Jollof Chronicles: And So It Begins

Photo designed by Babucarr Sarr (Taxawal Gambia)

Photo designed by Babucarr Sarr (Taxawal Gambia)

It starts with the sights…

…first, of the lights snaking along the runway as the airplane taxis slowly amid the applause from the passengers, thankful for a great landing; of the air-side transfer buses waiting to complete this journey, ensuring the safety of passengers all the way to the gates of the arrival lounge; of the smiling and not-so-smiling faces of the immigration officers clad in their familiar brown uniform; of the customs official as he marks your suitcase, suspicious of its contents and eager to check, to pillage and to show authority; of the smiles on faces of family and friends ending their patient wait for a flight that probably got delayed; of the dusty streets illuminated by the lights from the tall poles as you make your way home, your excitement growing with each kilometer, the familiar sights confirming your new location; of the genuine smiles of even more family waiting up late to see you arrive, excited to have you with them again… at least for the first few weeks before you’re no longer a gan.

Then there are the sounds…

…of Wolof everywhere… and Sosseh too, interspersed with a line of Fula here, a word of Serahule there, an exclamation in Jola; of early morning Asalamu Aleikums from the neighbours, thankful for a new day and sharing wishes of peace and blessing; of your mother’s voice calling your name, a reminder that waking up at midday is no longer allowed; of gospel music from the many radios at home while you spread your mat to pray; of sheep bleating and dogs barking… of hens clucking and ducks quacking; of mangoes dropping heavily from the trees unto the ground, hitting your roof first, a call to be picked up; of fish and meat and chicken, in contact with hot oil, giving a loud ‘chasss’; of kids running around with little care in the world, their shouts in the afternoon borne from the excitement of play, of playmates, of play dates… replaced with cries of ‘light nyow na‘ in the evenings. You watch them and wish you were their age again, oblivious to the struggles and the challenges around you and losing yourself in the euphoria of the better freedom that is childhood.

There are the smells…

…of food, the aroma wafting in from cooking pots in your home and in the neighbours’ homes; of their varied smells… the chu, the supa kanja, its cousin the plasas, the domoda and the benachin; of the smoke from the tripods and the furrno jambaars mixed with the smoke from the exhaust pipes of cars weaving their way around the tiny konjs, blaring their horns at a kid here, a dog there, another kid further down; of omo and sabou Sankung Sillah and odsabel rising from the suds in your aunty’s basin, her hands deftly producing rhythmic sounds of pich pich, as the clothes get cleaner; of food, oh food, oh food!

There is your smile…

… as you take it all in. The sights, the sounds, the smells. Your smile, still in place as you walk through the crowded Serrekunda market, forced to slow down while being nudged East and West… a puss puss at  your knees, a panyeh marseh at your waist, more hands urging you through the crowds. You board a taxi and listen to the driver, his ability to hold a conversation with himself and still make it interesting through the journey still a wonder to you. Still smiling as you watch a confrontation… a bike man forced to retort, to be angry at the driver who just knocked him off his vehicle, hesitating on forgiveness and finally riding slowly away. You smile again, in yet another taxi, reminded to attach your seat belt while you stare in fascination at the small screen with Tom and Jerry dashing about. You breathe in and look around. ‘Jollof nice’, you exclaim. They look at you, the driver and the other passengers, and you smile again.

They don’t understand, won’t understand… that feeling of being back where one belongs and feels loved, where one is adored, accepted and appreciated, where one looks around and knows there’ll always be a way out of anything, where one calls out and is sure to get an answer.

They won’t understand… that yes, you know it’s not all rosy. That we have challenges and struggles and difficulties to surmount. After all, you’ve been ‘out‘ and you’ve seen bigger and better. That you don’t have it easy either. That your smile is not an attestation of hidden joy and secrets they are not privy to. That your smile is not in disregard of their complaints and cries. That when your lips curl… when they curve… you are actually with them… in solidarity because the struggles belong to you all.

You still smile and hope that when they look at you, what they see is just a simple person who is glad to be home. A Gambian excited to be connected with her loved ones again. An immigrant, glad to belong once more. A young leader, excited for the many opportunities to help, to guide, to teach… to be helped, be guided, be taught.

That you smile because you’ve found your heart… in your home… where the heart truly is.


10 thoughts on “Jollof Chronicles: And So It Begins

  1. kodou

    My numero uno just made my day! You just took me home momentarily and I can’t wait to go on trips with linguere and the jollof chronicles 🙂


    1. myzzdiamant Post author

      Numero Uno. There’s so much inspiration in here. One just wants to move around with a notebook and write it all down! I’m glad this made your morning, Here’s to more posts on the chronicles. 🙂


  2. Lamin Jaiteh

    A truly magnificent piece with a lot of attention to detail… I got homesick just by reading it… Truly inspirational.



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