Thursday, January 15, 2009


(December 25, 2008)

I've got a headache, my knee has ached since the 3rd K of our now completed 27K hike, Tendaba Camp's food gives everyone the runs, and this white wine tastes like Robitussin. Merry Christmas in Africa.

This is the third time we have all dragged a few of our scattered belongings to this so-so tourist hot spot, and none of us are too sad that it's the last. You'd think after using a hole in the ground for a toilet for weeks, reading by candle light, and taking a bath out of a bucket, running water and sporadic electricity would be paradise. Not so. The schedule here is always so much more stressful than in village, with only a few breaks to let numb minds try to regain feeling after hours of technical training sessions. I usually try to spend a little of the scant down time taking in the beautiful view of the Gambia River, which is easily the best feature of the camp. This same river also happens to be the final resting place of my new cell phone--who new that Gap Khakis had such shallow pockets.

Now just let me say that things are not all bad. We had a great hike through the bush with wildly varying terrain, including mangrove swamps, savannah, and salt flats. I really enjoyed it in spite of the creaky knee, which is probably just a result of the cheap New Balance Knock-offs I bought at a market in Soma. Dinner last night was half decent, supplemented by some Senegalese cookies provided by our Country Director and free alcohol provided by the owners of Tendaba. Some of it might taste like cough medicine, but it is booze, and it is free. To cap it all off, we had a nice boat ride in the mangrove swamps this morning, during which we saw plenty of waterfowl, crocodiles, and a couple of types of monkeys.

The bigger issue, of course, is that it is Christmas, and all of us are thousands of miles from the ones we love, and because of this every minor inconvenience becomes something worthy of snapping over. It's my first Christmas away from home in my entire life, and it has been a bit harder than I thought. Not to saw I'm thinking of throwing in the towel or anything, but those theoretical difficulties that seemed so piddling and distant on paper have suddenly become much more real.

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