Hello everyone! I’m sorry that it has taken so long for me to write a post, I have just been busy and have not had time at the internet cafe to write a sufficient blog. Once I get a data card for my computer it will be easier to blog more regularly.
After an exhausting set of flights I found myself in the heat of the Gambia. Dr. Sarr’s brother Ousainou picked me up from the airport and pointed out various places on our way to Musu’s compound in Serrekunda. Musu is the eldest sister of Dr. Sarr’s best friend and she is the woman who I am staying with. She is very kind and eager to please, but also very stern. She fixes me enough food each meal for 5 people and I feel awful when I bring her my plate that is still 3/4 full of food. The food is not awful…it is usually rice and fish. I actually ate piranha the other day and I have to say that it is my favorite dish that she has cooked for me so far! Musu has a two year old daughter named Mari and she might be my favorite part of The Gambia so far. For anyone who knows me, I’m not a big fan of children. This little girl, however, has stolen my heart. She has the greatest personality and even though she has so few things to play with, she has a great imagination and is always smiling. I spend at least a few hours each day playing with her on the porch of the compound. I am becoming fast friends with Musu’s sister Siga. She takes me on walks to meet people and see places and she is currently teaching me some Wolof so I can better communicate with people. The people here are incredibly friendly…every person I pass on the street takes time to smile and greet me. The children all call me “toubab” which means white person. I am called that so much that I joke around with Dr. Sarr that I am going to change my name to Toubab because it’s easier. I have been told that Gambia’s nickname is “The Smiling Coast.” In the tourist part of town there are people the locals call “bumsters” who harass you to buy their stuff, but they are harmless. I am lucky to be staying with a family in the local part of town so I do not have to deal with the bumsters very often!
Though I’ve only been here for a mere 5 days, I have done some pretty cool things so far. I went to a local event called an “egere,” which is essentially a festival/parade in the community where the hunting society puts on masks and grass outfits and they play drums and dance. I have also been to the beach. It was both similar to the beaches of the lowcountry and also different. I saw some pretty bizarre animals that I will have to post pictures of once I get a data card. The smell of the ocean reminded me of home and I felt really comforted by the beach. I made a friend on the plane who is French Canadian and we have hung out once. We visited a national park and saw a lot of interesting animals, flora and fauna. The monkeys there are very friendly and will come right up to you to search your hands for food. I also saw some Baobab trees that were over 800 years old. The Baobab trees are my favorite and they are everywhere. They live as long as 4000 years and that just baffles me. I really like the eco-tourism here and want to visit more parks when I get the chance.
I should be starting my research tomorrow and I am excited for that! I can’t wait to post pictures to show you all what I am doing/seeing. If you all have any questions about my experience, please comment and I will answer. Hopefully I will be able to write a more detailed blog soon!