I think the Gambia is a perfect place to start one’s African adventures. It is called the “Smiling Coast” for a reason. Everyone here is truly friendly and wants to get to know you. You stand out as a Tuboo, excuse the misspelling of this word, and people just want to touch and shake hands with the first or rare white person they encounter.
It also seems to be an extremely safe country and I didn’t feel scared to walk the streets or go outside; although I won’t and didn’t go walking outside by myself at night. To me that is just common sense.
I did feel really bad that I don’t speak either Wolof or Mandinka but I didn’t have enough time to learn either language before heading here. I may need to look into it when I return to the States since I will definitely need to return.
What may you ask are the highlights of my trip to the Gambia? Well, here they are listed below.
1. Most people seem truly happy. They are always welcoming you with a smile.
2. The fruit is awesome. It is so fresh and you can literally pick mangoes right from the trees outside right now.
3. It is extremely peaceful and beautiful outside the main city. I was fortunate enough to take a boat ride from the village of Berefet to James Island (aka Kunta Khenta Island) and Jufreeyah and see some of the awesome landscape and animals that abound in this country.
To illustrate these items I have included some photos of my experiences to date.
1. Gambian Time – nothing starts on time (which is okay) but starting things 1.5 hours after the original start time is a bit much especially when I show up on American time J
2. I need electricity – The electricity goes off here, at least in the compound I am staying in, every night for at least 6 hours. This makes it difficult to sleep, not because I can’t have air conditioning but, because I can’t have a fan. A fan really makes a lot of difference. I don’t mind the heat and in fact love it but when it is so humid you sweat laying still you need at least a fan.
These are definitely challenges but they are also part of the fun of traveling. I may get frustrated or really sweat but I wouldn’t change these experiences for anything. I have met some amazing people on this trip so far who are doing pretty amazing things, speaking of my students here during research projects, and I have been able to experience a culture I won’t normally have chosen to experience and grown to appreciate them and want to come back for more.
I will say that the Gambia reminds me a lot of Lima, Peru and the other areas of Peru I have visited. The only difference I see is the color of the skin but other aspects remain the same. From the massive markets to the friendliness of the people to the delicious food. It just goes to show you that you can find commonalities wherever you go and that the world really is a very small place.
Enjoy a few more pictures from my journey so far. On to the Monkey Park and then to Sri Lanka!