I realise I should do more posts about my everyday life, or there is a danger that my readers think I spend my whole time looking at Bissauan islands, Chadian deserts and Congolese rivers… Some of you probably also think I live in a big villa with a swimming pool, which is equally far from the truth.
In fact I work pretty hard. I’m drafting this on a Sunday afternoon and have already done three hours of work today. So OK, as today is probably a fairly typical non-travelling Sunday, I will share it with you.
As usual I woke early, as the first call to prayer comes before 6am. The nearest mosque is a few blocks away, but they all broadcast their prayers pretty loudly and can’t really be escaped if you live in town. I could also hear my guard saying his prayers outside the window, and then just after 7am I heard him lock the gate behind him as he finished his shift; I persuaded the office long ago that I can do without daytime guards at the weekend.
Unable to go back to sleep I got up and showered and dressed. Trousers as usual, as some protection against stray mosquitoes in the house. Breakfast was porridge with a chopped up banana stirred in. Porridge brought back from my last trip to the UK – oats are not grown at this latitude so they are imported and therefore expensive here, also they are not part of the typical French diet and so a bit hard to track down. A banana because it’s about the only affordable fruit here that goes with porridge. In summer/autumn I get very nostalgic about the plums/peaches/nectarines/berries of the UK – they are sometimes available here, but expensive and always disappointing. I think they pick them before they are ripe in order to get them here undamaged, as they never seem to have any flavour – I’ve given up wasting money on them.
I had a glass of fruit juice with it too. Another thing that is not that easy to buy here, as the Senegalese tend to like sugar added to their fruit juice – even those labelled as ‘100% natural’ often have sugar lurking in them.
After three hours or so of work, I noticed it was after midday, which is when the sun comes round to the little enclosed area beside my house. Most Sundays I lie in the sun, sometimes for a couple of hours until the shade moves round, but often the heat drives me back indoors first. Even today, with a strong gusty wind, there was only an occasional light breeze that made it around the corner to my little suntrap.
But the rest of my garden/yard is overlooked, and it wouldn’t be acceptable in this conservative Moslem country to lie out in a bikini in view of the neighbours, so I have to make do with this airless bit of concrete between the washing machine and the guards’ toilet.
I listened to my iPod while I was out there – on the old stuff today, starting with Donna Summer, then Elvis Costello and finally a bit of the Doors. I mostly listen to African music (I have an enormous collection of it) but wanted a change today.
Lunch was a jam sandwich! Sometimes I have a salad, but often make do with the quick and easy sandwich. Not an English-style sandwich though – here the bread comes in baguettes, and the jam was made from mangoes that had fallen from my trees more quickly than I could eat them.
After doing nothing much for an hour or so while my lunch went down I went for a swim at the Olympic Pool. It’s ten minutes’ walk from my house, and only a $4 entrance fee, so a great amenity to live near, although being olympic-sized the water can get quite cool (too cold for me) as we get into the Senegalese ‘winter’. Today it was still warm enough, just an initial gasp as I got in. The wind made the water quite choppy, and probably was the reason why there were only seven of us there: me, two American women, three Chinese men and a Frenchman. The Senegalese stop going once the water temperature falls below about 30°C.
I did twenty lengths, then stood in the sun (and wind) for a few minutes to dry off before putting clothes back on over my bikini – the changing rooms are badly lit and smell of urine – and wandering home feeling virtuous!
Another hour’s work, then some personal ‘admin’: editing a few photos, adding a couple of CDs to my iTunes library, and now drafting this post. Dinner will be a mix of onion, garlic, cumin, tomatoes, pumpkin and rice, all stewed up together, with a few stoned black olives thrown in. I don’t eat meat at home, and rarely even eat fish, as there tend to be so few vegetables or salads available when I’m travelling that I usually come home with a craving for them. There’s an element of laziness in there too, as I find vegetable dishes (or at least the type I eat) generally quicker and easier to cook than meat. I may have a glass of sangria with it – they sell it by the litre carton here and it’s easier to store than wine, which sometimes goes off in the heat.
Finally I’ll either listen to the BBC World Service or read a chapter or two of a book – probably the one I’ve started on my Kindle, as with the little reading light I have in the cover I find it more convenient than a physical book, easier to find a comfortable perch somewhere (whether in bed or lying on the settee) without worrying about getting enough light to read by.
You will have noticed the solitude. I spoke to the cashier at the pool, and said good evening to my guard when he turned up at 7pm, but otherwise saw no-one all day. & that is how I like my Sundays.