his true loves of poetry and music will produce little financial security. This Universalist said he was not African or Gambian since, “Labels defining people also divide people”.
Jim returned from the ferry office having secured a return of the boat. Just before our departure, the Universalist led the young boys and men in singing a traditional African tale with a strong, hypnotic beat. I smiled feeling so fortunate to have this moment of complete contentment in my life.