A dog in the backpack

While Patrick is pushing his way through the frozen sea in Svalbard, I am sweating in The Gambia, both from the heat and the unfamiliar brain activity. I am working for two months again on my research, trying to tie up loose ends and publish some manuscripts. This sounds easy enough, but remember, I am in Africa. Alone. On a small sailboat. Without electricity. But with a dog … and as if this were not enough, it just gets unbearably hot during the middle of the day. Try thinking about an analysis you don’t really understand when the sweat is slowly running into your eyes …

Well, but one’s got to earn a living somehow (at least sometimes), so I’ve decided to take the bull by the horns. I bought a motorbike and rented a small room with a desk, a bed and, heavens, electricity! Sort of, anyway. Apparently, there’s just not enough electricity available for everybody in The Gambia, so every now and then, it’s just gone. Sometimes for half a day, sometimes longer, but there’s hardly a day without a power cut. Luckily there are a few restaurants nearby who run diesel generators to charge my laptop when the power is out again, but tss …

Of course I cannot leave Widdershins, our sailboat, unattended for too long. So, in the morning I try to get up real early, to avoid the worst of the heat, pack the laptop, a few other things and the dog in my backpack, row ashore and ride into work. Yup, the dog comes along. I’m not sure what the locals make of me – a toubab (white person), a woman (!), on a motorbike, with a big leather jacket on in the heat and a little dog-head peeking out of the backpack. It probably just confirms for them that most toubabs are a little bit strange, if not plain crazy.

dog-in-backpackBut anyway, I ride the 20 km into work, first over sandy dirt roads (getting better at that), then through murderous Gambian traffic. I dodge around donkey carts, try to avoid temperamental taxis, do my best not to overrun unpredictable pedestrians and cyclists riding on the wrong side of the road, and by the time I get to my room I usually need a drink. Or two.

But the place I’m staying at is really nice and quiet, a big compound with lots of shady trees, dozens of old cars, three grumpy dogs (it took a while, but now Sparrow finally gets along with them) and friendly people. Heinz, the owner, runs (amongst other things) an NGO that builds schools and health centres. The whole thing is financed through car rallies from Germany to The Gambia. Check it out on: www.dbo-online.com!

So, every day I try to get my work done (progress is slow, gah), and sometimes I stay for the night, just to avoid the journey. But at least every second night I spend on the boat, making sure everything is fine there as well. All in all not too bad, but I can’t wait until Patrick comes back and life becomes a little bit easier and less lonely again!

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