Shellac whispers

Yesterday I had a pedicure, a very good pedicure.  And I learned a lot: where to shop: for fabric, meat, groceries, the best fruit and veg stalls.  That what I paid on Tanjeh beach for a large red snapper, fresh off the fishing pirogue, was a good price; I was surprised! That it is OK to respond to ‘toubab‘: Wolof for ‘white’; with ‘netku-nuel‘ – black person.  Of the deep problems persuading female elders to stop FGM, despite the President’s Monday night announcement of the prohibition of FGM in The Gambia.  How different tribes practice FGM differently; the Fula, the traditional farming tribe, sewing up their young women to be cut open on their wedding night.  Of the celebrations and cheers for the fearless, tireless, once vilified, now vindicated, FGM campaigners. And of whispered conversations – because walls have ears.  How, that if there had been someone unknown in the salon, we would not have enjoyed such easy chatter.

Yesterday I heard a sad story about why our Saturday trip south to celebrate a community new business project has been cancelled: there have been disturbances over protecting the environment from sand mining; arrests and imprisonment.

Yesterday we met a Brit who has lived most of his life in Africa as a mercenary, now a ‘security consultant’ who would not state why he was in The Gambia. Possibly a bullet-scarred Walter Mitty, but I think not.

Yesterday the electrician was detained by paramilitary police on his way to fix the restaurant lighting.

Yesterday I was told to be careful about what I blog – a frisson of fear ran up my spine; an unusual feeling for me – a woman who considers herself ‘brave’, except around reptiles, and rarely thinks about issues of personal safety.

Last night I slept uneasily: more to do with re-calibrating my understanding of myself than anything else.  As a teenager I dreamed of being a heroine; thinking I could have been an Odette if born a generation earlier – even parachuting to see if I had the ‘cojones’!

This morning I realise how easy it is for me to be ‘brave’ in Britain: to find the courage to tell my truth.  Blessings upon blessings to every journalist, blogger, and person who posts on social media at considerable risk to themselves in order to speak their truth in less liberal countries.

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