Hello all! It’s been a busy two days in The Gambia, but I have been able to experience some illuminating cultural cornerstones of Gambian life. On Thursday, Musu took me to a portion of the Serrekunda Market so she could stock up on food and spices. She warned me that many of the women in the market would not want their picture taken because they felt they were being exploited by the white man (another damn legacy of colonialism). When we arrived at the market, my senses were immediately overwhelmed. There were so many people in such an enclosed space and they were shouting and gesturing wildly. Men were shoveling waste and garbage in a very narrow canal, releasing a very strong, pungent smell. Women dominated the market, selling their goods under umbrellas with their babies strapped to their backs. There was a variety of vegetables, fruits and spices, as well as soccer balls, coals and bags of oil. Fish and butchered meats were displayed for purchase, garnished, of course, with hoards of flies. I had a hard time breathing because it was so crowded, I didn’t want to smell through my nose, and I didn’t want to let any flies into my mouth. Musu took me by the hand and guided me through every twist and turn, and we ended coming out with some oysters, chicken, oil and spices. I’m really grateful to have experienced an African food market, but I’m not sure I want to go back any time soon.
Last night, Musu invited me to join her in attending a wedding reception for a bride in the compound across from us. Her sister, Siga, insisted that I wear African dress and that made me so happy. She kept laughing at how much I smiled when she was tying up my skirt. After taking some pictures, Musu and I met up with her friends and walked over to the compound. As soon as I entered, I felt that wearing an African dress was a mistake. Women and children were pointing and laughing at me. I felt so angry that Siga would put me in this position and my feelings were hurt because I just wanted to show respect and I wanted to be apart of the culture. I immediately expressed my feelings to Musu and she quieted and stopped laughing. When we found our seats, I sat quietly and took in my surroundings. We were sitting along one side of a square compound, and women lined the entire courtyard. Musu informed me that only women came to wedding reception. It was a Muslim wedding, so the proceedings had taken place earlier in the day, which consisted of the men of the bride’s family and the men of the groom’s family meeting in the mosque, splitting a Kola Nut (a sign of friendship) and praying for the couple. Now the bride and her bridal party entered to African music and sat down on a couch with flowers at the top of the courtyard. At this point, family members began to hand out snacks of popcorn, chips and sweet bread. This was followed by some sort of sweet wine (a little too sweet for my liking), and then finally chicken and spicy pasta noodles. While the food was being distributed, the aunts of the bride displayed all the gifts they were giving to the bride so she could make a suitable housewife. After the reception, the bride would be escorted to her new husbands home with all of her gifts where her husband would be waiting to deflower his virgin bride (whether she was a virgin or not is to be determined). Some speeches were given in Wolof, then the music really kicked in. Musu and her friends assured me that they would not laugh and encouraged me to dance with them. I shook my head and stayed in my seat. Then I looked around and saw everyone dancing and laughing and it was then that I decided I didn’t care if I was a spectacle. When else would I have the opportunity to celebrate at an African Muslim wedding and wear African attire? With that thought, I got up and I danced my butt off with Musu and had a wonderful time. By the time we left, I was exhausted and sweaty and ready for bed.
It is the weekend now and I have plenty more adventures ahead. I will try to update this again as soon as possible! Have a great weekend everybody!