"The body is the harp of the soul. It is yours to bring forth from it sweet music or confused sounds" Kahlil Gibran

Thursday, April 28, 2011

WMD - Weapons of Mass Diarrhea

I am still visiting my village family and it is a true joy, but I think I will intersperse humor with serious things.

My little sister Bosay offering me a WMD. One that she has partially munched : )

(my1000 things list) Experiences of culture that Americans must hear about, both serious and funny:

1. Perhaps 90% of women here have no pleasure during sex.  Essentially, most women here have a ceremony at an early age similar to the coming of age manhood circumcision ceremonies.  Some practice partial circumcision where just the clitoris is removed, others have the entire outer labia removed.  This is a practice that men from the outside like me do not get to hear much about, but my good friend Ian who has been here for almost three years has written a little on FGM- Female Genital Mutilation and has put some light on to this negative and oppressive practice. 

Fatu and Malik attempting to retrieve a ripe mango from our family's tree that I often sit under.
2.  Mangos = WMDs Weapons of Mass Diarrhea.  With the arrival of mango season, everyone can eat all the mangos they can dream of. But… take your average Gambian who eats practically no fiber between rice, fish, and the occasional boiled onion and then feed them 5-10 fiber loaded mangos a day and….well you get the idea.  The mangos here are wonderful here in fragrance and taste every one is a true joy.

One of the many jellys to wash on shore
3.  Bobbing in the ocean on a deserted African beach with friends you haven’t seen in months.  This Easter weekend, I had a wonderful time vacationing down to Yundum and Gunjur to spend time with friends who were celebrating both easter and a birthday. I had the most wonderful time easting an easter meal, holding and petting the rabbits which were available in large quantities from the homes I visited, and journeying to a deserted beach to relax and swim.  Jellyfish are now starting to abound though
4. Defending yourself in a language that sounds like Klingon.  Yes, the deep H sounds give you a sound like you are hacking in your throat and the short syllabic vowels sound like I am about to return fire on Captain Kirk, but usually I am telling bumpsters, hustlers, scammers, and merchants that they are trying to steal, swindle, or overcharge me and that I know what is up.  My best example was a tirade that I responded with when someone came to a crowded van and after asking for money from everyone looked at me and in a condescending tone said hey tubob.  Before he said another word I challenged him to a Kilngon duel.  “Bul ma def tubob.  Yow fognga tubob yip amna halis bubuddi wy yow hammullo. Yow hammullo ma. Balla ma wy duma la jox dara.” Which translates to, “don’t white skin me.  You think all tubobs have tons of money, but you don’t know.  You don’t know me.  Forgive me, I will not give you anything.”  This ended the battle immediately, it is hard to explain how responses like this come about, but I think it is an overflow of frustration of being thought of as rich and ignorant 24/7 and then having to be prepared constantly to defend myself.

Final example, the other day a seemingly well meaning man comes up to me and says it is good to see me again, and asks me how I am doing.  I look sheepishly because I am constantly forgetting all of the hundreds of people I meet.  He sees this and asks “Oh, you don’t remember me?  How is the hotel?” Such anger came to me in that moment wondering how many tourists he catches with that line.  I am often tired of the continual cultural isolation and lack of intimacy that comes with white skin here.  I simply shook my head, looked at him and said in Wolof “You don’t know me!” and walked away. 

A local Cashew farmer with a knock off Obama hat
5. Obama Obsession.  It is hard to explain the love for Barack Obama here.  There is a certain love and passion here that drives a healthy part of the economy.  Obama bags, fabric, hats. rugs, skirts, and even a new brand green tea with a picture of the continent of Africa and then in big letters OBAMA over it.  I have seen so many logos and pictures of him on knock off merchandise I know just find it creative to see where his name or face will show up next.

A five day old baby goat near my family's house.
6. Cruelty towards animals.  Please look at and read another post here by Ian, but the way they treat animals is horrible here, and shows a lack of empathy in realizing suffering outside the human race. http://ousmancham.blogspot.com/2011/04/why-are-gambians-cruel-to-animals.html

7. Dancing to lady playing a large hollow gourd like drum with shotgun shells on her fingers.  Absolutely magical.  I have a video of this dance that I am trying to upload.

8. The love and affection the mothers show their children here.

9. Polygamy.  I have had many answers to this question from the attempt at a rational explanation.  There is a belief here that there are far more women than men in the world because that is the natural birth rate.  Really there are more women than men here because many men leave to try and work in the city or abroad.  But another good report has been given by Ian who spent much of his time upcountry. 

10. Feeling at home in Africa.  After almost four months.  Countless hours studying language and culture, assembling my house, learning about cashews, and making friends both foreign and domestic, this place finally feels like home.  I went on trek again last week.  I danced and made many connections with local cashew farmers.  I am finally starting to work in a meaningful way. Also, my body has finally adjusted to the chemistry of the local water. 

Thank you for reading; I am trying to bring more enlightening posts to you about the culture of West Africa.  My friend Ian is leaving the Gambia soon after three years of hard work, please read his posts (above) as he has much knowledge on these difficult subjects.

Thank You,
Alexander Kent 


  1. Xander! So awesome. I love reading your posts and am so glad to hear you are beginning to feel at home even if there are cultural elements that pose challenges. Much love to you from Colorado!

  2. Xander, keep fighting for justice and mutual understanding. Way to go. You are incredible.


  3. Xander, I really appreciate you blogging on the whole gamut of life from food to gender inequality. Keep posting those pictures and videos, too. It puts me in your shoes like I'm back in the middle of that dance circle in Africa!

  4. Landed here from a Google search. Just want to say that your little sister, Bosay, is incredibly cute and adorable!