A few days ago, Mohammed planned to have us visit the Katchikali Crocodile Pool. There are about 150 crocodiles living in a pool, which is rumored to have healing capabilities. More specifically, it is believed that the crocodile pool can help bring fertility to women who are having trouble conceiving. People continue to travel from around the Gambia to visit these crocs in hopes that they can cure any ailment one might face.
Before entering the crocodile pool, there was a great little museum all about the history of Bakau (the town next to us.) I learned about a variety of cultural practices, mostly centered around celebratory traditions involving masks and art. There was also some information about African involvement in both of the world wars. Because much of Africa was colonized during the world wars, African soldiers fought (or might have been drafted, it was unclear) for the Allies.
As I approached the crocodiles, I noticed there was no protective barrier between us and them. They were hanging out in the pool, and certainly didn’t seem to be on the prowl for human flesh, but I nonetheless would have preferred a clear glass wall. But this did allow for us to get great views of the crocs.
There is a particularly friendly crocodile named Charlie who I had the opportunity to pet. His tail and back were quite dry and scaly (as one might expect) but his belly and paws (I’m not sure what to call crocodile hands) were very soft. He let me shake his arm around and rub his belly. Overall, a very positive experience with Charlie and the rest of the gang at Katchikali.
We then headed to Mama’s restaurant for dinner. The food was great, but the place was mostly populated by Toubabs. A rather intoxicated British man came up to our table and started chatting away about Americans. He mentioned living in America, so I asked him whereabouts. PORTSMOUTH NEW HAMPSHIRE. I immediately told him I work at Strawbery Banke Museum, that I live on the seacoast etc. I am perpetually reminded that the world is a very small place.
In other news, my charming sociology professor has taken to reminding me of all the flaws I have based on my gender, race and nationality. He really hates America. I’ve never felt so defensive of my country. Not my favorite class, but certainly a way for me to understand America through a different perspective. In one of my other classes with my favorite professor, we discussed how we understand groups of people we are unfamiliar with. In doing so, we wrote a variety of sentences about our perspectives of Gambians and Americans, and shared them. Some of the American adjectives included “time conscious” “free-thinking” “hard working” and my personal favorite “law-abiding”. When my professor pointed out that the US has more incarcerated people than anywhere else in the world, the Gambian student ignored her and maintained that Americans are lawful people.
I will try to update this more frequently, but I am beginning to make the switch to Africa time- ndanka, ndanka, or slowly, slowly. Ciao!
Back of a bush taxi...no personal space.