Toubab means ‘white’.
The children in Brufut village, where we live now, find us fascinating – a relative rarity and with smiling surprise come up to us and gently say ‘toubab’.
On the Senegambia central tourist strip, full of hustling ‘bumsters’ trying to cadge money, a wife/husband and passport to another life, ‘toubab’ is more derogatory: a target for manipulation and extortion.
Reminding the shared taxi and taxi van drivers that we want ‘Gambian’ prices rather than ‘toubab’ prices is greeted by guffaws of acknowledging laughter. Those who want to offer a ‘town taxi’, exclusive use of their taxi at a hiked price, melt away with a shrug, whilst the majority squeeze up to fit the two (large) ‘toubabs’ into their already overcrowded vehicles.
I don’t know why bumping along storm damaged, pot-holed red dirt roads in dangerous vans with crowds of locals makes me smile, but it does!
My wide smile is pale in comparison with the infectious smile of white teeth in blue-black faces.