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Monday, November 05, 2012

Countdown To Poverty


"I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.”

--Henry Miller


It's been awhile since I've been blogging here. If you want more of me, you can read my more controversial and political blog at: mykelsblog.blogspot.com.



As for this one, it's been almost 3 months. It always happens. When I'm in a place... when I've just returned.. the urge to write overpowers me. It guides my hands... forces me to sit, ignore the email, amazon, the new postings on teensnow.com.



Then, like in a midnight rendezvous when the beer goggles fall off... the urge leaves. It's a struggle to begin. The dirty dishes in the kitchen sink call to me. Those pictures from the family album that haven't been scanned climb out of their boxes and present themselves. Want to see what else gets in the way of writing?
 
 
 
And then a hurricane! Lights out for 4 days. I'm now writing at work, waiting for classes to begin. I had to walk. … 40 blocks... now, nothing to do but write.


Before we go on, I need to explain taxis here in The Gambia. There is little real public transportation here. A few buses travel on irregular schedules... along one or two main roads. That's it. Everything else is TAXIS.
 
There are two types of taxis. One is a personal taxi, sometimes called a tourist taxi. These are like New York taxis. The price varies by distance but is the same for one person or five people. You find tourist taxis mainly in tourist areas. They're expensive, but can be negotiated. Sometimes you can hire a bush taxi (see below) as a tourist taxi... especially late at night.


The other kind of taxi, called a BUSH TAXI, runs like a bus. There is a fixed fare PER PERSON. The taxi takes a regular route and passengers tell the driver where they want to get off. Drivers can-- and usually do-- pick up new passengers anywhere along the route.


To hail a Bush Taxi, you stand by the side of the road and look like you're looking for a taxi. Taxis pass by with open windows. You shout the name of your destination to the driver. If that's where he's going... and he has space... he stops and you get in. If not, he just keeps on driving. Locals often take two... sometimes three... Bush Taxis to complete a journey.


There are no meters. The BUSH taxis have a set price-- per person. Late at night they charge more and you have to negotiate the price.


That out of the way, where was I in my adventure? Oh yes. I've been staying with Malick who, though offering me “free accommodations” seemed to always be asking for money, or getting in a cab expecting me to pay for two. When I complain, he answers, “Come on Mykel, be yourself.”


It's after the beach party where Malick convinced me to pay big bucks to support a picnic to “encourage couch-surfing solidarity in The Gambia.” The beach was fun, but it cost a bundle... and though there were girls-- dancing next to us,even-- they didn't talk to us.


One of the sad things I learned about Gambian (and Senegalese) culture, is that single guys and gals do not socially mix. Or so it seems to me. It's too bad, because so many of the girls are so beautiful... You could die looking at 'em!





Between the bar and the various taxis. I'm beginning to run low on cash. It's time to hit a bank...Malick tells me there's no bank in town with an ATM machine. He knows where there's one in the capital, though. He'll show me. He also has to bring some food for his friend who owns a market stall. As long as I'm going to take a taxi...

I pay for a cab for the two of us and we go to Banjul to find an ATM. Malick leaves me in front of a bank and goes of to “take care of some business.” I head for the cash machine.

I remember the days when I carried traveler's checks everywhere. What a pain that was. First you had to pay for them. Then half the banks wouldn't cash them. When you finally found a bank that knew what they were, they hit you with a fee higher than what you paid to buy the checks in the first place. Now, I just slip my card into the slot and... CARD NOT VALID

I try another bank. Ahead of me an older gentleman in a tie
leaves the ATM booth. He's shaking his head.

It's not working,” he tells me.

I had trouble at another bank,” I say, “do you think it could be the whole system.”

He shrugs. I try the machine he just left. SORRY. UNABLE TO COMPLETE TRANSACTION

Again. And Again. Another machine. Another error sign. Then I see it: the sign above the machine. VISA ONLY. I check my bankcard... MasterCARD. Another machine... VISA. THEY'RE ALL VISA!

I have about 1200D (about $40) left... and a week to go in the country. I don't think I can make it... especially if I have to pay for two.

Ah, here's a machine that doesn't say VISA. I walk into the vestibule to try it. I enter, insert, and pull out my card. The door to the vestibule opens. A big guy enters. He wears a gray sweater and what looks like Ralph Kramden's bus driver's hat. He says nothing, but takes my arm and pulls me out of the vestibule. He doesn't speak. He motions with his hand to the line outside, maybe 30 people... maybe more... waiting to get in.

Sorry,” I say, “I didn't see the line.”

He grunts.

Nothing works. I don't know what to do. I'll have to hitchhike back to Senegal... or beg on the street... or... I don't know. I panic. I can't think straight. I hail a taxi... back to Sukuta and Malick for 100D. I'm desperate. I have maybe 500D left. I'll talk to him and if he's got no ideas, I'll go to the embassy. I'm an American citizen. They've got to help me, right? They can't let me die on the street, right? Right?

Relax Mykel,” says Malick when I get back. “Be yourself.”

I am myself,” I tell him, “and that self is nearly broke.”

He laughs.

I think I know some place,” he says. “It's in Senegambia. A bank near the hotels. Let's take a cab.”

Another 100 Dalasis. First to a bank on the main street on the way to Senegambia. Nothin' doing! Then to the hotel. No dice.

I heard there's a bank on Sukuta street,” says the receptionist. “I'm sure they can change MasterCard.”

We're off. Another taxi. We arrive just as it's closing. A big burly guard, looking much like big burly guards everywhere, is putting the CLOSED sign in the window as we arrive.

Malick speaks. “Can't we just go in for a minute?” he asks. “It's an emergency.”

We're closed,” says the guard, “people have to go home.”

Please, it'll only take a minute,” he says.

Someone comes to the door. They speak Mandinka. I don't understand a word.

There's another bank that's open,” says Malick. “The guy told me where.”

They're just trying to get rid of you,” I say. “There's no one who'll take the card. We're just on a wild goose chase.”

Be yourself,” says Malick.

I'm telling you, we have to get to the embassy,” I tell him. “No one will take Mastercard. They're just sending you away.”
Malick shrugs. We take a taxi to another bank. It's got a machine in front of it. Over the machine is a sign.
 
We get in another cab. I've got about 300 Dalasis left. That's around $10. The cabride costs us 100D.

The American embassy is a big building behind a decorative hard-to-climb fence. There is a palm tree on the grounds and a gate with a guard house just inside.

Outside the gate, is what looks like a British-- or Japanese-- police box. There is a window in the police box. A man in an official-looking uniform is inside. He is doing something on a cellphone. I walk up to him and hand him my passport.

I need to see someone at the embassy,” I say.

You can call and make an appointment,” he tells me.

It's an emergency,” I tell him. “I need to see someone now.”
He looks at me and matches my passport picture to my face. Then he gets out of the box and opens the gate.

Just inside the gate is the guardhouse. Inside that guardhouse is a second guard. I show my passport to this guard, a short man with a little mustache and a blue uniform trimmed in red and white stripes. There is an American flag patch sewn onto his right sleeve.

I have an emergency,” I tell him. “I'm an American citizen and I ran out of money.”

His eyebrows lower. He makes a sucking sound, pursing his lips.

Hold on,” he says, “I'll call.”

He notices Malick standing by the door.

What do you want?” he asks, in an even less friendly tone than he spoke to me.

He's here with me,” I say. “He's my friend.”

He can't come into the embassy,” says the guard, motioning with his hand like he's brushing off a fly. “He'll have to wait outside.”

Malick leaves. The guard picks up a phone and speaks into it. I'd tell you what he said, but it was Mandinka, I think.

Then, the guard speaks to me in English. “You'll need to leave your camera and cellphone here. You can't take anything like that inside.”

I give him my camera and phone. He puts them in a storage bin... like those open bins behind the department store counters where you have to check your bags before you enter. Only in the classiest places, of course.

In a few minutes a woman comes down to meet me. She introduces herself, but I can't remember her name or title. She is dressed in woman's professional (not THAT kind of professional), a red suit, white scarf, and a Hillary Clinton haircut. She is not the ambassador, but I don't know that at the time.
(I later check the website http://banjul.usembassy.gov/ for a picture of the Ambassador. I wonder how much you have to donate to a presidential campaign to be the Ambassador to The Gambia. I also wonder why he's white. Is Obama pandering?)
 
After we shake hands, the professional woman sits in a chair in the guardhouse and motions for me to take the next seat.


Now how can I help you?” she asks.

 
I'm in terrible trouble,” I tell her. “I've been using my money here. I came here from Senegal and changed the money at the border. It hasn't gone as far as I thought it would.”


She chuckles.
 
I chuckle.

“I have less than 300 Dalasi left,” I tell her. “I went to the bank to get money... several banks actually. They only take the Visa card. I have American Express and MasterCard. I'm stranded, with no money. I can give you a credit card as collateral, but I need some cash.


She looks at me and smiles the way you might smile at a child saying What Afikomen? I don't know what you mean, Afikomen? That's not the kind of thing we can take care of here,” she says. “But come into the embassy and I'll take a report and see what I can do for you.”


I have a friend here,” I tell her, motioning to the door. “He's local and he'll be better able to answer some questions.”

Bring him in,” she says. “The American Embassy is a welcoming place.”

I call Malick and he joins us

We go through the courtyard and then a labyrinth of halls and stairways. We're in a room with a large American flag jutting out from a gray wall. A photo of Barack Obama is on the wall next to a window that leads to the next room. It looks like a bank-teller's window, with thick bullet-proof glass. She motions for Malek and me to sit down. Then she walks around to the other room and faces me through the window. She speaks through a microphone on the other side.

Now, Mykel,” she says, “where are you from?”

I'm from New York,” I tell her.

And what brings you here to Gambia?” she asks.

Hmmm, she doesn't say THE Gambia, I wonder why. A new bit of political correctness I don't know about? A slip up? An organic language change? I don't ask.

It's my first trip to Africa,” I tell her. “I was in Senegal, so I thought, ok, why NOT The Gambia.” I use THE. She doesn't notice.

She smiles a “yeah right,” smile and continues the interview through the window. “And where are you staying now?” she asks.

I forget,” I tell her. “I need to ask my friend over there...” I turn to Malick.

Hey Malick,” I ask, “where am I living.”


Sukuta, Mykel,” he answers. “You forget very quickly.”

Sukuta!” says the woman, “why that's just like New York.” I don't ask her what she means. Malick laughs.

I'm sure you realize that the embassy can't give you any money,” she says. “We're not a bank.”

Then why the fuck are you talking to me through a teller's window?” I don't ask. “And what am I supposed to live on?”

We do have a list of hotels that take credit cards,” she continues, “I'll print it out for you.”

She types something into the computer on the other side of the window. There is a WIRRR..PITHING WIRRR..PITHING WIRRR..PITHING of a printer spitting out pages.


Most of these hotels will change money,” she tells me.

She hands the sheaf of paper under the window. “That's the best I can do,” she says. “I hope it works out for you.... I'll show you out.”

She disappears from the other side of the window and reappears in our room. Then she tilts her head toward the door, signaling us to stand up and follow her out. I collect my camera and phone at the gate and find myself out on the street with Malick.

I can feel the tears well up.

Mykel,” says Malick, “be yourself. Just keep trying.”

I call one of the numbers, no dice. Another.

Hotel de la coast,” says the British accented voice on the other end.


Hi,” I say, trying to keep it together. “Can you tell me if you give cash advances on US credit cards?”

We sure do,” comes the answer. “And before you ask, no, you don't have to be a guest.”

Great!” I say, “I'll be there as soon as I can. I have a MasterCard from...”

I'm sorry,” says the melodious voice, “we only take Visa.”


I scream into the phone. Melodious voice does not hang up.

There's only one place in all of The Gambia that gives cash for MasterCard,” he says.


Where?” I beg. “Please tell me where.”

At this point the line does not cut off. The phone does not go dead. The voice is not garbled beyond recognition.

 The Kombo Beach Hotel,” comes the answer. “In Senegambia.”

With my last money, Malick and I take a ride to the hotel. We go to the change desk. There is, in fact, someone there, an extremely attractive young woman who is handing out money. I give her my card and watch her swipe it through the machine. There is a ten second wait. The machine does not reject me. It does not beep. It is not out of order.

Yes! Yes! Yes! I get $100 dollars in Dalasi. Right to the bar... ten steps away. What better place for a bar than next to where you change money. I buy a drink for Malick... kiss him. Feel the tension and energy slowly drain into the mug of Julbrew in front of me. I will not die on the street. I am in heaven.

But I realize that I need a break. The tension is too much. My life here is too Mykel Board™. I need a break... some time to be like a normal person... a tourist. Some time in a hotel... a resort even... by the beach. I check the list of resorts the embassy gave me. Ah, here's one that doesn't seem outrageous.... about $75 a day. (I can't believe I'm at the point where $75 a day seems reasonable... but here I am.)


I need the hot water... the peace and quiet... the lack of being hustled for money. I want a place I can get a warm shower, shit in a sit-down toilet, swim at the beach, eat something NOT fish and rice.

Malick,” I tell him. “I want to spend two days at the beach. I'm going to check into a hotel.”


I'll go with you,” he tells me, “I have to bring somethings into town.”


=========================================================


It's always nice to get comments to these entries. Please leave one. You can also cot me on Facebook or at me@mykelboard.com. If I'm traveling, however, I may not be able to answer your email very quickly.


This is the 21st entry of my travel blog for this trip. Here are links to the past entries:


Episode 1 here (Before leaving New York 1)


Episode 2 here (Before leaving New York 2)


Episode 3 here (Before leaving New York 3)


Episode 4 here. (Before leaving New York 4)


Episode 5 here (New York to Paris)


Episode 6 here (Strasbourg Party Time)


Episode 7 here (Ryan Air)


Episode 8 here (Back to Paris)


Episode 9 here (Death in Tangier)


Episode 10 here (Resurrection in Tangier)


Episode 11 here (Monkey Business in Gibraltar)


Episode 12 here (Entering Senegal from the rear)


Episode 13 here (Killing Me Softly)


Episode 14 here (The Road to Dakar)


Episode 15 here (Rags to Riches)


Episode 16 here (Behind Nirvana)


Episode 17 here (The Road to The Gambia)


Episode 18 here (Malick)


Episode 19 here (A Day In The Capital)


Episode 20 here (Beach Blanket Burrs)


Look for me on Facebook and if you're in New York on a Thursday join my friends and me at Drink Club.


--Abaraka!
 





 

Monday, July 09, 2012

Mykel's Africa Blog Chapter 20: Beach Blanket Burrs



When you don't have any money, you might as well spend it.
--Jim Goad

I begin to write this at O'hare airport in Chicago. I've just returned from a 5½-day excursion... a 2-day visit to pal and poet, Sid Yiddish... and a 3 day visit to my undergraduate Alma Mater, Beloit College.

My flight to New York leaves in 3 hours. While I wait, I sit in the airport's Johnny Rockets, having just finished an awful chicken sandwich with more mayonnaise on the meat than bullshit on Fox News. Luckily, I've stocked up on Tums®.

[Note: You think I can get PRODUCT PLACEMENT money for these entries?]

When last we left me in Africa, I had returned to Sukuta and my host Malick. I'm in The Gambia. The day after tomorrow is the COUCH SURFER BEACH PARTY... my fault. A casual remark... I mentioned the couch-surfing group in Senegal. Bang! Malick is right on it.

I'm a promoter, you understand,” he says. “I know how to do this. I'll call. Send texts. Facebook. We'll have a hundred people... more.”

We don't need a hundred people,” I say. “This isn't a club date. It's for couch-surfing. Just a get together on the beach.”

Be yourself,” he says incongruously. “You want this to be a success, you understand. I'll make it a success.”

Uh oh, here it comes.

I know about promotion,” says Malick, “ I put the word out. I sent texts. So many people want to come, you understand. “

I don't think we need a big party. All we need is a few snacks on the beach. Landing (another couch-surfer, and my next host) can cook. He's a chef. There are only four or five couch-surfers here...”

There's this German girl,” he says. “She loves me. She won't stop calling, texting me. I don't get it. I text her back, but she can never meet me. Explain it to me, Mykel. If she likes me, she wouldn't she meet me. If she doesn't like me, she should stop texting. Can you explain it, Mykel?”

I don't get this non-sequetor... unless the woman is a couch-surfer. And how the hell am I supposed to explain it? It must be You're white. She's white. You should know.

I don't know,” I tell him.

Do you think it's because of her boyfriend?” he asks.

That may be a problem,” I say.

He adjusts his white baseball hat... puts it at a perfect angle... the brim exactly over the right eyebrow.

Maybe she'll come to the couch-surfer party. There was another guy, a Polish guy. He was a couch-surfer... then we found out he was a gay...”

I wait for the punchline. It comes, but it's for another joke.

To make this work, we need some money,” says Malick. “We have to buy food and drink for a lot of people. We need to have something to bring people together. So we can enjoy the beach, you understand.”

I have about 1000 Dalasi (about $35) left in my wallet. The bank machines are notoriously unstable in Africa. I may have to go a day or two before I find one that works.

In Senegal,” I tell him, “we just had a dinner. Everybody paid for themselves and we met and had a good time.”

I understand,” says Malick, “and it will be that way here too. But this is a first meeting, you understand. We have to make it nice so people will come back. Later, everyone will take care of himself. You understand. Be yourself!”

How much?” I ask, being direct,

Six-hundred dalasi,” he answers, being as direct.

That's more than half the money I have left.

I fork it over.

On the big day, we go shopping. My six-hundred buys a huge box of frozen chicken. It takes me and one of Malick's many friends to carry it. We go back to Malick's compound to pick up a grill... more like an aluminum box with holes in it and a metal bucket... also with holes. We carry all that plus two enormous jerry jugs of water, and some plastic bottles of red colored sweet drink to the main street. (They expected me to pay for the drink too. I didn't.) After that Malick flags down a pair of taxis. We load 'em up and head for the beach. Landing joins us in the beach parking lot as do assorted friends of Malick's.

I pay for the taxis.

Once out of our cabs, we pick up the meat, metal and assorted things with wires. We start walking.

I should be used to trudging through sand in my army boots. I've done it on the streets of Senegal and The Gambia. But this is BEACH sand... sink-down sand... not pat-down sand like on town streets. It isn't long before the sandaled crew is way ahead of me and my bucket of orange drink.

I spy a nice palm tree, making shade, perfect for a picnic.

Let's stop here!” I shout to the people ahead of me.

We can't,” shouts a young man wearing a MUSIC SAVES LIVES sweatshirt. “We're not there yet.”

Having no idea where THERE is, I trudge gamely behind everyon else. We pass a restaurant shack, with a signs that say FISH and BARBECUE. Outside stands a man wearing all white. Tall and strong in his middle age, the man calls out to us. He says something in Mandinka. The young guy in the sweatshirt goes over to him. They converse. This gives me a chance to catch up with everybody.

In a few minutes the young guy comes back. “He said we don't have to walk more,” he tells us... while looking at me. “If we give him a hundred dalasi, we can cook on his stove and use the tables and chairs at his restaurant.”

No,” I say, “this is a beach party, not a restaurant party. We don't need him.”

I can see the disappointed look on their faces. We pick up our burdens and walk. Here's a nice little grove of palm tress.

Let's stop here,” I suggest.

No,” comes the answer, “not here.”
Finally we get to what looks like the shell of a bombed out building. And not a very spectacular building at that. On the front, in blue lettering is the word BAR. Then, scratched into the brick behind is PARADISE BEACH BAR, and beneath that, a difficult-to-make-out word that looks something like FART.



I figure we'll set up inside the bar area, using the concrete as a firewall to keep in the barbecue and save the palmtrees outside. I figure wrong.
Instead of actually entering the concrete structure, we set up next door to it, amidst the leaves and trees, on sand covered in leaves, and very tiny burrs that find their way into the most embarrassing and uncomfortable body nooks.
 
The guys set to assembling the grill, loading it with local wood-- and palm tree leaves-- pouring cold water from the jerry cans over the frozen chickens... and again... and again.

The boy with the MUSIC SAVES LIVES t-shirt takes some speakers and a car battery from the stuff we brought. He climbs over the low wall to the BAR, and sets the speakers on what must have been the actual bar in the BAR. Then he hooks something to the speakers, and that something to the car battery. Nothing happens, but he seems satisfied, and leaving the speakers there, climbs back over the wall to join us.

Around now, the girls show up. At least I can see them in the distance. A troop... a gang... a parade. All kinds of girls. Little girlsd, barefoot, walking with their little hands in their mother's bigger hands. Teenage girls, developed in just the right spots. Young mothers, some with babes in arms... and THEIR mothers. They carry things on their heads. Pots, food in wrappers, things with wires. They're marching... the same way we did... along the ocean to just this spot. They turn... maybe to join us.

It's about time! For such a homophobic society, except for schoolrooms-- which are 100% integrated, Gambian (and Senegalese) societies have more separation of genders than I've seen anywhere. Unmarried folks do EVERYTHING separately. Heterosexual? How do they ever get close enough to sex any hetero?

The girls on the beach do not join us. Instead, they go INSIDE the old walls of the bar, and set up camp NEXT to us. They have their own party. Playing music and dancing to the speakers MUSIC SAVES LIVES set up. They don't talk to us. They don't eat our food. They hardly acknowledge our existence. One of my life's weirdest experiences... and painful because some of them are so beautiful.
The guys set to assembling the grill, loading it with local wood-- and palm tree leaves-- pouring cold water from the jerry cans over the frozen chickens... and again... and again.

The boy with the MUSIC SAVES LIVES t-shirt takes some speakers and a car battery from the stuff we brought. He climbs over the low wall to the BAR, and sets the speakers on what must have been the actual bar in the BAR. Then he hooks something to the speakers, and that something to the car battery. Nothing happens, but he seems satisfied, and leaving the speakers there, climbs back over the wall to join us.

Around now, the girls show up. At least I can see them in the distance. A troop... a gang... a parade. All kinds of girls. Little girlsd, barefoot, walking with their little hands in their mother's bigger hands. Teenage girls, developed in just the right spots. Young mothers, some with babes in arms... and THEIR mothers. They carry things on their heads. Pots, food in wrappers, things with wires. They're marching... the same way we did... along the ocean to just this spot. They turn... maybe to join us.

It's about time! For such a homophobic society, except for schoolrooms-- which are 100% integrated, Gambian (and Senegalese) societies have more separation of genders than I've seen anywhere. Unmarried folks do EVERYTHING separately. Heterosexual? How do they ever get close enough to sex any hetero?

The girls on the beach do not join us. Instead, they go INSIDE the old walls of the bar, and set up camp NEXT to us. They have their own party. Playing music and dancing to the speakers MUSIC SAVES LIVES set up. They don't talk to us. They don't eat our food. They hardly acknowledge our existence. One of my life's weirdest experiences... and painful because some of them are so beautiful.

This co-meeting must've been planned. (The speakers were ready and waiting.) The girls listen to music on the speakers we bought. They dance to the music... with each other.

Around this time Malick shows up. He's complaining about the location.

Why did you come all the way here?” he asks MUSIC SAVES LIVES.

The restaurant man offered his place for 100 dalasi,” the young man says, and glances back at me. “But we said no.”

Malick shakes his head. I look away

Suddenly, I'm in a hurry to get to the water. I take off my army boots and socks. I slip my bathing suit on under the robe/towel I brought with me.

The sand is HOT against my bare feet. I don't mean warm. I don't mean unpleasantly sun-baked. I mean hot. Fiery hot. Scalding hot. Indian fire-walker fakir hot.

Mykel,” says Malick, “You need sandals.”

The day you catch me in sandals will be the day I convert to Baptism,” I don't tell him. He wouldn't get it.

It's not bad,” I lie... running from the BAR to the sea. On the way, I step on one of those little burrs along the beach. It embeds itself into the bottom of my naked sand-baked foot. I stifle a scream...

Finally: the water. Aaaaah!

I'm an awful swimmer but I love the ocean. Some of our crew go for a more traditional bury-me-in-the-sand, beach experience. That's not for me.

Mykel! Lie down! We'll do you too!” Usually, that isn't a suggestion I turn down, but in this case....
I'd rather hit the water.

It's colder than I expect.

Okay, I'll just throw myself into a wave, get washed up on shore. Do it again.

Chit chit chit, SPLAAAAT! FOOOSH!

Fuck! One of those little burrs has edged it's way into my bathing suit. Slipped down. Right where you can't scratch in public.

Enough! I'm through with swimming. Landing has been cooking the chicken I bought, so it's time to EAT!! Nothing like having a chef in the crew!

I'd really like to invite the girls to join us in chicken, but no one is talking to them. They're dancing on the other side of the wall. Having a grand old party. The moms, kids, older sisters, younger sisters, all there... kicking up their legs, partying like there's no tomorrow. One of the girls, sits on the wall, her back facing me. She wears what may be the best t-shirt motto this side of I Voted for Obama, and Didn't Even Get This Lousy T-shirt.

After lunch it's photo ops.
 
Then, as it gets dark: THE BONFIRE:
By now, the girls have gone home. We're just starting to pack up. I've still got that nasty burr in a nasty place inside my bathing suit. I reach in to fish it out.

Did you lose something Mykel?” asks Malick.

Wiseguy.

We pick up the grill, empty water cans, car battery. MUSIC SAVES LIVES climbs over the wall to retrieve the sound system.

Then it's back to the beach entrance where I pay for taxis for everyone to return to their respective houses. Malick and I ride together.

That was a pretty good couch-surfer meeting,” he says. “It's a good start for us.”

Couch-surfers? Were there any couch-surfers there?” I ask.

Sure,” he said. “There were. We exchanged phone numbers. It's a good start.”

When we get back I want to stop in a restaurant for a beer. FIRST, I have to get out of this damn bathing suit... and find that burr. THEN, we go out, sit at a table, and enjoy some REAL beach food. It will be the LAST of my money. Leave my wallet empty.

No problem, I think. I can just go to an ATM and get some more.

I'm wrong.

It's always nice to get comments to these entries. Please leave one. You can also contact me on Facebook or at me@mykelboard.com. If I'm traveling, however, I may not be able to answer your email very quickly.

This is the 20th entry of my travel blog for this trip. Here are links to the past entries:

Episode 1 here (Before leaving New York 1)

Episode 2 here (Before leaving New York 2)

Episode 3 here (Before leaving New York 3)

Episode 4 here. (Before leaving New York 4)

Episode 5 here (New York to Paris)

Episode 6 here (Strasbourg Party Time)

Episode 7 here (Ryan Air)

Episode 8 here (Back to Paris)

Episode 9 here (Death in Tangier)

Episode 10 here (Resurrection in Tangier)

Episode 11 here (Monkey Business in Gibraltar)

Episode 12 here (Entering Senegal from the rear)

Episode 13 here (Killing Me Softly)

Episode 14 here (The Road to Dakar)

Episode 15 here (Rags to Riches)

Episode 16 here (Behind Nirvana)

Episode 17 here (The Road to The Gambia)

Episode 18 here (Malick)

Episode 19 here (A Day In The Capital)

Look for me on Facebook and if you're in New York on a Thursday join my friends and me at Drink Club.

--Abaraka!