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Echo’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 14 Oct 2007

Location: Ghana

MapHello everyone, thanks for having patience and continuing to check the site. So here it is the first installment of hopefully many new postings about my life in Africa. Things are going great right now, partially because I am on a work vacation in Ghana.

Every year AISA (The Africa International School Association) puts on a teacher conference and this year it was in Ghana and I got to go, which is a big thing cause our school does not have a lot of money. We have been here for five days and today we are leaving, which is sad cause I love it here. Just so you all know this is where I want to be in two years so those of you who can't afford to come see me now start saving for Ghana. It is marvelous here. The people are beautiful and friendly and it is soooooo safe here.

Don't get me wrong, Gambia is safe too but there are so many problems in Gambia and most of them stem from the men. I think that I may have previously mentioned the men issues to you guys here and I know that a couple of you have gotten direct emails about the men but let me tell you some stories, you will all probably laugh.

So in Gambia the main source of income for most of the people for six to seven months of the year is tourism, which is how it is in many developing countries but here a large part of the tourism involves the sex trade. Although no one calls it that, that is basically what it is. Many old (and I am talking old) and younger women come to the Gambia and find these boys or Bumsters (as they like to be called) and end up forming relationships with them and lucky for some of these boys they many times can end up marrying the women and getting a free trip to whereever the woman lives. So needless to say that every time they see someone with white skin they figure that you are looking for love so the boys become a problem. So here are two funny stories for y'all.

The day before I left for Ghana I took Dianne's car back to her house so that it would be there when she got back. I had two options to get home, take a taxi or walk and it is a really nice walk, past the market and along the main road. It is about a 45 minute walk so I took my Ipod along and started off. Well I made it the equivalent of one city block and then the first Bumster struck. I had my music turned up loud so I couldn't here him calling and I sped up walking. The boy was almost running to catch me and I could see out of the corner of my eye that he was narrowing in so I sped up more, almost running. Eventually he caught up with me and was walking next to me but all I could see was his mouth moving. I turned the music up louder and kept on walking, he walked with me for about five minutes before he decided that his attempt was not working. I still don't know what he was saying exactly but they all tend to have this guiding script that they follow, which goes something like this:

Bumster: "Hey, how you doing? You're welcome in the Gambia. You English?"
Me: No
B: German
Me: No
B: Dutch
Me: No, Canadian
B: Oh, so how you like the Gambia? You having a good vacation?
Me: I am not on vacation.
B: Oh so where you live? I can take you around and show you all the parts of Gambia
Me: No thanks
B: Come on everyone needs a friend.
Me: No
B: Come it's nice to be nice

It is the craziest thing ever and they don't stop. My next encounter with a bumster was a little later during that walk. He rode past me on his bike and then stopped his bike by a tree to wait for me. He started talking to me and I did talk my headphones off because he looked a little older and I thought maybe he was just a Gambian wanting to greet me or something cause some of them are genuinely friendly. But nope as soon as I caught up with him on the rode he started the speach. Luckily he was still on his bike and not walking so I made a game out of how slow I could walk so that he would fall off of his bike. I was seriously walking at a snail's pace and this guy could barely go slow enough to stay on his bike. Secretly I was hoping he would fall off but he didn't have the regular patience of a bumster, which sometimes can be the whole night I am out at a bar or club, so he got annoyed and rode off.

I am telling you it is crazy. These men do not read any signs that you are giving off and they totally invade your space, which partially is a cultural thing I will admit. We North Americans seem to have a wider personal space then most developing countries but sometimes these boys get too close.

Speaking of bumsters, I even have a personal one that right now is working on my house. As some of you know or maybe all of you, I had some serious water issues in my house (I didn't have any) so I hired my landlords plumber to install a tank and attach it to my house as well as doing some other odd jobs around the house. Well, I now have a plumber who is absolutely in love with me and keeps finding jobs to do in the house and in the compound just so he can keep coming over. He claims that he is not a bumster but man is this guy smooth. He is not the typical one that I want to kick in the nuts at the club or while I am swimming in the ocean but he is still a smooth operator. Overall he is a really nice guy but he comes from an area in the city or town or whatever the hell I live in (that is another story) where the boys are professional twobop (the name for white people in Gambia) seekers. I think he is harmless but very persistent.

It is crazy in Gambia for that reason and so far I have not come across that in Ghana, which is so refreshing. Oh one more quick story...

So I have recently started going to the beach almost every day. It is amazing and so close to my house I am an idiot to not go and take advantage of it. However, I cannot go alone cause if I do I take a huge risk of being bumstered and not just by one boy by many. So my solution to this is to take my boss's husband Fekeda (who is Ethopian) to go swimming with me. We actually make a funny pair, he is way shorter than I am and he is about 65 years old but it works. Many of the boys leave me alone cause they think he is my bumster so I am off limits. Well the other day Fekeda went to the beach with me and another lady that joins us for the same reason but he didn't go swimming. Well that just opened the flood gates and the boys they came in. I was sitting in the water floating and talking with Tony and my back was turned to the beach. All of a sudden Tony stopped talking and said there is someone behind you right now. I turned and immediately there was a bumster in my face. He did the script (see above) or some sort of variation of it and then he proceeded to swim under water and come as close as he could to my stomach and boobs. He was so close that he probably could have given me a zerbert on my stomach. It was creepy but there is a secret weapon that works on bumsters while you are in the ocean. You just keep swimming till you can't touch. Deep water works on bumsters like garlic works for Vampires, they don't like it. It is awesome. He tried to follow me and all he kept saying was can you touch now and I would shout back nope and lift my feet into the air. The only problem with that plan is that eventually you have to go back through the shallow to get to the beach and your clothes but lucky for me I am a really fast swimmer and I can beat most bumsters.

Anyways, that is enough bumster stories for you. I will try and take some pictures of some of them so you guys can get a feel of what I am faced with everyday. Maybe I could set up a website and you can all vote on your favorite looking bumster and then I could ship him to you. I don't know what they would be good for outside of their element but I think that they would do anything you asked them to do. Let me know if anyone is interested or knows anyone who is lonely and needs a friend...It's nice to be nice!