I woke up to the sound of roosters cockle-doodle-dooing and saw myself surrounded by little white strings woven together to create my mosquito net, but past that I saw an unfamiliar ceiling. The ceiling to my new room.
I woke up at eight and was greeted by many ” A Finii e jamm?” which in Pulaar literally means, “Did you wake up in peace?” to which I responded, “Jamm tun” or “Peace only.” I ate a piece of bread and butter and drank some instant coffee, which will be my breakfast for the next six months. I proceeded to visit Ibrahim, a family member, and he took me around town.
First we visited his friend Demba, where I sat and listened to their conversation, attempting to comprehend their Frulaar (French and Pulaar). From what I gathered, they had both just finished high school and were talking about Demba’s job at the mining company where he is a sheet metal technician. They also discussed how Mako was a big enough village to enjoy electricity, but the government wouldn’t send any generators to the town. Yeah, that’s right. There’s no electricity here, let alone running water.
After Ibrahim took me back to my house, which is directly in front of the interstate highway. There we met another friend, Thierno. He is very much into rap music and proceeded to tell me in Franglais (French and Anglais/English) how he thinks Lil Wayne is the best rapper alive. I then asked if he liked to freestyle rap and commenced beatboxing for him to spit. It was definitely fun and unexpected. He then told me that there was a wedding ceremony that day and asked if i wanted to go. So of course, we went.
After navigating the narrow dirt roads, following the sound of what sounded like drumming, we found where the ceremony was being held. Turns out that what I thought was drumming was the sound of maybe 60 women clapping in an African beat. Some would provide a base while others clapped differently and the sounds together was amazing. They were also positioned in a circle, where they would also dance in the middle to the beat. Or rather, the beat would depend on the intensity of the person dancing. I was there with Thierno and Ibrahim and they asked me if I wanted to dance. I thought it’d be a great way to integrate myself into the community so I went and danced, which definitely stunned a few of the women. When I was dancing everyone started laughing. Not laughing at me, but a good laugh. I shuffled around and even saw one little girl recording me dancing. After I finished they clapped and let me pass. Afterwards I noticed that they were all just women and was informed that it was a traditional women’s ceremony. I don’t think I ruined it but I definitely showed that I’m a toubako (foreigner).
After lunch and a nap, my host mom told me to go and walk with her on the highway. On the way, we met my host brother, Mohammad, and Thierno. Apparently Thierno also plays soccer for the town’s official team. My mom told me to go with them instead and we kicked the ball around while walking to and from the chief of the village. But on the way from the chief, we decided to take a detour and go to the Gambian River. It wasn’t very far but it was pretty damn breathtaking. I asked what we were doing here, and they responded that we were going to take a bath here. I was rather surprised, but definitely thought it’d be worth the experience so we climbed down and bathed in the river. It might not have been the cleanest water but I felt clean afterwards so it didn’t matter.
After dinner, it was dark and we needed flashlights to get around. Luckily my phone has a built-in flashlight, so we again walked to the Gambian River. This time we chilled on the bridge and I saw the full moon illuminating the clouds and a few trees surrounding it. Then I looked up and saw more stars than I’ve probably ever seen before in my life. It was perfect.
And that was just the first day.