Squirting Milk at Chameleons: An Accidental African
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The tale of an Englishman making a life for himself in Senegal
Khady pulled out a breast and with a deadly aim fired milk at the chameleon. "If I don't offer it milk, our son will grow up to look like a lizard," she explained. Clearly I had a lot to learn about life in Africa.
On the cusp of middle age, Simon Fenton leaves Britain in search of adventure and finds Senegal, love, fatherhood, witch doctors—and a piece of land that could make a perfect guest house, if only he knew how to build one. The Casamance is an undiscovered paradise here mystic Africa governs life, people walk to the beat of the djembe, when it rains it pours, and the mangoes are free. But the fact that his name translates to "vampire" and he has had a curse placed on him via the medium of eggs could mean Simon’s new life may not be so easy.
go and pay the road tax. I walked to a different office and joined a brand new queue. Tick-tock. By now, most people had been in a similar position to me for two or three days and tempers were short. There was a scrum of people around the window of the tax office and people kept trying to push in. I showed no emotion and no sign of impatience, my strategy for the past three days. I knew that if I showed frustration I’d be made to wait twice as long. I chatted to Ousman, a water-filter sales
case. To my surprise the chief was angry and phoned up the police officer, demanding he return my license and let me pass. The gendarme stared at the floor as he passed it back to me very grumpily. It was not much consolation, but as I drove through the town where this occurred, Bignona, I realised what a thoroughly depressing and soul-destroying place it is, and that this is the gendarmes’ home. It’s a one-horse town that reminds me of so many others throughout Africa and Asia. Lads in rags and
rucksack on a small cart towed by a donkey, jumped on after it and off we trotted, up to the bus station, from where I took a geli-geli (minibus) to Banjul airport. Along the way, we were pulled over by the police and a man in a green safari suit sporting a magnificent Afro. He turned to the police officer stating “this is a perfect example of an environmental hazard,” before telling the driver of the geli-geli he would not inconvenience the passengers, but that he must report straight to the
home but before I’d travelled a further mile there was a big bang, a puff of smoke and the engine seized. The car skidded to a stop in about half a second. I sat, shaken and whiplashed. Midnight, pitch black on an African country road. At least it hadn’t happened in the jungle. I searched for my phone but couldn’t find it. (The next day I discovered it slid beneath the passenger seat.) I stumbled my way back to the nearest house in pitch blackness (the torch is on the phone) and a man there
societies themselves, from organisations such as Tostan, which sends trained Senegalese women into remote villages to discuss and to engage people in debate with an ultimate aim to end the practice. Organisations such as this have led to the abandonment of the practice in 5,000 communities, and Tostan is aiming for Senegal to become the first African nation to completely abandon FGM. Fatou, Khady’s sister, wishes her three daughters to go through the ceremony. When I expressed disapproval she