“Oooh let’s go to the market” Rohey says when we asks what she has on the menu that night. The small, excited woman works using a special concept. Ze takes her clients to the fishing harbour and the local market to do all the shoppings for the evening meal. This way you get a totally different experience than choosing from a menu card. And if you are already used to the local life, you can go to the market yourself and she will prepare the meal with the ingredients that you provide. After two weeks in Gambia we became half Gambian so we bought her all the ingredients for a cake and Rohey made a delicious birthday cake for Olivier.
That first night we follow Rohey properly in the fishing harbour when she holds up the one fish after the other and asks us which one is good. We don’t see the difference and follow her advice and two nice fishes disappear into the shopping bag. On the market she strolls to the different market stalls. Every time she asks if we like this vegetable and then says “Give her 20 Dalasi”. She knows everybody at the market and is surprisingly direct in the way she talks. When we meet another woman with a little child, Rohey says without any shame “I told her that she has an ugly baby”, laughing out loud for being so cheeky.
We arrive back in the restaurant with a full shopping bag. Rohey gets to work into the kitchen and learns Zoë how to prepare the fish properly. In the meantime she doesn’t stop talking and tells about the difficulties in the rainy saison. There are tourist at that time and the roof doesn’t protect the restaurant well enough. The darkness is coming quickly and, almost like usual, the electricity in Bakau doesn’t work. With a candle in one hand and a spoon in the other the continues cooking undisturbedly. The moving shadows of the dancing flame give this scenery a touch of magic. One hour later a feast appears on the table, which we eat under the flashlight from her cellphone.
The next morning we pass by quickly to take a profile picture for our portrait. The house is packed with big bowls full of chicken. She has a major order for a ceremony, for a many as 700 persons she has to prepare a meal. The catering is the other part of her business, but the orders are seldom. She maybe has one in two months. But that doesn’t repels her dreaming about more.
The African dreams always appears to be about enlarge the current work of business. The boy in the canoe wants his own canoe to organise trips for tourists. The guard in the harbour wants a better job in the headquarter. And Rohey, she wants to build a big restaurants with multiple floors including a guesthouse and large catering. Behind those dreams lies not the image of a flourishing business, but a better life for the whole family. Rohey waits patiently for that one benefactor that will come to her restaurant one day and believes in her dream. In her mind everything is already conceived, with contracts and refunds well arranged. Her hope and positive mindset are admirable because life isn’t easy here. Gambia deserves his name “the smiling coast of Africa”!