Squirting Milk at Chameleons: An Accidental African
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The tale of an Englishman making a life for himself in Senegal
Khady pulled out a breast and with a deadly aim fired milk at the chameleon. "If I don't offer it milk, our son will grow up to look like a lizard," she explained. Clearly I had a lot to learn about life in Africa.
On the cusp of middle age, Simon Fenton leaves Britain in search of adventure and finds Senegal, love, fatherhood, witch doctors—and a piece of land that could make a perfect guest house, if only he knew how to build one. The Casamance is an undiscovered paradise here mystic Africa governs life, people walk to the beat of the djembe, when it rains it pours, and the mangoes are free. But the fact that his name translates to "vampire" and he has had a curse placed on him via the medium of eggs could mean Simon’s new life may not be so easy.
top of a mountain, wondering whether to have my head shaved. At Tirupathi temple, this is considered auspicious and they raise money by supplying the wig industry, largely for African-American communities in New York. It was a day or two before I found out about the terrorist attacks. I spent the next year in Eastern Africa, so I didn’t see the video footage until the first anniversary. It’s not so easy anymore to stay out of the loop, with modern communications that have made their way even to
monsoon. It was a relief to feel the rain, as humid heat had been building up throughout the spring. Now we could expect regular cooling downfalls for at least three months. The rains end in October and then the heat builds up again until about December when the weather breaks, humidity drops and cool air arrives. The short winter is perfect – warm enough to swim in the sea during the day but chilly woolly-hat weather in the evenings when we huddle around fires. No wonder this is when the
me. I have enough money for my lifestyle and for my plans, but only if I manage it carefully. This is the great cultural difference. Most local people subsist from day to day and don’t have the opportunity to save, budget and make plans. Very often I visit people and they will demand money for nothing. I will open my first-aid kit for local people, give free rides, employ people and pay fair prices for services and there are certain projects I’d like to support when I have the means, but I
us. The house was typical, in that it’s mud bricks, mud floor, well swept and with barely any possessions. People’s phone numbers were scrawled on the walls with bits of charcoal. A typical kitchen will have a couple of bricks to rest pots on the fire, a few pans (made from recycled metal), a few plastic bowls for washing and a few utensils. That’s about it. In fact, the Scottish explorer Mungo Parks described identical scenes, minus the plastic, during his journey across West Africa in 1795.
thorny scrub. The main forest remains, but by cleaning, we are providing a more healthy environment for the “good stuff”, giving it room to breath and grow, as well as allowing us to enjoy the space. When I wasn’t paying attention, Fakeba, who’d come to help me, set fire to some bush near the fence – I told him to be careful and he said no problem. Then I heard a shout and we all ran, builders included, to fetch buckets of water. A gust of wind had blown the fire onto the fence and it was