My trip started with me taking South African Airways from New York to Dakar, Senegal. I'm not very comfortable on long flights, but my seatmate was one of the safety directors for South African Airways. We had come in from Seattle, we had a lot to talk about.
I arrived in Dakar early in the morning. My ride was asleep at home. I had to wait about 30 minutes. Samba had invited me to come, this was definitely not a good start.
Samba took me to his apartment. The next day we went to his mother's house in the Muslim quarter. His parents were nice, we ate African style. Children ran in and out of the house all day long – fun and a little crazy. Soon, however, I got tired of Dakar – my roommates, the goats, the whole hot scene. I was in a metropolitan city, but I felt like I was on the edge of a desert.
I moved to Goree Island, 25 minutes away by ferry. It seemed like another world – Africa for Europeans. I was in a hotel that had a fan. My daily swims in the sea cooled me down. I lost 30 pounds because of the heat in the summer – a good place for overweight people. After a few days on Goree, I began to move into Dakar each morning when it was cool. I went to the markets, antique stores. Samba invited me to join his band to play for a birthday party. I had a great time.
I went for lunch at a professor's house at the University of Dakar, tea served in the traditional style. It was bitter, full of sugar, but I drank it all.
Next I traveled to Gambia in a bush taxi – the African way. It was a long trip for only a few miles. The ferry across the Banjul River worried Samba. It was the same type of ferry we have in the San Juan Islands, I was used to the rock and rolling. He was sure we were going to go down for good.
I liked West Africa, it tested my patience. I didn't stay in fancy places; I wanted to get to know the people. I made a lot of friends and loved the music. One of my griot friends plays the Kora and sings. He was really mellow and a joy to hang out with.
In Gambia we stayed at a drum school compound. I made more friends, a Mr. Muscles took me to the gyms of Senagambia. I am supporting one high school student in school. Gambia was easier because of the common language – English. Tourism from Europe has transformed the Gambian people, though.