… the many things that tied themselves up in a bundle and walked/flew/swam right to your doorstep with a tag that read ”These, shall great memories make“? Well, I’m in that ‘nostalgic’ state of mind right now and where better to share than right here, on home turf (I just felt like using that to sound like a footie lover. Isn’t that the ‘in’ thing?)? So, to save us time, here’s 7 things that popped up in my head when I tried brainstorming on the million and one things I miss from my chidhood.
The Ice-Cream Bicycle
In other parts of the world, we talk about the ice-cream van coming round or whatever jargon they use for that kind of stuff. Chez moi, we had the ice-cream bicycle. This was no ordinary bicycle, as instead of the usual empty pannier rack at the back, it was loaded with a colorful ice-cooler… filled with ice-cream. In front, one would see a huge plastic bag of ice-cream cones. The ‘ice-cream man’ would press hard on his horn, prompting every one around, especially the little ones, to scream ‘Ice- kiliim‘. The kids would get excited, purses would be ravaged and coins would be transferred from one hand to the other… the former usually older. Balls of ice-cream would be scooped onto the cones and we would get to licking happily. As a child, I was more interested in petty food(I still am) and would sometimes coax my mom into getting me two cones. I’m no ice-cream connoisseuse, but over the years, I’ve eaten enough to know there are different qualities, if I can use that. Looking back now, some of you would agree that what we rushed excitedly for, fought over, saw trickle down our hands only to be licked off and were content with even in its soggy state, was nothing near great! Don’t get me wrong, it was the deal back then, but I would graciously say no if I were offered that milk mixture right now. Nevertheless, those cones topped with the light pink and white balls always made my day.
Oooh yes! Now these were the reason I never learnt to save when I was younger; that’s if you count out saving up my daily bututs so I could go get a raffle balloon. I may be wrong here, but all respectable corner stores back then had the balloon chart hanging in a spot good enough to tempt the little ones. These charts came with an assortment of balloons. One would find all colours, sizes and extremely ridiculous shapes. Some were big enough to ease the blowing process. Others were painfully small and it was even more painfully laborious to blow them up. I usually gave up on those and would go ahead to try for a bigger one. My memory is not really anything I can boast about, but I think with 25 bututs,we could play and win. The charts came with a smaller card with small spaces on which numbers were stuck downward. These numbers corresponded to a balloon on the bigger chart and so you got what you chose.The exterior was usually covered with a balloon or two. Newbies would opt for the number with the biggest balloon image. After at least five tries, they would understand that those images usually led to the smallest rubbers. There are exceptions, of course… like everything else. I mentioned the varying sizes earlier and you might remember the biggest balloon that almost always NEVER got won. In my neighbourhood, we came to the conclusion that the shop owner aka Peul bi always made sure to remove the number corresponding to the big one, so we could keep coming back, with the aim of winning it. We were still very young, but he knew we wouldn’t give him our bututs knowing we would only be going home with the small balloons. Each time I see someone blowing balloons now, I’d secretly wish they’d get burst, just so I could sing ‘ ballum toch na, yaaha haalis‘. Good times 🙂
Last Saturday, I stayed up late watching Dakar Ne Dort Pas, so I could get my weekly dose of chahagun and all the other crazy dances invented by our neighbours. I was pleasantly surprised when, suddenly, about four men appeared, dressed in the zimba costume. I screamed and cheesed and screamed again. The last time I saw a zimba was during summer holidays in Dakar in 2005. For Linguerites who’re wondering what I’m on about, I’ll explain. The zimba is a SeneGambian masquerade, who dresses and ‘acts’ like a lion and presents outdoor shows with drumming and dancing. Tickets to these shows, called pass, come in the form of tiny pieces of cloth, sometimes with a knot around the middle. Others used tiny pieces of paper where the fee was scribbled. One risked getting beaten by the zimba, if caught without a pass. The lucky ones would only be asked to dance in the middle of the circle that formed a stage for the performance. The zimba usually looked very scary, and despite his costume, proved to be a great runner. One would ask why I’d decide not to get a pass, which was actually cheap, and enjoy the show. Well, I guess I’ve always had a soft spot for adventure. Does that even add up? Watching from the sides, screaming ‘mungeh nyow (he’s coming)’ when the zimba starts running towards us and trying to escape without being caught was much more fun . My cousins, sister and I were lucky as most of the shows in my neighborhood were held just outside our home. Zimba shows were often followed by fuurals. These were also shows, this time without the masquerade. Individuals and groups would pay a meagre amount and have the DJ play a song of their choice, while they gather in the middle of the circle and dance. One could even request for ‘quarter track’, ‘half track’ etc for a lesser price. I’m smiling just thinking about those moments. In recent years, the art has died down and we hardly ever hear about zimba shows in Gambia anymore. Memory tells me they were banned after a young boy was beaten to death by a zimba in Bundung. It’s sad that it had to end that way, and I really hope the art will be revived, so my kids would get to enjoy the adventure. Arr Mumin!
They were here before the super-huge GSM phones made their entrance into our world. They stayed on when the more-advanced mobile phones came in too. It looks like the smartphone has succeeded in pushing it into retirement. I can still remember the nude-colored Philips phone set we had at home. My mom still has her Jamano set from GAMTEL, even though it’s a sort of evolution from what we used to have back then. Its shrill ring would send us kids scurrying to blurt out the coolest ‘Hello, Good(insert time of day)‘ we could pull up. I still remember having to go across to the neighbour’s house because someone wanted to talk to them. See, it served as a sort of community phone back then and the said neighbour would talk in loud or hushed tones, depending on the conversation. The best telephone memories for me, however, were the advent of the wooden box that came with a lock. This came with the increase in phone rates and the ‘constant abuse’ we put the phone through, according to the family’s breadwinners. Oh Lord! The peak moment for us was trying to poke the keys using a thin knife, just so we could place a call without being caught. When our trick got discovered, the boxes became smaller and the padlocks bigger. We still got away with what we wanted…until the phone was wiped out and we all had our noses poking the screens of our mobile phones.
VCR Players and Cassettes
With the sudden influx of American, Nigerian and Indian movies in previous years, one was very likely to find a VCR player in most homes. Placed above or beneath the TV, sometimes covered with a piece of cloth, the VCR player provided unrivaled entertainment. Video Cassette rental shops propped up in every corner, but our favorite was VCI (that’s it right?), which was on Kairaba Avenue, next to Happiness Supermarket. We gradually transferred to Chris, who would provide us with Nigerian movies everyday. Oh what joy we had slotting the tapes in, pressing on Rewind and Fast Forward as we willed. How frustrating it was to get rid of the tangles from a tape that got caught up in a faulty player. How pleasant that whirring sound was as the video played. How cool it was to wait up all night and record new music videos from MTV. How slow it felt to wait for the player to cool down so we could load it with more tapes. It was beautiful; it was interesting; it was fun and it’s worth a mention here.
Cartoons At Six & Scenarios From The Sahel
GRTS would tell you I’m not their biggest fan for obvious reasons, but our relationship has not always been sour. All through my days in Primary School and even high school, I’d rush home from extra classes as soon as the bell rang. Classes closed at 6pm then and the walk home would normally take about 20 minutes. A quick good-evening and a throw of my bag in some corner later, I would be seated with my cousins, staring wide-eyed at the TV screen. It was Cartoons time… one of the few things we bothered to watch on GRTS back then. From Lucky Luke to SpongeBob, Powerpuff Girls to The Wild Thorn Berries, Tom and Jerry to the fabulous Looney Tunes episodes, we took in everything. My all-time favorite was Popeye The Sailor. I thought of him the first time I ate spinach about two years ago. Those moments were priceless for me and I still find myself looking for special episodes on YouTube. GRTS would also feature visits to various schools in the country, where quiz competitions, debates and drama performances would be staged. It was an hour of edu-tainment I endeavored not to miss for anything… not even 6 o’ clock lunch. I didn’t pay much attention to their programs last summer, but I know for sure that 6pm on GRTS is no longer the same.
Do you recall the Scenarios From The Sahel? They were HIV/AIDS awareness videos aired on GRTS every night and featured scripts from all over Africa. I was particularly addicted to these videos, mainly because of my membership at Lend A Hand Society. The videos were translated from French to English and the main local languages in The Gambia. They lasted about 3 minutes and sent out very strong messages on HIV Prevention, the modes of transmission, care and support for people living with HIV and the many stereotypes associated with the virus; my favorite being the ‘Iron Pants’ idea, which was wrongly interpreted by the young man who had a pair of iron pants made for him, complete with a padlock. It’s unfortunate that we don’t have the videos on air anymore, especially with the increase in ‘sexual activity’ in our parts of the world. This is one thing I would love to see back on our screens. Meanwhile, you can always watch them on Youtube and, of course, share with your family and friends. HIV/AIDS is real; it’s still around and we’ve got to Kick It Out (word to Lend A H and).
Alright folks, I’ve taken you down to the past for too long. Clap clap. Return to the present. Those were memories I’ll cherish. There are a whole lot more things to reminisce on, but it’ll take a million more Linguere posts and WordPress/Balafong might give me the boot. You may share your memories in the comments section. Don’t worry, it won’t bite you. I hope you could find one or two things you could relate to up there, especially if you grew up in The Gambia. Oooh you want to thank me for the trip down memory lane? Here’s how you can: check THIS out and donate to our MILEAD Fund. We’ve been on the call for a few weeks now, but the response has been generally poor. Next step would be to roll on the floor, pleading, begging, supplicating to you to throw us the change from your shopping and er, more of course. Seriously though, we’ll gladly receive your contributions which will facilitate our trip to Ghana to represent The Gambia at MILEAD 2012 I’ll be back soonest. Y’all stay safe 🙂