By Latir Carr
Do not despair my good friend. I in no way intend to discourage you on this tour of beauty and smiles. As you might have guessed, I am a painter and this is what I do. I had earlier suggested we take a break from the Senegambia Strip and for good reason. We shall return when the time is right.
As we drive towards the roundabout we so famously and comfortably called ‘Turntable’ (and don’t you dare correct anyone…for us it is a turntable and you will refer to it as such!), you will notice Chinese Mandarin characters on the massive gate on your right. That, my dear friend is a masterpiece design unveiled in #NewGambia. That’s our International Conference Centre! Okay, it used to be Monkey Park – monkey safe haven if you care for an interpretation.
How such smart creatures decided to settle in an area that has been designated Tourism Development Area beats me. In fact, they should have been sued for wrongful occupation (if such a thing exists) before they vacated the area. Those animals are a nuisance! In fact, Bijilo – where I live – is full of them. I think we’ll soon become the new Monkey Park. Tourists will stroll down my street with their binoculars and bananas and they’ll take photos of my moustache as the monkeys pull on it.
I sincerely apologise for the slow traffic. As you might have guessed by now, our road networks are built with security in mind. One way in, one way out. We get it and we love it as it is. If you’re patient enough, you just might get to see a couple of VIP motorcades drive through. That’s the exciting part of traffic – watching them as they drift right past us. I mean at least with this set, their motorcades come in threes or fours and I’m sure for valid security reasons.
I mean just nine months ago, we were at the brink of social unrest and potential exchange of gunfire. Who knows? The rebels might be hiding by the beach and perhaps that is the real reason for the destruction of the monkey park. You never know right?
You almost missed Coco Ocean! I would have made reservations for you to stay there. Beautiful place it is. It was my Plan B during The Impasse. Inspired by Hotel Rwanda, I was sure it would be the place to hide. I mean, away from all the madness I could order freshly ground and brewed coffee…freshly squeezed orange juice and just laze about among the monkeys and coconut trees. Unfortunately for you, this time you’ll be staying at a guest house. I shall explain later.
You missed what is usually a checkpoint well before the hotel. It’s usually run by a tough looking but rather friendly police officer who apparently shouldn’t even be there. He is the officer-in-charge of traffic taxes. You do not have traffic taxes in your country I assume. Well again, we do here. The man is a genius. He doesn’t ask for your papers or anything. I mean, what can he really ask for? We are yet to print ID cards and still unsure of whether to pay for our tinted car glasses. So all he does is ask for dinner. He has graduated from the usual attaya to dinner because he knows my Aku people. If you ask for attaya money, we’ll give you exactly that – attaya money.
Stop marvelling at our masterpiece of a building at the Brusubi roundabout. I shall not delve into the details for personal reasons. Please ignore it. There are more interesting things to talk about on your right at the Galp Service Station. The sad looking woman standing right next to the entrance has been miraculously pregnant for years now. She has told her story to anyone willing to listen.
Apparently her husband is Senegalese and he chose to abandon her and his unborn child in The Gambia. Strangely enough, everyday she walks up to someone, she is on the way to the hospital. Sometimes the pregnancy disappears and on other times it is clearly evident. Perhaps it is she that should be called Moses! Now, isn’t that miraculous?
She is not alone though. No matter how late it is, you’ll find the twins with their metal pans walking around seeking alms. Now they are not as miraculous as the-sometimes-pregnant lady. They’re just being stalked by a somewhat crazy woman who hides in a corner, always almost 50 metre behind them pretending not to know them. I drew this to their attention once and they screamed foul. One of them almost hit me with the pan.
Those kids are brutal! They’ll hiss at you for five dalasis. I mean who accepts five dalasis anymore?
Oh yeah! Still at the roundabout, you’ll find Assan. Now this dude knows what he wants! He tells you exactly what he wants. Bro meye ma fifty wai. Naa he doesn’t want to leave it to you to decide how much you can give him. He knows how much you can afford. The last time I saw him I was driving my wife’s nicer automobile and he walked up to me asking for 2 Arch. I almost got upset until he almost shed a tear. Against my principles, I gave him fifty dalasis and he looked at me weirdly. It was as if I had spoken ill of his mother. I almost asked for it back but he went with the wind…perhaps judging from my look.
And the glorious Café Touba! Ok…amid all the rubbish and the noise at the roundabout there’s the Café Touba dude. He stands there patiently with his coffee and his cups among the taxi drivers who have decided to block the exits. It’s sad how unruly that entire environment has become. It has become, unfortunately the ugliest roundabout I’ve ever seen.
There’s sand all over the roundabout itself with some odd looking logs set on it for decoration. Like who thinks up these things?? Someone just wakes up from sleep and goes, “hey, you know what would look great on the roundabout? Logs! Like big brown logs!…and some sand too!!” Then there’s the taxi garaas. Gele-geles everywhere…taking over the huge empty space on your left! The place is a mess! There’s the traffic with at least two traffic officers in a ten metre space all trying to make sense of this mess! Yes all of Jollof’s madness meet at this point between 5pm to 7pm.
I think we need to do a whole tour just for the roundabout. The more I talk about it the crazier I get. I mean the market on the other side…on the Brusubi side! Don’t you just love how the taxis are all parked in front of it? It’s like the market is selling taxis. What do they sell at the market anyway? You’re asking me? What would I know? I’ve never been to the market. I drive past it in such haste that it is impossible to know! You don’t want to stand by the market.
Private security stationed all over the place will come to you also asking for attaya money. Then there are the dogs that just stroll around the whole area. You see my friend, Brusubi was supposed to be the new Fajara. Somehow, somewhere down the line, someone just screwed up the entire plan and decided it could plan itself. Now we have an entrance into Brusubi that’s pothole heaven! The other entrance is a sloping mountain! I mean how in God’s name (excuse my language) do they expect cars as low as mine to make it through that madness!
Okay my good friend, I’m getting upset now. As you can see smoke is coming from my ears now and my eyes are turning red. This is unhealthy for me. This is the Brusubi roundabout for you. It brings out the madness in all of us. We’ll take a break from all of it and share some laughs over drinks. Perhaps I’ll take you around town again in the morning but I need to catch my breath first. Until I decide, do have a nice nap and we’ll see again soon.