Day 1 – Welcome to The Gambia
Sunday – Day 3
I worshipped at Winner’s Chapel International Church, overflowing with Nigerians. It all felt very familiar and very loud! I left inspired, but tired…
So I returned to the hotel to relax and tucked myself away in the safety of the hotel walls. I didn’t dare venture to the beach, which was less than 50 metres away from where I lay by the pool. Why? Because the non-stop cooing over the first two days of my stay had gotten too much. I’d travelled to The Gambia for some peace, quiet and relaxation, after all.
On reflection, it’s pretty ironic that, only a day ago one of the security guards on the beach had asked if I wanted him to shoo people away as they approached and I’d gently declined his offer.
Despite feeling ‘annoyed’ by the constant heckles and hellos, I’m glad I did decline his offer. I only needed a day to reset and then I was back out there, buying from my fruit lady, saying ‘hi’ and giving thumbs up to some who shouted my name/nickname, and every so often giving into my frustration by playing deaf, ignoring calls and heckles or reprimanding a few cheeky guys who went too far in their persistent calls and selling tactics.
Monday – Day 4
Visiting a school supported by Colfe’s School, London gave me so much hope.
Three girls I spoke with in the girls’ canteen told me of their career aspirations – to become a pilot, an air hostess and a journalist.
I wrote a short excerpt about this visit here, but if you have any questions on this or anything else I’ve wrote about, just ask in the comments or drop me a message.
Wednesday – Day 5
I broke down in tears today. The reality of slavery and the slave trade continues to break my heart. Yes, I know the slave trade or human trafficking is still very real to this day, but not in the way it was seen as ‘normal’ and accepted in society for hundreds of years against one particular people group. It still feels too real and too fresh for me to not feel broken up about it.
Perhaps it was that. Or perhaps it was the way a group of men from the village in Juffreh surrounded me in a desperate attempt to sell their wooden carvings and other items. In their desire to get my money, they actually chased me away. I understand, but I don’t understand at the same time. If they’d allowed me to walk around and actually look at what they had to offer, I would have made several purchases as gifts. I’d intentionally brought out the money to do so. But, in the end, I retreated to the safety of the jeep and left with one item I didn’t even want because I’d felt so pressed by them and wanted to escape as soon as possible.
I carried my anxiety, frustration and sadness from the above incident into the slave museum with me. So when the first thing I read there is a manifesto of 700+slaves shipped from Africa with only 372 reaching America alive, I am undone. That brings me to tears.
By the end of my day trip to Kunta Kinte Island, I was physically and emotionally drained. But I’m glad I went. Despite the tears and that minor incident, this was truly one of the highlights of my trip. P.s. It’s a long 3+ hour trip from the hotels in Banjul (car –> ferry –> car OR car –> boat), but still worthwhile because the trip in itself is part of the fun!
This statue stood at the foot of Juffreh by the sea, just before you crossed over to Kunta Kinte Island
Lifestyle – Expectation vs Reality
I believed I was going to The Gambia to see the ‘other side of Africa’. The Africa you don’t often see on the news of wealth and prosperity and beautiful beaches. But I was met with the same images of poverty and struggle…
If I could’ve bought everything he had, I would’ve.
He carries these hand-woven baskets, bowls and bags through the 38 degree heat each and every day, 7 days a week for 6 months of the year – during the busy tourist season.
Thursday – Day 6
On my final full day, I didn’t plan to leave the hotel and beach. And I was almost successful in this endeavour until the evening when my holiday mates and I dined at the nearby Caribbean restaurant, Mosiah’s.
I’d previously eaten all my evening meals at the hotel as I’d paid for half-board and wanted to make the most of it, but I’m glad I checked out this Caribbean. I’d recommend it to everyone!
Friday – ‘We Will Miss you’ – Day 7
All the staff and random strangers on the beach miss you when you take an excursion for the day. (I think they miss my custom more than anything). But either way, they’re pretty upset when I tell them I’m leaving today.
So my fruit lady – that’s what she calls herself – real name, Yai told me to take a picture so that I won’t forget her and so I can share her image with my friends who visit so they’ll know who to buy their fruit from.