Jon Does Gambia: Day 2: "Beach Fun & First Time in Town"

Bash rode a horse on the beach

Bash rode a horse on the beach

I didn’t know what to expect when I came here, but it wasn’t this! I woke up in a nice room and walked out onto my balcony to listen to ocean waves crash into the shore. It’s amazing every single time. The plan for the day was to go to the beach at some time and make sure to go into town. Going into town was important to me in order to keep from being too touristy. I didn’t come all this way to sit up in the resort. I wanted to see what’s going on outside of the tourist bubble.

First things first… breakfast. Breakfast is on the house so I won’t miss that not one damn day. They said they start at 7. Well the Rollins family was in the dining area at 6:56. That was partly because Bash and Alli don’t believe in the concept of kindness or vacation. They woke up at 5:15 with the energy of meth heads. One of Bash’s besties happens to be on this trip. It’s great to see the two of them together. They’re such good friends to each other. Bash was excited to have breakfast with his friend. I was excited that someone would be here to intercept this tornado of a child. He couldn’t get here soon enough.

I had heard that they make omelettes to order. That was all they had to say. I saw the eggs and frying pans. Bam, let’s get cracking. I told the host I wanted an omelette.

- You want an omelette? Let me get him.

What? Get who? The guy walked down the stairs. I heard some rhythmic music playing faintly. Then I heard him banging on the door. He yelled something through the door in a language I presume to be Wolof. Wow, the omelette dude was asleep! This is great. I had heard about “Africa Time” (CPT in the US), but to experience it IN AFRICA was a trip. I went to check out the rest of the spread while I waited for homeboy to get the omelettes ready. They had fresh breads, jams, yogurts, cheeses, cold cuts, juices and more. I was going to enjoy these breakfasts. I found out later that they make crepes to order as well. Good to know. The omelette guy was worth the wait. He made me two large and delicious omelettes with everything on it. It was fantastic.

Swedie had decided we were going to the beach today. I’m not the biggest beach fan, but it would be great for us and the kids. I really wanted to get off the resort, but that would come in time. Bash was all about it. He ran out to the water without a care in the world. Unbeknownst to us, Bash had decided that there was nothing we could do to get him to do what we ask him to do today. Nothing. I get it, he is excited, but jeez. We had to ask him to do things five times before we even got a response. This is too foreign to me. I never acted out like this (especially in public) in fear that my life would end on that day. I can’t put that type of fear in Bash because I’ll never follow up on any threats of physicality. This is going to be tough. I can’t get his little four-year-old brain to understand that if you don’t listen to Mommy and Daddy then something bad can happen to you. Listening is for your own safety and survival. Don’t wander off into the street without telling anyone. Please… Nothing.

At one point Bash ran down to the water without floaties on. I asked him to get back up to the group and get floaties because it’s dangerous. I wondered what threat was feasible. Then I realized that the thing he wanted most was the thing he was doing while disobeying me! All he had to do was continue to disobey me in order to be happy. Now what? An image of my mother dressed as Cealy in “The Color Purple” popped in my head.

- Beat him.

I would never do that. I tried to grab him. He ran. I fantasized about staging a kidnapping. Like actually paying someone to grab him and run off with him. Not far but just far enough to scare him into never leaving my side again. I don’t know how legal that is, but I think it’s worth a shot. Enough of the fantasy, I had to get him from by the ocean without floaties. Chasing a kid is the worst. You don’t really want to run because then you look like a loser of a parent that has no control over your child. And even worse you risk being out-run or out-manoeuvred by a child. What do you do then? Yell something mean and walk off?

- I HOPE YOU GET ABDUCTED FOR REAL!

That wasn’t an option. So I pretended not to give chase, then I took two quick steps and grabbed Bash up with more sternness than I ever have. He was surprised and a bit scared. I kept my grip firm and chastized him. Then I told him that he would have to sit up at the top of the beach where Mommy is tanning. I felt this was effective. Of course when I got there Alli was waiting with a full diaper.

Alli on the beach.jpg

I brought Alli in to change her real quick. I pride myself on efficiency and time management. I’d be back in no time.

I made her laugh and then lay her on the changing pad. Swedie had said she pooped through the diaper but it would still be a breeze. I began quickly removing her bathing suit when I noticed there was poop up around the neckline. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me! How hard of a shart?…

I slowly pulled the suit off and then then the diaper. I won’t get too descriptive, but I’ll just say this was a direct-to-shower situation. Of course Alli wasn’t liking this. I ran her little poopy tail into the shower and rinsed her off as quickly as I could. She matched my quickness with her loudness. We both achieved our goals in this moment. I hand-washed her suit and the changing pad, then hung them to dry. This quick change had turned into a 20 minute task. At least Alli wasn’t screaming anymore. I had found a way to upset 100% of my children on beach day. Imagine that!

When we got back I answered Swedie’s “what took you so long” look with a “don’t even fucking start with me” look of my own. She returned a “Oh I get it, it’ll be alright honey” to which I nodded in agreement.

Swedie suggested that maybe I needed to relax and have a drink. Good call. I got a nice cocktail and kicked it with my friends a bit. Then a white horse rode in out of nowhere. Insane. One of the homies was like:

- Oh I’m riding that.

Bash on a horse.jpg

The guy brought over the horse and told us we could get a short ride for 150 dalasi (30kr). Shit, that’s the same as plastic disposal at the airport! Of course, in true Stockholm fashion, my homie had a mini photo shoot on the horse before riding off. I felt the need to show Bash that Daddy is still fun. I asked him did he want to ride. He said yes before I said “want”. Cool. I got the 200 ready (yeah I’m ballin out here!) and waited with Bash.

Bash was so cool with the horse. He didn’t seem scared of the animal and he let the guy put him right up there on Junior. We found out that Junior is 10 years old and that his trainer had been taking care of him for 7 years. I wanted to ask even more questions, but I felt too invasive. This guy has spent most of the last 7 years of his life walking the beach with Junior the horse. It is fascinating to me.

Bash wanted to show off as we got closer to the group.

- I want to go fast!

The trainer obliged and gave a call to Junior who picked up the pace to half of a gallop. Bash rode back in in style.

Amat swung by to see if I wanted to go to the supermarket in town.

- HELL YEAH!

That’s what I’ve been wanting to do all day. Amat knows me well enough to know that I need a heads up before any long walks. It’s not my thing. I am aware that cars, buses, trains and bikes exist, so “a nice walk” is never that appealing. He told me we were in for a 15 minute walk. Cool. I just want to get out there and see my peoples. Well… you get what I mean.

We walked off of the resort property and declined 18 taxi ride offers. Don’t they get it. We’re WALKING. In The Gambia! We walked and talked. It was really nice. I even got hit on by a passerby. It turns out I’m a “handsome man”. Thank you, lady in stripes.

Mrs Butterworth.jpg

We stopped at a bar and had a beer. We chatted and drank. We pondered how much longer this 15 minute walk would be. Neither of us knew exactly where this market was. We discussed what we thought would be helpful in this country and Amat explained what he considered to be obstacles for “common-sense solutions”. I was glad that I joined Amat on this trip to the supermarket. We had a good and personal conversation.

Walking through the market was a trip. Fun fact: plastic bags are banned in The Gambia. They pack your stuff in cloth sacks if needed. They had an interesting snack selection and some American products that you can’t even find in Sweden! Hello Famous Amos cookies! You know I bought a few packs. Mrs Butterworth was sitting there looking all good and high fructosily delicious. They had the American AND Swedish versions of Frosted Flakes (hi Frosties) side by side. I didn’t know where to start.

Get dem Dalasi.jpg

They didn’t have beer, so we got snacks and then headed to the spot with beer. We stocked up there. The beers I bought were less than a dollar (US) each. Insane! I got Amat a Nestle Crunch bar since he’d never had one before (how?). We made our way back to town. Most of the trip back was us talking about plans for this trip and possible future destinations as well as laughing at the street signs.

Some are about wiring money. Some are about elections. Some are about wrongs the previous dictator did. I feel like I learned so much on this walk alone.

We got back in time for dinner. I was ready to grub! Dinners at the hotel have been so-so. Decent, but nothing to write home about. I look forward to checking out some restaurants in town. I have a feeling the food here at the hotel is targeting tourists.

I ate a delicious fried rice dish and it was time to go to bed. The beach combined with the supermarket mission had a brotha tired. I went in to prepare to go to sleep when Bash came in hysterical. Apparently he had been ignoring Swedie and Amat scolded him (it takes a village). Bash got embarrassed. We all knew he was just tired. He begged me to tell Amat that he had made him sad. What?

- You can tell him yourself.

I brought Bash out to talk to Amat so he understood that it’s not cool (even to your “cool” godfather) to not listen to your mother. We don’t play that shit in this village.

Amat was nice and explained why he corrected Bash. They hugged and made up. To me, moments like this is what this trip is all about. Those of us with children out here have them here with our friends and we all look out for each other. It’s good to know that we’ve all got each other’s backs and are concerned about the well-being of each family.

Bash didn’t look at it like I did. His tiredness was getting the best of him. He was sobbing almost uncontrollably. He had more to say to Amat. I saw through this. He just didn’t want to go to bed. I suggested we take a quick walk so he could wind down.

Bash was quiet by the time we got to the beach exit of the resort. Some men were at the exit drinking tea and talking. I saw what appeared to be a bonfire burning down by the water. People were gathering around it. I asked what was going on. Apparently whenever someone wants to celebrate something, that person tells their friends and they get everyone to come down to congregate around a bonfire. They get some drummers and celebrate together. On this night a guy wanted to celebrate his girlfriend’s birthday. The party would kick off at 10pm. It was now about 8:30. Bash wouldn’t make it to 10. I asked if we could join the locals and the guy said it would be no problem. I went to the room and got shoes for Bash.

The guy who brought us down to the bonfire is known as “Juice King”. He makes fruit juice drinks down by the beach. Juice King was very kind, lighting our path with his small LED light. We passed a group of young folks sitting in beach chairs in the dark. They said hello. Everyone here says hello. The drums got stronger as we got closer. I couldn’t believe my luck. Last night the drummers were booked by the resort. Tonight was some real local Gambian tradition I was going to sit in on.

We walked up and smiled at the drummers. Someone brought a chair for us to sit in directly beside the band. People were starting to arrive to listen to the music. They chanted some lyrics. Some of the young girls giggled embarrassed that that were unsure of the words. Bash was loving it all. I kept checking on him to see if he was asleep. He curled up in my lap and bobbed his head to the music.

Then one guy walked to the middle of the circle with a drink in hand. He seemed a bit intoxicated. He danced a quick bit and then gave one of the drummers a high five. As if on cue, the teenage girls came out into the middle of the circle and began to dance. They shook and stomped. As if hating, one of them kicked sand on another girl. It was high school-ish showmanship and jealousy on display. So fun. Eventually the girls took a seat again and the drums continued.

A guy named Alex came up to me. He had sold Swedie some juice earlier. He asked if I like the drum. I told him how much I love it. I told him how much fun I was having and how much I was looking forward to the rest of this vacation. He was glad that I liked his country. Bash was all but asleep. I told him it was time to go. Then asked if he wanted to dance beforehand. He nodded. Then he jumped up and walked to the center of the circle. He did his little shuffle from the night before. Then he ran over to me and asked me to dance. I did not want to dance. I felt like any attempts that my newly white ass made to dance would only be taken as pandering or mockery. I was in my own head.

- Not tonight, Bash. You dance. Dance like you did last night.

- I want you to dance.

I thought about it for a second longer. Then Alex jumped in and offered his pointer fingers.

- Come dance with me.

Alex and Bash danced by the fire. The other young people joined in. It was beautiful. I wish I had not been so hesitant. I love to dance and I would have never forgotten that time I danced by the fire with my son. This was nice, though. Bash was having another lovely night with another group of lovely people. I had what I’m sure was a ridiculous smile on my face. My happiness was in full overload. Bash trotted over to me with a serious and sleepy look on his face. He was content and exhausted. He curled into my arms again and I carried him away. I looked back at Alex and the other locals as they added palm leaves to the fire that doubled in size. This was easily one of the best nights of my life. I stood there and took it in so that I would never forget it. This day was a lot. Until next time…