Oh my god, there is a man on a camel in my back garden!!!!!
Who on earth comes home to find something like that in their backyard?!!! Well, apparently my neighbours, because for them this is not an unusual occurrence. But for me - WOAH! This is truly crackers and the most insane thing I have witnessed since finding a duck living here last week (sound strange I know, but really, a duck here in the parched dried out scorching savannah? I mean come on that's just bizarre!). But still nowhere near as bizarre as the super tall shadow of a man peering down at me from about twelve feet above me (feels like twenty!) as he perches dressed in white nomadic robes on a very tall and serious looking camel!
There I was simply minding my own business, shorts and vest on, scarf on my head, mop in hand, gearing myself up to clean the piles upon piles of mouse poo out of our large and thick with dust pantry room, sweating like a hippo and singing some random song at the top of my lungs thinking there was no one else around. Then I caught a glimpse of something tall, yellow, lumpy and hairy, moving in a strange fashion outside the window. At first I didn't believe what I was seeing. Then my heart leapt into my mouth as a thought tentatively dawned on me...A giraffe???!!!! No. Way. Dropping my cloth and mop in a fluster, and rushing to the window for a closer look I saw that it was actually a camel, tall and angular, balancing it's uneven weight around, shifting awkwardly backwards and forwards, it's backwards-bending legs making strange jerky but sturdy movements in the sand. I dashed into my back yard to unlock the gate. I soon realised there was a small crowd of children gathered outside also coming to get excited and ogle at the spectacle, and so tangling my scarf out of my hair and around my waist in a chaotic attempt to cover myself up I failed to notice the bargaining going on around me. Once sorted and precariously covered, I noticed the silhouette of a very tall slim man, draped in robes tied with colourful ropes, and with an array of beads and necklaces dripping around his neck. His skin was cocoa-dark, leathery and wrinkled, and his black eyes started down at me from underneath seriously bushy black eyebrows. It was all I could do to stand there and gawp at him. It honestly took my breath away.
He was one of a tribe called the Fulaani (great tribal name! If I were part of a tribe I'd definitely like to say I was a 'Fulaani' - it sounds kind of mysterious and serious at the same time), a nomadic tribe that roam around these parts of Africa, all the way from the Sahara desert, down into Burkina Faso, and even across the no-mans land border areas here into the upper-most northern areas of Ghana.
This man was very intriguing, and I was standing there with my mind going in too many directions at once - "quick get my camera", "s*** I should say something first", "greet him Emma, just say something!!!", "Oh pants, what do I say??!", "I can't even remember the language! Oh, I know, I'll go in and get my notes", "no, go and get your camera", "Shake his hand? No, it might be rude. Smile, be friendly..." all of this and I'm still stood there gawping at him, the children gawping at me wondering "What on earth is the nasara (white person) doooing??!!".
In the meantime my next door neighbour is apparently bargaining with him, he is asking for something to feed his camel, not money but maize or some grains that his camel can feed on. The thing is this is how the Fulani live. They roam and roam, and do not settle. They do not trade, they simply beg, and roam from village to village slowly and steadily on camelback, asking for something small from the houses tat they come across. They very rarely venture into the towns, although one volunteer did see a parade of them passing through crazy chaotic Bolga city-centre, weaving their way through the hoards of traffic and clouds of pollution like a string of cardboard cut-outs being jerkily puppeted along in complete contrast to their surroundings. She gives him some maize, amidst a string of babble that sounds like she is really disapproving though, and the man accepts with a grunt.
The children laughing and giggling (at me and my mad reaction to this situation I realise) bring me to my senses, and I finally make the decision to run inside and grab my camera, with the resolve to somehow gesture to this wise and withered man in a desperate attempt to get a photo, thinking what can I offer him in return? I've got some carrots I could give him...? Hmmmm, this is a camel not a reindeer and I am not sure what they eat. I certainly don't have any maize.
But after all that, it's too late. The camel is making the funny backwards-forwards movements, and there they go, away from our house and towards the next, down across the scrub-land back towards the hills and the no-man's land of Ghana-Burkina, a colourful string of curious little children in tow, and my camera dangling loosely in my hand.