On her six-month birthday, Fatoumata Jessica was cooing on my doorstep! My host sister from training village, Sainabou, delivered a healthy baby girl who was named after me and her grandmother (my namesake) in November. I told them they were welcome to visit any time and Sainabou’s husband promised he’d send them when the baby was a bit older. There are no little babies in my compound, let alone a little baby with my name, so I was ecstatic for her to visit.
We have our “work” friends, our “church” friends, our “college” friends — each group perhaps knowing us a little differently than the next. It’s not that I’m trying to suggest I’m fake or two-faced, it’s just to say that we all naturally fulfill roles and play different versions of ourselves depending on the script. I think it is rare to find a friend who transcends that – someone who is just your “friend” – no qualifiers needed. After some months here, I didn’t expect I’d ever find that in one of my Gambian friends. I thought our cultures are just too different, our views too varied, the divide in our lives too great.
But then there is Habbie.
The thing I once despised is now at the center of nearly all my dreams: Grocery shopping. I used to loathe the chore and would make a detailed list before entering the supermarket so I could quickly grab what I needed and get out of there. I’m not sure why I hated grocery shopping so much, maybe it was how quickly I could rack up a bill or the number of overwhelming choices, but I just never cared for the task. Now that grocery shopping is a thing of my past, it’s all I can dream about. Funny how that works! I now awake on many mornings remembering my nighttime fantasies of perusing aisle after aisle.
While many Gambians opt for the two-piece complet, I personally prefer the African dresses because they are the breeziest in the heat. Traditional Gambian dresses are typically flowy and floor-length, and often have poofy, ruffled sleeves and flamboyant embroidery.
I am lucky enough to live in the Fonis with this group of people. We like to believe we are special because our region is known for better electricity than the city (sorry AgFos) and it’s not nearly as hot as upcountry. Our section of the river is even salty so we won’t be getting shisto anytime soon. Did I mention we are only a short gelly ride away from the city (no eight-hour travel days here!)? It’s great to live just a bike ride away from these lovely people so we can coordinate projects and take a break from village life together every now and then!
I never thought being called “fat” would be the thing to bring a smile to my face. But “fat” has a whole new ring to…
Anyway, my sisters gathered round, tossing out ideas for names while the boys tried to wrestle the dogs out from between the bricks and my fence. The girls settled on “Leo,” the heartthrob in our favorite TV show, a Mexican telenovela. I took one look at my siblings and another look in those puppy dog eyes and agreed. We’d keep him.