So, my new home. What does it look like? It is in a family compound. 3 rectangle buildings in a U shape.
I have my own "apartment" in the building on the left. It has 3 rooms. A long front room with 2 doors leading to
back rooms. One to my bedroom the other to the kitchen.
It is a cement building with corrugate sheets for a roof. The
windows, I want them enlarged. There are 2 in the front and 2 in the back. No side windows. To the right side is my
"mother's" apartment and the the left is the grain storage room.
The floors and walls are concrete but to save money, dirt has been added. This makes
the concrete rather weak and eaisly collapsable in heavy rains.
There are 2 doors in the back. One in my bedroom and the other in the kitchen. The doors are coorugate and they lock with a
slide bolt. Both doors open to the tomato garden in the back. That will soon go.
The field is destroyed and a "commo" is built, or should I say "dug". It is my toilet. I large hole dug, lined in cement, topped with a cement cover.
The cover has a keyhole shaped opening carved out of it. It is the lid of my toilet. There is a metal handle to lift it when needed.
So, this is the state of my home when I arrive. It needs lots of work. The commo is dug, but no cover yet. And there
is no fence and my toilet is in clear view of the road. I need a bed, a stove.. lots of stuff.
Luckliy there is another volunteer at my site. He has already been
in service for one year. His name is Bill Rutherford. He is short, burly, out spoken, opinionated, conservative... only a matter of time
before we get it on to be sure.
So, plan is I will stay in his place since he will be going home for vacation - 2 weeks. OK. No Problem. Right? Well it doesn't take me long to
realize "I have never slept alone IN MY LIFE". I mean. I have slept alone. In bed. But not totally alone in a building. There has always been
someone home in my family. In the dorms I had a roommate and a boyfriend. If neither of them were around, there was still
people in the next room, in the halls. I was not "alone".
My first night alone I was TERRIFIED. I laid awake listening to every creak and groan of the hut. Bill had 2 cats Baa (meaning Big) and
Ringo (meaning Small). They kept me company. I satyed awake most of the night. Nothing bad happened.
The second night I was more relaxed. I fell asleep a little more quickly. And then there was this noise. I horrible scary noise. It was a bat
flying around the room. NO problem, right? I am sleeping under a mosquito net. No problem. Can't get me, right?
Well, apparently it was going to try. It landed on the bed and was actively
trying to get under the net. OH MY GOD! I was freaking out. It was freaking out. I called for the cats to help me. They came to me but didn't know
what I was up to. Until finally the bat caught on of there attention and the chase and kill were on! Those cats saved me. YEAH!
So, as you can imagine it was even harder to fall asleep the next night. But I did learn a few things. And one is to alwasy sleep with a flashlight under the pillow.
You see, the main light source we use is a candle and matches. These were sitting on a night stand by the bed. But once there is a creature trying to
get under your mosquito net, you are not about to stick your hand out to grab a candle.
So, the next night I am sleeping and I wake up because I hear a high, horrible screeching howl. It will live in my memory as the worst and scariest sound I have ever heard.
It flys/runs through the room, around and around the bed in a fury. This high pitched howl. And finally into the other room and out the doo...?
I have no idea. But I am pretty terrified.
The cats are gone. I wait what feels like an eternity and I run out the front door and to Bill's sponsor compound. (Bill lives in a little house, built by
some western missionaries many years ago. It is self contained with 2 rooms. It is not part of a family compound.)
So, here is me, running there at about 4 am, freaking out, speaking no Mandinkan. I am attempting to explain using bizarre noises and gestures. I KNOW they thought
I was a FREAK.
I got no where fast. And I finally walked to my school headmaster's home.
I only met him once or twice, but... he spoke English.
He offered me a spare bed. Then I laid there freaking out that HE would attack me. See, Gambians like most nations, have ideas about a womans place in the
world, etc.... And we were specifically told NOT to be alone with a Gambian man, as it would send out "the wrong signals". S
Needless to say, I did not sleep. Finally the sun came up and I went back to my home.
There was shit all over the walls. No, literally.. all over the bedroom walls, there was shit. Whatever it was had run around with
exploding direahea. It was everywhere.
I found one cat looking a bit beaten and it had a puncture wound to the side. The other one, in it's terror, had managed to get out of the enclosed
back yard and get itself stuck up a tree. We were all a bit shaken.