Journey Across Africa

Below you'll find stories of my two year experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the small West African country of The Gambia. After my service I traveled solo, with only a small backpack, across West Africa; reaching N'Djamena, Chad after two months. Visa problems for Libya and Civil unrest in the Darfur region of Western Sudan made Chad my last stop.

Peace Corps Service: Aug. 2003 - July 2005

Journey Across Africa: July 2005 - Sept. 2005

Location: Boston, MA, United States

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Escape from Tombouctou!

Day 34
Sat Aug 20
Tombouctu, Mali

When I woke up everyone was gone and no vehicle was there. I knew they hadn't left town since one was 'supposedly' going with me. His stuff was still there though. One other problem: I was locked in again.

The only furniture in the house was a small dresser and a TV with a VCD player and five movies.
Ethiopian Music Videos
Kung-Fu movie in Chinese with French subtitles
Kung-Fu movie dubbed in French with Chinese subtitles
'The Gods Must be Crazy' movie dubbed in French
'James Bond 007: Die Another Day' dubbed in French with ENGLISH subtitles!

I watched James Bond, with the amusement of listening to the dubbing of "Bond. James Bond" pronounced more like "Bond. Shames Bond." No hard 'J' sound, but the the French 'J' like in Jacque.

After that I watched Ethiopian Music Videos for two hours, then I started on the Kung-Fu movies, then I taught the ten-year kid (how did he get in?) the card game Memory.

The Ethiopian Music Videos were unique. All the videos were from the same artist, and everyone danced like a chicken. Now I know you can't judge the dancing style of a country by one artist (how would you think if an Ethiopian only saw Michael Jackson videos?), but I now have Ethiopian chicken-dancing on my mind whenever I heard that music in the car. The cocking of the heads, the pushing forward of the shoulders, the jagged movements - you name it.

At noon the guide came back and told me five o'clock it will be here. Also, the four French tourists now turned into three Italian tourists. At six-thirty there was no sign of anyone, no car, no way out of the house, and I felt they were stalling me to get more money for each night. I felt like I was under House Arrest and I had been waiting to leave for 36 hours now.

I jumped the roof again, with my bag, and 'escaped'! Went first to the car garage and did a half-hearted attempt to get my $10 deposit back. I had $50 on me now to get me to Burkina Faso, and the nearest place where I could cash the Treasury Check for the rest of my trip. The $10 wasn't there, so I considered it a lost and walked out of town at seven at night.

One person stopped me:

"Where are you going?"
"To the river."
"That's 20 kilometers!"
"Yes." I guess he saw something in my expression knowing I was serious because he then started giving me directions of what roads to take. After two more blocks walking he pulled up in his moped along with a car, they would drive me but I'd have to be in back.

I hopped in back and watched the town leave coming from behind me. I felt like I was a escaped kidnapee running to safety.

I realized when I reached the River they were lying to me. Cars were leaving everyday, transport out of the city was easy to accomplish, the prices were set, and the suppose 6:00 car that was leaving couldn't even because by the time I had reached the ferry it had stopped running for the night.

I slept in the streets next to the river.


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