Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My Gambian Husband

     I was walking alone on our first afternoon in Bakau, Gambia when an attractive and extremely fit young man approached me and said, “Do you have a Gambian husband?”

     “No,” I answered.” My husband is from San Jose, California.” He continued to walk with me and kept talking to me in a way that began to make me feel uncomfortable. I finally had to be rude.
     “I have to go now to meet my non Gambian husband who is very big and strong.” Then I made a Mr. Universe pose, arms inverse akimbo with fists in the air to demonstrate the mighty muscles of my husband.

     Despite the fact that I had just looked like a lunatic, another young man came up to me almost immediately and with a leer asked, “Do you have a Gambian husband yet?”

     Starting to get perturbed by all this attention I answered, “No, my husband is not Gambian. Why do you ask?” wondering what he meant by “yet.” He shrugged and walked a little closer to me until I gave him the strong man pose. After he left, a third attractive young man approached me.

     “I do not have a Gambian husband and you are standing way to close to me buster!” I said in a culturally sensitive way. I felt like there was a one-act play going on all over town but no one had bothered to give me a script.

     I cut short my confusing walk around town and headed to the beach where I had agreed to meet my husband. I wanted to share my encounters with him and show off my strong man pose. While I waited for my husband, I watched a group of young men playing volleyball. I noticed that all the Gambian men on the beach were good-looking with major six-pack abs.

     Then as I scanned the rest of the beach I noticed that there were several European women walking with very young, attractive African men. But the women were all older, much older than the young men.
I had seen this kind of thing in Thailand; older North American or European men with young Thai girls. But I had never heard of the older woman, younger man thing that seemed to be the main event here in The Gambia. We had evidently arrived in Cougar Country. Apparently, one can have a Gambian husband for an hour, a day, a week, a month, a lifetime…whatever the two parties arrange.

     Men and women are different. Mars, Venus I think we all agree. Lonely men may go to Thailand for sex. But women go to the Gambia for a relationship. I watched one such couple at the local store in Banjul, the aging European woman standing next to her Gambian husband as they browsed the cereal aisle. “Do you think we should get Corn Flakes or Muesli?” she asked while her “husband” feigned interest and said, “What ever you would like dear,” with a look on his face that said with frustration, “Why can’t she just use me for sex? Why do we have to have discussions about cereal? Or discussions at all?”

     European women, who are into Gambian husbands, go to The Gambia to play house for a while. I suppose some of them might be married to average guys back home and just want to know what it would be like to go grocery shopping with a stud. Some of the women end up marrying the young men and take them home to Europe where I suppose they live out their lives happily browsing the cereal aisles at Sainsbury.

     Other than sex tourism, the most in your face component of Gambia are the roads. They are so bad that drivers have entirely abandoned the heavily potted road and drive along the sides of what remains of it in the area usually reserved for a ravine. These are rutted and canted at such a very steep angle that when you are a passenger in a bush taxi everyone in the vehicle ends up perched on one butt cheek. A child, who had originally been placed on the lap of the person next to you, ends up teetering on your hip like a loose hood ornament.

It was the same in bush taxis all over Africa. But it was in Gambia that I had one of the best bush taxi experiences ever.

     On a journey from Seracunda to Georgetown a cute little boy, Sisi, sat wedged between my hip and his mother’s lap. He stared at me and I smiled at him and told his mother he was very handsome. She translated this to him and he told her he loved me. The mother laughed, placed Sisi on my lap and said, “Here! Now you have a Gambian husband!”

     Sisi used my lap as a platform for pits he discarded as he ate a fruit the size of small cherries, spitting out the pit with a silent “ptui” while gazing at me with the love only a Gambian husband can give. I was completely smitten. Misty eyed I asked, “What kind of cereal do you like?”

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