Thursday, July 1, 2010

Stranger in a strange land

I have a new name, I am Toubab. It’s not peculiar to me nor is it an expression of fondness that I’ve acquired in my first few days under the African sun.

“Hey Toubab,” is the catcall for any and every unfamiliar white person walking the streets of The Gambia. It’s a catch-all term, not malicious, nor confrontational, it simply is what it is. And looking down at my pasty chicken legs I definitely deserve this new moniker.

I also had my first run-in with the delightfully named genre of local jeune homme called a ‘bumster’. These men prey on the tourist as a way to earn their living, from offering above-board and overpriced general assistance to the list of sexual services that has earned the Smiling Coast a less than favourable reputation. It’s not all down to the high rate of unemployment though as it has been preyed upon in equal measure by, shall we say, ladies of a certain age, whose idea of an exotic beach vacation includes some young affordable flesh. And no, that’s not why I’m here.

As it’s ‘off season’ my bumster wasn’t the choicest pick. Probably around my age he was in serious need of some dental work and a script that went beyond mere pleasantries. It didn’t take too long to dispense of the gentleman as my innate ability to fabricate a credible expat existence in any foreign land (long-time resident, husband works for your president, I’m off to meet the minster of xyz, me no speakee Ingliss) seemed to do the trick. Mind you, I was hot, sweaty and wearing camouflage pants, so I wasn’t the exactly the best deal going either!

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