A Tale of One Tubob

Yesterday, I had an interesting bus experience, and I realized that I often have semi strange or funny experiences, here. Wait. No. Fails. I have a lot of “fails” that mostly are composed of me just doing something dumb or not understanding the task at hand.

So, I’m starting a new endeavor. Maybe once a week or on an “as it happens” basis, I am going to share these short stories of my life. I hope that they make you laugh as much as they make me laugh…when I look back at them…

First and foremost, I want to give context as to why I am calling this series “A Tale of One Toubob”. In The Gambia, Toubob is a term given to outsiders or “white person”. Basically, it is given to anyone who is different in some way.

Want to know a secret? This term is the bane of my existence here. Kids SCREAM it. Adults say it. “Say” isn’t even the way to put it. More like scream in unnatural voices. It’s a special “toubob” voice. The sound of it is more like Tu-BOB! Some days it feels like even the goats are yelling it at me.

I don’t get toubobed much in village anymore, because everyone knows me now and calls me by my name. Outside of village, however, it’s toubob central. We don’t get greeted, we get toubobed. It. Is. so. Annoying.

Anyway, I’ve accepted how toubobular I am. So, here is the beginning of a compilation of stories that make Isatou, Isa-tubob.


Yesterday, I was on an interesting bus ride. From hitting a goat to watching a small fistfight unfold in the back of the bus between a passenger and the ticketing man, it was anything but boring.

I sat minding my own business as the wind whipped my face from the open windows providing some kind of heat relief. No one (cough cough no man) had bothered me too much, so I was feeling pretty content. The driver was a speedy one, and I had my music playing to lull me into a heat induced sleep.

Then…a man sitting in front of me decided to spit out the window. Spitting is just a way of life here. Everyone spits. If you are pregnant, you spit. If you are sick, you spit. If it’s Ramadan, people spit to literally not drink their own saliva. Unfortunately, spitting out of a high speed bus is a poor plan.

I saw it all happen. He wound up, released the huge wad into the wind, and it promptly and forcefully came right back into my face. All over my face. You know what everyone that saw did? Laughed. They pointed and laughed. I don’t even think the man knows that he did it… but no one advocated for me. At least they got a good laugh?

I got to spend the next three hours with a stranger’s spit all over my face.

Poor toubob.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Margaret says:

    In my short visit to The Gambia I quickly decided that the bus ticketing attendant doesn’t get paid enough. “What?!!, I have to pay?!”, “Your cookies make me fat!”, “The water isn’t even cold!”. But my ultimate favorite bus story is when we barreled through walls of flames so the driver could make it to prayer on time. Sorry you got spit on. I can completely picture everyone laughing at the Toubob’s misfortune!


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