Thursday, July 1, 2010

From loofah to Wolof

The Gambia is Loofah-ville.

And that's not some wacky Jim Carrey-type character from a Dr Seuss tale.

I'm not much of a botanist and I always thought that loofahs came from the sea or mangroves. Turns out that they actually grow on vines. These vines are the pariah of the tropical garden as they are devilishly cunning and will wind, bind and choke their way through an entire residential compound.

The reason I am now rich with loofah facts is because I won one during a random poolside game of Trivial Pursuit last night. I think it may actually have been a booby prize but when I was handed the long fibrous cone on a stalk I thought it was an ear of dried corn.

But as I 'unwrapped' my gift (yup, how handy is that, they come ready wrapped!) it revealed a ready-to-use dried loofah. Fabulous. It also came with a couple of handfuls of dried seeds that I have been told will thrive in even the most desolate of environments (i.e. Dubai).

So it's loofah gifts all round I reckon. Am going on a trawl of the neighbourhood back gardens tonight to fill a potato sack or three...AED30 in Body Shop? Pah, I'll be hawking them in Meena Bazaar for AED28 a piece.

I've also just had my first language lesson. It's hard to know which local language to opt for out here as there are several including Wolof, Mandinka and Fulla. Wolof seems to be fairly universal though so I am ready with the pleasantries - "Nagadef?" (how are you?); the necessities "Dama kheef" (I'm hungry" and the cautionary "Ba la'lama" (Go away!).

Sarah, the finance and admin manager at ASSET has also asked me to help with the marketing of their cultural resource centre located over the Timbooktoo bookshop round the corner from the office. It's just got a new manager and they are relaunching the cafe, which is already a popular spot for travellers looking for WiFi, but they want to up the culinary offering and also attract the local VSO, other NGO, British High Commission and US Embassy workers looking for a value lunch spot. 

Gosh, there's so much more I could get involved in and I already feel like I'm running out of time even though I've barely stepped outside of Fajara...and still an entire country to get to know.

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