Vitamins will make you fat

Journal observations 7th November 1999

Djifer – Senegal
-everyone greeted me joyfully – even little kids ran up to hold my hand!
-The fish jump out of the water when you swim!
-whole town is on a long narrow strip of sand about 200 metres across.
-I investigated the fish market which is racks of fish laid out to dry on nets atop rickety makeshift tables. Alive with flies. Every now and then, a space cleared for rubbish dumps with old fish skins, head and bottles etc.
-brekky was a tiny loaf of bread, huge knob of butter, bissap (hibiscus) jam, Chocoleca (Nutella), sugar cubes, Nescafe, Nesquick chocolate, Lipton tea and an enormous jug of boiled milk – ‘Gloria’ Nestle brand – and a huge jug of water. I drank this out of a large cereal bowl.

Palmarin – Senegal
-my first bache! Uncomfortable. In Senegal they also call it ‘N’jaga N’jaye’.
-a German company sent a huge crate of medicines to this village – and all the labels were in German! Everyone has been asking around who can translate.
-I met a French optometrist who travelled around Senegal on his holidays, testing people’s eyes and giving them glasses.
-Is very traditional around here. When the boys reach a certain age they disappear into the forests to ‘become men’ with their fathers. Beatings and circumcisions ensue, and they are also taught a ‘men-only’ language which they use to speak to their friends in front of their wives. Women learn their own language, too.


Nangadef = how are you?
Mangifirek = fine, thanks
Gurejef = thank you
Su la nechee = please
Ba ben-en = goodbye
Degguma = I don’t understand
Mayamasumayama = go away
Leggee leggee = see ya later

1 = benn
2 = nyaar
3 = nyutt
4 = nyennt
5 = joroom
6 = joroom-benn
7 = joroom-nyaar
8 = joroom-nyutt
9 = joroom-nyennt
10 = fukk
11 = fukk-ak-ben etc

I travelled back with English Lauren to the capital – only took six hours! She is very interesting – studying French on a Rotary scholarship and at 21 has worked on projects in Brazil and Namibia. All UK people seem to have a ‘gap’ year after they leave school. So we splashed out on an Italian restaurant and I ate pizza with ham! A green salad with palm hearts and avocado! Finished off with crème caramel! Next day, Lauren took me to meet the French Rotarians, who lived in a huge apartment in the centre of Dakar. The woman was very worried about my health and kissed me on both cheeks. They also plied us with lemon drink, which was served by a local woman in a maid’s outfit bearing a silver tray with a hibiscus flower on it.

Then Lauren took me to the doctor to translate, which was a mad scene involving a blood test that went horribly wrong (after he cut my finger open my blood splashed everywhere and he asked ‘are you positive?’). He prescribed paracetamol and magnesium, which came in these old-fashioned glass vials. I asked about vitamins and he said ‘oh no! Vitamins will make you fat!!’

I came to Yoff today for some R&R and started off in a dreadful campement (smelling of fish) by the v dirty beach. There was a construction site nearby and a massive revival meeting right outside my door. People were screaming into microphones at a room full of 30 people! And there were planes roaring overhead. And a yukky guy peering in my room, asking for money. I stormed off back to Dakar to the Auberge Rouge – there is a used condom in the toilet and a rubber undersheet on the bed, but is otherwise OK.

Subject: Hawung oldies
Date: Monday 15th November 1999

I’m back in my ‘regular’ in Dakar again, whiling away the time before I hop on the train. I tried to be a conscientious traveller, and get my Burkina Faso visa early from the French embassy, but they told me in their très Gallic fashion to POQ for another 3 weeks! And it’s so cheap to get here! Oh well. I also got my train ticket early, alas I’m not on my own, but ‘avec des autres femmes’, thankfully! I don’t think I could handle being in a confined space with the manly Senegalese hommes for that long!

Just got a letter from Q, the Peace Corps guy. We will meet again on the 26th Dec in Mopti, where he and his mates have chartered a pinasse (boat) to Timbuktu for new years’. This trip takes about 3 days, inshallah (god willing). And the ticket has already been bought for me. And Timbuktu is apparently the perfect place for chartering a camel to the dunes. These are my plans. Don’t forget them. X

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