This year Tina and
Sam are accompanying Shelby on her trip to the Gambia.
Tina is a long time volunteer for GambiaHELP and they have both
been very excited about their journey. Here are daily
notes from their trip. Tina is providing the text and Sam
Three plane rides for a total of 19
hours in the air and two days later we make it to Banjul, Gambia. We
have to wait to exit the plane because the Vice President, Isatou Njie Saidy,
who was on our plane exited first. We are greeted by Essa Camara,
In-Country GambiaHELP Coordinator at the airport and life is good. The
heat is not overwhelming and it is about 4:30 in the afternoon. We
wait in line to show our passports and then encounter a chaotic push to scan
our luggage to leave the airport.
We left the airport and Essa took us
to his family compound. We met his lovely family (mother, two sisters
(another one lives in CA), and three brothers). They showed us the
rabbit hutch that was recently built and we had a nice visit with one of the
women’s group members. There is much to do and see, however, we are
very tired after a long journey. Essa takes us to our compound that
will be our base camp. It is freshly painted and new beds. Fatou,
(Essa’s sister) cooked a wonderful meal of fish benechine. We end the
evening sitting outside enjoying the breeze and gazing at the stars.
So much to get used to in the
morning, I am not prepared. First, I need to figure out how to take a
bucket shower. It has been awhile since India…only to find out there is no
water. When I finally get some water, I realize just how difficult it
is to get the soap off. One bucket later, I am dressing for the day
and looking forward to seeing where Essa works.
We arrive at the Gambia Printing and
Publishing Corporation (GPPC) and we have breakfast with Essa. Our
electricity went out in the morning so there was no hot water for coffee and
I can’t wait to enjoy a hot cup of Joe. We were served an amazing
breakfast sandwich with egg, hot dog, pickles, ketchup, onion, tomato, and
lettuce. It was on white leavened bread which is not common and served
as a special treat. I have found the food portions being served are
The bananas are amazing here.
I can’t believe how good it tastes and wonder why the bananas are so
terrible in the States.
We go to the Embassy to register and
they sent us around to the back door. Once back there they hand us a
card and tell us to register on the internet. Even in Gambia, you are
redirected to the do it online.
A naming ceremony is planned for
tomorrow to give us Gambian names. Campo who will be a part of the
ceremony tomorrow is coming in from Senegal today and we must welcome him to
the village. We meet him at the beginning of the street and he dances and
sings, with everyone following him in the street, to speak with the village
Akalo (or Head). The young children run from him and scream.
After meeting the village Akalo, we
return to Essa’s compound and meet with the elders to discuss the ceremony
for tomorrow. We all met the person we will be named after and we feel
fortunate to be a part of such a wonderful affair that has taken so much
time and energy to prepare.
We accompany the elders to a
livestock farm and they select a cow for the ceremony to feed the village.
We ask what kind of cow it is and the farmer stated “white” which is the
color of the cow. There is much excitement about the ceremony tomorrow
and when we arrive with the cow the village is gathered at the square
dancing and singing the night away.
We awake to a slower starting day,
since there will be lots of festivities for the ceremony in the afternoon
and into the evening. Sam likes to sit out on the front porch in the
breeze in the compound children enjoy spending time with Toubab (the white
We are adjusted now and the jet lag
is under control and it is much easier to get ready. We go to Essa’s
for breakfast of oatmeal and peanut sauce. It is very filling.
We meet all the women who have been cooking for hours preparing for the
Sam wanted to know where all the men
are and Essa shows us a compound across the street where the men are
gathered. We tried on the outfits that they made for us to wear at the
naming ceremony. They are just beautiful. They have gone to
great lengths to make this a special event and one we will never forget.
The excitement builds as the women cook and we wait for Campo to make an
appearance and accept our Gambian names.
We walked with Campo to the
village park grounds and took a seat next to the village Akalo. They
called us up to sit on the prayer mat and covered our heads; they cut a
piece of our hair, and announced our Gambian names. Then, we went
up to pray and learn of our great responsibilities to the community.
The whole village began to celebrate and we danced the night away.
It will be hard to top this day!
We went to the Bijulo
Monkey Park today and walked around the park. It was good
exercise and fun to see the monkeys following us on the path.
We stopped at the
tourist beach hotels and had a coke by the ocean.
I was happy to return to
Banjulinding and not spend very much time in the tourist area.
We had dinner with Essa’s family and returned to our compound
for a good night’s sleep.
There was work to do at
the compound this morning. The door knobs and locks have broken
and the bathroom floor does not have a slope and now the toilet
handle is broken. We awoke to the landlord fixing the bathroom
door and locks. They worked on the bathroom floor yesterday by
creating a slope for the drain. They have also fixed the other
We had pastries from the
local market and did the dishes. Then, we went to Banjul to
tour the museum as well as the arch. It was a nice day to visit
the exhibits and learn more about Gambia. We rode the elevator
to the top of the arch and the view was spectacular. We had a
nice lunch at Ali Baba and returned home.
View from Arch
The other family in our
compound is very nice. When we sit outside on our porch the
children, hang out with us and chat. There is Awa 17 who goes
to high school, Haddy 11, Fatou 4, YaYa 3 (visiting) and Binta
3…they are funny and sweet. We looked through a magazine
together and read a book on malaria. When we go to the store,
they walk with us. I am glad they are our neighbors. Their
grandmother spends most of the time outside and does not speak
English but she always greets us and smiles. Her name is Maria.
Busy day, we began with a visit to
the Banjulinding Women’s Garden. My namesake Kaddysa Sambou is the
President of this women’s group. We met with the women and toured
their gardens. The garden is more like a huge farm, so many acres of
land being managed by these women. It is an incredible amount of work.
They work at the garden three times a day. In the morning, they will
come…break for lunch to go make it for their families…then come back work
some more in the afternoon and evening time. They grow watermelon,
tomatoes, pineapples, bananas, and casava. After the tour, we sat with
the women and received a project request to assist with purchasing solar
panels and material to build a fence.
Next we went to the
Banjulinding Primary School. We have raised enough funds to pay
for the entire school year for six students. We meet with
the headmaster to discuss the tuition and finalize the payment
as well as paperwork. We also visited two classrooms while
we were there…one for math and the other for social studies.
There are two sessions at this school a morning session and
afternoon session. The total count is 1125 students with
17 teachers. They wear uniforms and can take extra classes
for additional credit.
We met a fortune teller
who lives in the woods and is 90 years old. We ended the forest
walk with a demonstration of climbing the Palm trees with only a
rope around your waist.
Today the Akalo’s son
was married. We all dressed in our finest outfits to attend the
ceremony. Everyone came to the celebration. The bride, whose
family is originally from Trinidad, was from New York and many
were excited to meet her. The women were all dressed
There were several
entertainers: the Kora player, a Fula Dance Troupe and the
Kanyeleng. The Kora player strummed and sang to the bride and
women gathered in the house prior to the ceremony. He would
sing a beautiful song and insert your name into the poem and you
showed appreciation by stuffing $5 and $10 Dalasi notes into the
Kora at a special hole on the calabash made for donations.
After the actual wedding
ceremony, the reception took place and the Kanyeleng began their
performance of dancing and singing. The Kanyeleng are a group
of women that are barren and have formed a society and provide
comedic performances at events. The Fula Dance Troupe danced,
ate fire, and performed magic tricks.
We took a morning walk
around the neighborhood since it was Set Sittale. On the last
Friday of the month, everyone cleans the streets and
businesses. So from 9am to 1pm, no cars are on the road and
shops are closed. It was a peaceful walk with no traffic on the
streets. In the afternoon, we headed to the Abuko Nature
Reserve and walked half the loop listening to the guide discuss
the trees and birds. They had hyenas in a cage and there was a
baby hyena so cute but very dirty. They were like small
ponies. I couldn’t believe their size.
Today we went to the
market and purchased cloth for dresses. I selected a beautiful
batik that was turquoise and brown. It takes months to make
these designs. They apply wax and dye the fabric and then pull
the wax off and then reapply the wax to create unique patterns
We went to the Essa
Camara’s family compound (house) for lunch and watched the
“football” game Liverpool versus Cardiff. Before we returned
home, we went to Tanjay to see the fishermen and watch the boats
come to shore and unload. It was a flurry of activity and the
air rich with smoke from the smoke houses preserving the catch
of the day.
We toured SBEC today.
This high school is international and attached to the British
education system. There are 189 students and 30 instructors.
They are building an auditorium/gymnasium. It is a beautiful
school for those with money and it just celebrated 10 years in
Gambia. It is a dramatic difference from the school we visited