Maybe it’s the trying to establish myself in another country not of my own, though that was also incredibly challenging in even my home town, but we’ve really been encountering an inordinate amount of logistical obstacles. The biggest challenge at this point remains, the luggage! Luckily I’m here for much more than most visitor’s two week holiday as otherwise I’d leave before this bag even arrives which would be a real shame since my dad made a huge effort to ensure it got on the plane in the first place for me as I’d had a terrible back relapse just before departing, and then I spent a good chunk of cash to keep it in the Frankfurt airport whilst I went gallivanting through German castles with my fellow Africanist linguists.
I won’t retell of our tribulations in Dakar but rather pick up the story from where I last left off at the end of Ramadan celebration. Which was of course lovely and wonderful beyond words to be reunited with all my family here. But, it did delay the arrival of the since recovered bag in Dakar (did I already mention that it turns out it had arrived while we were close enough to retrieve it ourselves in Mbour?) as neither the vehicles nor the ferry traveling to Casamance would arrive here for another week.
Finally the day upon which the vehicles will travel arrives and we arrange for Momo’s brother in Dakar to put the bag on the bus to Kafountine as the airline has been without comment. Unfortunately, he was in a meeting that ran late and so missed the first and last bus to Kafountine, barely making it to another bus which was supposed to arrive the following day in a neighboring town.
Meanwhile, we’ve been going about our lives of course, and you’ve seen a bit of the wonders happening on the farm. We’ve not yet planted a thing and yet we’ve been harvesting an abundance of fresh fruits so we’re really thrilled about what’s happening and what’s to come this summer. The rains have begun to fall here in full force and our 9-month old puppy is still attacking crickets despite his encounter with the scorpion. I also planned a bit of a pilot study for my upcoming project proposal and planned on meeting a colleague yesterday in the regional capitol to discuss matters, which coincided with the anticipated arrival of the bus from Dakar with my late luggage.
Through more untold adventures we’ve also been fortunate enough to have acquired a beautiful vessel of our own, a Mercedes Benz station-wagon, perfect for all our farm and family needs, from the neighboring Gambia. With all the excitement over The Gambia’s recent transition to democracy, we’d nearly forgotten about the ever present corruption. When asked yesterday by the region’s capitol customs agent for our papers, we were actually quite surprised at being requested to descend from the vehicle and were officially escorted into the “office”: a lean-to grass hut with a carpet of discarded oyster shells, quaint really if it weren’t for the crawling with swarms of tiny ants that didn’t disturb the officers’ uniforms of combat boots and fatigues but were all too happy to rummage about our sandaled feet and toes! Then the officers really made us squirm by threatening us with jail time and massive fines because apparently our papers which allow us to drive a Gambian car in Senegal and were assigned to our driver rendered us, “outside the limits of the law” because I was one operating the vehicle at present.
After about an hour of negotiations thanks to Momo’s ways with words and people, the chief officer actually ended up loaning us his own personal car (a very tricked out yet smaller version of our own, making it very difficult to operate in the city’s narrow and chaotic streets) so that we could proceed with our planned errands without further hassle as his car was of course purchased and plated in Senegal.
Kind as this was (and yes some cash did change hands despite my personal attempts to avoid bribery, at times it’s inevitable) we had to return his car and then drive directly home by 5:00 pm quitting time, leaving me no opportunity to rest. This being my first time driving in Africa, after a three year hiatus from driving anywhere while living London, by the time we got back home I felt as if I’d contracted another bad bout of malaria; rather it was a back ache coupled with a migraine that left me sick and sore until morning today. To top it all off, the bus got stuck waiting for the ferry which takes them through The Gambia from Dakar to Casamance, so the bag and its contents are somewhere between here and eternity, who knows as the driver has no cell phone service to even get a hold of him for an update. But having spent too many a night by the side of the road or at the borders of African and other nations, I pity those aboard the bus and am ever the more thankful for our big blue Benz.
Which brings us up to today. I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I have an especially difficult day, it’s followed by an oppositely wonderful day and that is what happened this weekend. Today, thanks to a brief reprieve in the deluge of rain storms, again to the big blue Benz, and most thankfully to the tireless core of the farm team, Momo, Bamba, and Laimso, we transported our first batch of fifteen baby coconut plants out to Kaïra Kunda for our premier planting. We didn’t manage to get them into the ground before the rains came, but the important thing was to get them there before the floods made the roads impassable again yet in close enough time for us to return on bikes and get them safe into the ground and inaccessible to potential thieves (things I never would have thought about). Luckily I’m not in this business alone and hopefully, when the bag comes, I’ll be able to share with those of you who’ve also contributed so much to our successes a surprise when I return in September!