Jon Does Gambia: Day 7 "The Final Full Day"
Our last full day was upon us. It was sinking in now. I would be leaving the “smiling coast of Africa” for the cold social awkwardness of Scandinavia. We wanted to make the best of this day, so we decided to go to lunch and then check out the markets of SeneGambia. I had been on this strip to party. Now it was time to see it in the daytime.
The day began with a walk on the beach and some cornrows. We had asked Bash if he was interested in getting his hair braided and he said yes. One of the juice boys (of course) had someone that could do that for us. We said we’d get it done on our way back toward the hotel. Then Bash got the urge to do it right away.
- Of course! I get my sister right away.
A pretty woman with beautiful braided extensions came out from behind the juice stands. She would take care of Bash. Bash sat still while she worked on his head for about half an hour. He wanted pictures of the progress as she worked. I obliged to keep him occupied. It would suck if he changed his mind halfway through. He was a trooper. Swedie paid them D300 (60kr/$7). It was probably the easiest money they would make all day. It was obvious that braiding wasn’t her specialty per se, but we were happy with the results. I couldn’t wait to get home to cut the sides so it would look even more stylish. Now there was more pressure than ever for me to learn how to braid properly.
Lunch was at a place called Reo. They played Salsa and it was called Reo, so I assumed it was a latin-themed restaurant. In truth it was all over the place. The music was 100% latin, the menu had traditional Gambian dishes, pizzas and even milkshakes. There were pool tables and lounge chairs inside. It was like they got all of their favorite restaurant themes and put them all together. We were a group of people that live in Stockholm, so you know damn well we sat outside. The outside dining was nice. It was a warm day, but not too warm. Swedie noticed a beam of sunlight creeping in and took full advantage of it. You can’t take Swedes anywhere.
Amat and I split 1kg of chicken Afra. It’s a dish I had heard about here that is common. We had an order of fried rice and that was enough for the both of us. I tasted everyone’s dishes as well. Everything was good. And they were generous with the portions. Reo had impressed.
Our restless children needed to get out and move. Swedie and I left the group behind so we could walk off some of the terrorizing energy that Bash and Alli apparently regenerate quite regularly. A man in a wheelchair was waiting for tourists at the end of the block. He was selling bird houses. I can’t describe how little interest I have in bird houses, but Swedie thought it may be a good gift for someone. Interestingly the guy didn’t have a price on the bird houses. He asked Swedie how much she wanted to pay for it. How are we supposed to know what the going rate is for a bird house in West Africa? I walked toward a shop next to a hotel. Maybe they had some cool things for good prices.
A young guy came out to greet us. He did not have the energy and friendliness that other people from shops had. He seemed annoyed and interrupted. We perused a bit and asked some prices. Did we step into Stockholm?! They were asking for way too much. Maybe the shirts were cheaper. Dude couldn’t be less bothered. He didn’t care to haggle. He went back to his area.
We went inside where two women were. This was a departure from the smiling coast of Africa. No hello, no welcome. They looked more annoyed than the boy that left us. I guess they were the frowning faces on the smiling coast. I asked about some shirts to the one woman that finally spoke to me. She said wait and then she called the happy boy back in. He showed me a shirt. I thought it may be too big. I tried to joke with him.
- Man, how big do you think I am? Ha… ha
- It fits
He was right. It fit.
- How much?
I looked at Swedie. She gave me the “hell naw” face. I went into haggle mode.
- Ah, that’s too much.
He shrugged and began showing a shirt to another man who had not been greeted by these beaming lights of hospitality. I took the shirt off, folded it up and left.
We walked down the street toward The Craft Market. One guy followed us talking to me. He was likely going to tell me that he can help me with anything I need. I told him I’m leaving tomorrow and he lost interest. I’m getting the hang of this game.
I got stopped by a man carving wood. He was in the process of making some beautiful statues. I made the mistake of making eye contact. The next thing I knew I was holding an unfinished wooden something or other and he was telling me how to get my order. But I didn’t order anything. I needed to get out of this situation.
- Man I have to talk to my wife. She makes the decisions, haha.
He looked at me like this was a foreign concept.
- Bring your wife. I’ll show her the one for family. How many kids do you have?
- Two. I gotta go, man.
- Two kids! I have one that represent all four of your family. Unity. It’s beautiful.
- I bet, but I gotta go.
- So I make for you?
- No. Don’t make it for me. I’ll come back. I gotta go talk to my wife.
I damn near ran to Swedie. She was calmly looking at some wicker containers. Something she could put jewelry in. Cute. Peaceful conversation. She didn’t have the panic in her eye that I get. How does she do this.
- Come talk to me!
A woman was leading me by the arm. Ah, shirts. I didn’t want to get something too flashy. I needed to work my way into this African attire thing. I don’t want to look like that guy that just got back from Africa when that’s exactly what I would be. No loud greens and reds. Something subtle would do. I found a nice shirt. Black, grey and white. The fabric had a nice, glossy finish to it. This was the one.
- How much is this?
- How much do you want to pay?
Oh shit. My pulse increased. My mind raced. I had no fucking clue what was a fair price. Swedie had shaken her head to 800 at the rude shop. I have to go lower than that. But not too low. I don’t want to be rude. It is a nice shirt. I wanted to check with Swedie.
- Hey, how much should I pay for this?
She grabbed me and smiled.
- No, you and me are talking now. How much you want to pay?
- Well… 800 is too much
- 800 is good for this!
I really suck at haggling. I did the quick math. That’s 160kr. I wouldn’t pay 160 kronor for this in Stockholm. But it wouldn’t be crazy to pay that for this shirt. I wanted to go home. This kidnapper wasn’t going to let me off that easy.
- I can do 750
She sucked her teeth and said 700 was as low as she could go. I told her that first they need to fix the seam on the pocket. I can’t pay top dalasi for a shirt that needs maintenance. She told me that’s a quick fix. I told her I need to get the money from my wife. I wouldn’t have minded running full speed to Banjul International Airport right then and there.
Swedie said “hell no” to 700 for the shirt. She shook her head slower than I had ever seen a human head shake before. How could I disappoint her so much? I should be good at haggling. She pushed D500 into my hand and said that’s all I’m going to get for that shirt. I was glad I didn’t have any money of my own.
I went back to my owner with the 500. She was right, the seam was already fixed.
- All I have is 500.
- You said 700 and I fixed it.
- I’m sorry that’s all I have.
I showed her the cash. I remembered my dad telling me that showing the cash is a power move. They don’t want to let that walk out of the room. She grabbed the money and reluctantly gave me the shirt. I felt dirty somehow. Haggling was really not for me. It would be easier if there was a base price to go off of. I didn’t know where to start or how to finish with grace. I guess technically I won this transaction, but I’m sure she made a decent profit. It would seem everybody won. I got my nice shirt and she made a profit off of it. But somehow it felt like everybody lost. We walked out of the market and I let Swedie negotiate a price for the taxi ride home. Of course she got a good deal for us.
This was our last night in The Gambia. I got to get to know the place a little bit better. The more I know about The Gambia, the more I want to come back. The coastal vibe really charmed me. Even though I learned I haggle terribly.
We had to see one last sunset before we left. We went down to the beach and I let Bash bury me in the sand. He thought it was fun. Some local boys came and changed the mood by hanging around us and making it awkward. I guess they wanted to see what was going on with the strange tourists digging a crater in the sand. They eventually helped Bash bury me, then lingered about. I didn’t know what the deal was. Sandra took the kids up to the rest of the groups when the oldest finally said what they were waiting for.
- A little something for the boys?
- I’m sorry, I don’t have any money.
It was true. I had just come out of the water. Where would I be keeping cash? The money in our room was for the staff tomorrow. They had helped us with way more than just burying me in the sand. Sorry fellas. I wish I could help out. This was just what I needed. One more awkward interaction to round out the day. I went up to the safety of our beach and watched the sunset. There were clouds but it was still beautiful. Im going to really miss this place. Until next time…