When Kelly's dad Gary yanked off his thumb, he let out a yell, and then quickly put it back on. Shocked, the five children who had been watching this strange 'toubab' ( the Wolof word for anyone who isn't black' ) turned and ran shrieking into the maze of houses lining the dusty street near the fisherman's beach of Soumbedioune. It isn't often that a white guy with no hair wanders through this part of town, let alone one who stops to display his magical powers. Within a couple of minutes more than a dozen kids ran back toward Gary, the white warlock, for another show.
"Owwwwwch!!!" Gary said as he pulled off his thumb again. This time, the kids who have seen it before stand bravely watching while several of the others' jaws drop open as they turn to run.
Another demonstration, and then another and Gary reveals the trick, the kids laughing and smiling as they trip over eachother for a closer look and try to immitate it.
This was the scene last week on Gary and Cilla's last day in Senegal, during a quick trip to a tailor's shop in this neighborhood of Dakar. And it wasn't the first time they drew a crowd during their week-long visit. Everywhere they went, they made friends, and the kids particularly loved and feared Gary's antics.
"Toubab!!!" they would yell as they spotted him driving by along the Petite Cote. At a beachside village, Gary drew yet another youthful mob, frightening several of them half to death with his 'yank the thumb off' trick, and giving the other half a laugh they will likely never forget. It was unclear if he was reinforcing their superstitions about witches and warlocks
and strange gri-gri, or eroding them.
It wasn't just the Senegalese kids that enjoyed Gary and Cilla's visit -- the entire Team Valdmanis Africa did, and we're all very grateful. Laird and Dylan were over the moon to see Nana and Grampy in Africa, and Dylan is still making the duck noises Gary taught him. Both of them say 'Nana' often. They had incredible fun swimming at Toubab Dialaw, oggling the giraffes and rhinos at Bandia, and playing in the inflatable pool at home. And of course Kelly and I were thrilled to see from home here in Dakar to share some of our experience first hand.
Thank you Gary and Cilla!