dispatches aperture poste restante etcetera

By Lisa Grzesiek - 5 Jul, 1999

Page 3 of 4

On the way back to the hotel to pack up our things Ebrima told me that he needed some of his money because he had to buy some new clothes and gifts for his parents. We needed to pay for the hotel so I went back out with him to change money and go to the market. As we were walking to the exchange booth he asked me what I was going to take to his mother. I was a little taken aback; we had just been shopping for gifts for the family. Um, I don't know, I said, what do you suggest? A new dress, he said. O.K. He bargained down a tailor from D250 to D150 - about $15. Ebrima spent twice that on new clothes for himself. I started to feel like he was beginning to take advantage of us. Why didn't he suggest the dress with Ev and Gregg around? Didn't want to risk more negotiation? Them saying no? Well, I figured that the dress would just come out of what we were already planning to give to the family.

At this point we had given Ebrima about half of his total guide fee. He told us that before we arrived in the village we should also give him the CFA30,000 so he could give it to his sister who would be buying the food for us. He called his father, told him we'd be arriving in a few hours and we were on our way.

Upon arrival in the village we learned that his mother was out of town for a few days. Ebrima wasn't told this when he phoned and was deeply disappointed. After introductions and a meal we were deposited in his sister Delika's compound. Now that Ebrima had delivered us safely to the village it was as if his job was done. We started to observe how this village (culture, country) is so male dominated, and Ebrima fell easily into traditional patterns. Delika cooked and served us three meals a day. She retrieved water for us to bathe. She let us in and out of our room. This was in between her regular chores of cooking and cleaning for her own family. (By the end of our visit, we were pretty sure she was glad to see us go.) Ebrima spent very little time with us and essentially would hang out with his friends and get high.

We weren't present when Ebrima gave his sister the money for food and as her patience with us wore thin, we began to wonder whether she had indeed received it; it really was a significant amount (approximately $50) and was supposed to be for 5 days in the village, 3 meals a day. We were in fact only present for less than 4 days. Most of the food is harvested in the village, therefore very little is actually needed to be purchased; this money should have been almost all profit.

We also weren't present when Ebrima distributed the clothing, so we wondered who exactly was credited for the gifts. It's not that we wanted or expected gratitude from the people in the village, but did want them to know we appreciated their hospitality. Other than our verbal and non-verbal expressions, they presumably hadn't seen anything tangible from us.

As early as our first day there, the children began asking us for things - someone asked that I leave my shoes behind, they were admiring all of our back packs, hints were dropped about not being able to finish school because of money; I was flat out asked for D50 and Gregg and Ev were asked to buy a soccer ball for D250 to replace the one that the last people that Ebrima brought to the village had bought but had since broken. We felt that we'd given (and were planning to give upon departure) a significant amount, and obviously, couldn't cater to all of their requests. Of course we couldn't explain this to the children, and would just smile and softly, somehow, say no.





  New York
    New York City
West Africa
  The Gambia
  Middle East
    Palestinian Territories
    Eastern Anatolia
    Central Anatolia
    Pushkar Fair
    Madhya Pradesh
    Uttar Pradesh
    West Bengal
    Sikkim & the NE
    (Rep. of China - Taiwan)
  USA - San Francisco, CA

"A tourist comes to see what he wants to see. A traveller comes to see what is really there."
-- G. K. Chesterton
  © 1999/2000 ~ All Jamon Pre-cured.