A retrospective: Back from Barra to Banjul

I join the scrum at the ferry ticket kiosk. A kind man with a deeply scarred face senses my claustrophobia, takes my money, buys my ticket, and hands me change.

Large guns are carried with casual deference around the port – a land rover has a machine gun mounted on its roof. Another is slung over the shoulder of a military officer wearing the only balaclava I’ve ever seen in Africa. His whole body is a military green except his eye-whites, black boots, and dark hands.

On the ferry I realise how filthy I am. I wipe my forehead on my t-shirt. My t-shirt becomes brown-black. I scratch my itchy mosquito bites. They immediately turn into bloody open sores. The grooves in the skin of my fingers and palms are brown, their intricate patterns revealed in the dirt.

Impeccably dressed, an orderly at the ‘small teaching hospital’ hobbles onto the ferry and sits down. He’s frail, but he’s done his manual job for 65 years and continues to do so.

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