"Souvenirs" - Andrew Gilbert


They were stuck in a sea of past participles. English disciples using big words in absurd construction leaving academic bruises is Franco-Gambian fusion. Like a hydrogen bomb. An exponential reaction of incomprehensible annunciation – gibberish spat to and fro’ between sixth grade chicklets skipping double-dutch. And there are the accentuated gangsters. Homeboys from banlieus with murder rates lower than Canada. It is the country of Teranga[1]. A steal is an over-extended lend, a checked out library book taken under fake name with transparent intention. Reclamation is a passing daydream beyond mention, but God is ever present. Speaking of which, there lurks the passing glitch of economic development. But in a ño ko bōok[2] market GDP is irrelevant. Consumption is based in self-imposed socialism and distrust of Financial institutions and conspiratorial superstition sends saving accounts to envelopes tucked under carved foam block mattresses. Toute la vie sous le lit. Dinay baye lepp ci suuf laal bi. No, the economic is irrelevant; development is spiritual and not emitted from satellite dishes or fiber optic cable but Communal brains and Marrabouts. Hung up on gris-gris[3] and chapelets or cruxes[4], tropical fruit, flower, and sugar infusions known as juices one can suck up the syrup of foam and fluff from lewel to troisieme[5]. Bismillah.

It is thrilling, the time killing, a will to beat back the congruent waves, similitude, and fading quaffs of tea. The siestes, chaleur[6] and dramatic gests, soap opera waxtaans[7] and best guesses, intra-lingual puns and hidden lusts covered by open emotion (rey temps). The gumption to express sensitivity backed by Qur’an-ically reinforced sexism. Sit, watch and eat. You’ll have four girl-friends cachéd on parallel streets and rant about western promiscuity, the value of marital virginity. Everywhere accepts their hypocrisies as lies beyond falsehood, cultural obligations tucked under the darkness of power cuts. Hardly a farce, a lark lurking to be ignored, whistles muted the same the sounds to succor passing djinn so the music of the midnight march is left to the birds and koo-koos[8], hisses, and ‘kooku?’s[9] cassent[10] the passing blackness. And black faces in the night, shadows in the dark can pass unseen if semblance is kept cleft of voice, whereas our phantom faces leave transparent traces of passing, visual footprints in sandy streets and cries of TOUBAAB!-naam[11] — left for neglected infants, Les Talibés de la rue. [12]

Watch-out, because the Biguey[13] will diminuer la force. There is much water in your groin area. Squeeze squeeze – ginger?[14] Huh. Mais il faut faire vite avec les senegalaises hé.[15] Ree jëggi.[16]

Don’t worry my dear there are Gentlemen[17] about, bandits in the trees, and playboys in dusty alley-ways. BOY! Mais que’est-ce que tu faist la?[18]

I am walking.

I am wandering.

I am circling the same potted paths that span the broken eggs[19] of campus. Deggloo[20] music. I am Dancing. Yuza[21]. Invert it. Verlan[22]. My friend. How is the womanizing? How is the heat? The greetings come in circular rainstorms, a hail of indirect complaints to hide the tidal smiles swelling over ebony faces. T’inquete,[23] they’re all crazy.

Another cup of coffee. Another ten cents in the open palm of connerie[24] artists. Apres, there is no monnaie.[25] And you will pass. You will passer-voir[26] looking at the crystal stars sitting as electric marbles on a Chinese checkers board stained black with swashes of the deepest blue. And all the marbles can be plucked in between thumb and forefinger, held as marvels and popped into your rear molars like nickel gumballs. You chew them until the luminescence of contentedness escapes as a midnight spotlight blast from the essence of your soul.

The cold that ends the senses in your heart has left for almost a year. And even when lonely the calm is temperamental isolation and restlessness echoing the chest cage Maa ngi am jamm.[27] This is a retreat of peace. I am in peace. Jamm rek.[28] Only. Alhumdullilah.


[1] Hospitality
[2] The wolof version of your’e welcome. Literally, “it is shared.”
[3] powerful religious charms
[4] prayer beads
[5] From the first to third (last) cup of tea
[6] fr. heat
[7] Conversations
[8] informal “hey” in french
[9] Who’s there?
[10] break in fr.
[11] White person
[12] Children of the street
[13] Slang for sex, among other things
[14] drink of sexual puissance
[15] But one should be fast with Senegalese women.
[16] Lit. caress and pass over
[17] In Senegal, Gentlemen is slang for lady’s man
[18] What are you doing over there?
[19] the quad of campus at UGB is referred to as the egg
[20] verb, to listen
[21] popular style of dance in senegal
[22] form of slang in which syllable of words are inverted
[23] fr. Don’t worry
[24] absurd, rude, or ridiculous comments, jokes, japes or falsehoods
[25] change
[26] lit. pass and see, one should look in on friends each very often; everyday or everyother.
[27] Response to formal greeting in wolof. Lit., “My state is of peace”
[28] Lit. peace only


Andrew spent last year abroad in Senegal. He is a senior studying Econ and Poli Sci.