Hello all! I know that my blogs have been broad strokes of my experience here, so I want to give a more detailed account of what daily life consists of here in The Gambia. Every morning between 5:00 and 5:30 am, the mosque behind Musu’s compound makes a call to prayer, which blares loudly out of megaphones and makes my bed shake. Within an hour of the call to prayer the roosters begin to crow like crazy and they won’t shut up for about an hour. If after all of this I am still asleep, I will begin to hear sounds of the day starting, whether it be women grinding up spices by mortar and pestle or babies crying. The mornings are not too hot but it does not take long for the day to heat up. After bathing and taking breakfast, I usually walk around for a bit and take in the sights, sounds and smells. My neck of the woods is called Dippa Kunda and it is characterized by dusty, rocky roads and an assortment of compounds with corrugated tin roofs and mosaic tiled pavement. There are small shops, tailors and seamstresses on almost every street corner. There are people gathered everywhere in the shade, both men and women, and they can be there for hours at a time. A common sight to see is small children running around and little babies strapped to the backs of women. It is amazing how frequently women have children here so there is always an abundance of babies…ergo, an abundance of crying babies. The soundtrack to my days is ALWAYS characterized by crying babies, but also African drums and singing coming from the Quaranic school nearby. The wildlife in the neighborhood is dominated by dogs, cats, chickens, goats and crows. The crows here are very different-they are larger and their chest is white, making it look like they are all wearing white tank tops. I’ve seen my fair share of roosters and hens mating, believe it or not, and it’s actually quite violent (Not gonna go into detail on that one). There are also giant lizards that are quite colorful that bask on the tops of compound gates. There is always a variety of smells that can change very abruptly as I walk. Spices are a major part of cuisine here, so that is often a predominant smell. Depending on the area, sometimes rotting garbage or fish will pervade the air and, as you can imagine, it is extremely unpleasant. Once one reaches the main road, Kairaba Avenue, the street is overwhelmed with taxis and people. The driving here is INSANE. There is one traffic light that I know of, and other than that it is basically a free-for-all. The first time I was in a car here I was scared to death, but I have adjusted to feeling like I’m going to die every time I get in a car. For such a dusty and rocky environment there are a surprising variety of trees that grow along the roads and in the neighborhoods. Mango trees are the most prevalent, but there are also Baobob trees. All kinds of people line the streets from kids in school uniforms to women selling various items to Imams praying. I always see men relaxing in the shade and brewing chinese green tea. The act of brewing and drinking chinese green tea is a mainstay in the daily lives of men here. They crush up the tea leaves, put them in a kettle and pour the tea into shot glasses. I’ve been offered a sip several times but it wasn’t until this morning that I tried some with Ousainou and his co-workers. The tea was so bitter and strong I almost spit it out. Ousainou and his co-workers were roaring with laughter, and I had to laugh too because I can only imagine what kind of face I made. As evening rolls around, the sounds around me become more magnified. I usually fall asleep to the sounds of drums. The evenings can be very cool, which is nice, but often the inside of the compound is very hot, making it difficult to sleep.
Tonight I will be attending an African dance class with some friends, so we’ll see how that goes. I cannot wait until Saturday, though, because I will be attending the world cup qualifier match between The Gambia and the Ivory Coast. We have a huge group of us going that includes Jean Marc, Rachel and her boyfriend, Akho, Josie, Dr. Sarr and possibly Ousainou. I think that Dr. Sarr, Ousainou and I might be the only ones rooting for The Gambia, but it always makes for more fun if the group is divided on who they are supporting. I hope you all are doing well! I can’t believe I have nine days until I’m back on American soil…it’s bittersweet leaving here, but I’m ready to return home.