10 Ways You Know You’re Back in Gambia

29 Oct

Well it’s been a long time, hasn’t it? A combination of political difficulties in The Gambia (thankfully now resolved), and family illnesses kept me in the UK for a long time. But at last I’m able to come back, and it seems I’m seeing Gambia through new eyes.

So I thought I’d begin with a slightly tongue-in-cheek look at ten ways you know you’re in The Gambia.

1. As you exit the plane and stand at the top of the steps, the warm air wraps around your shoulders like a blanket. As we’re just ending the rainy season, the daytime temperatures are in the mid-30s, and overnight it’s in the high 20s. The humidity is also high.

2. One of the airport workers spread his arms wide as you enter the immigration hall, gives a huge grin, and cries: “Welcome to Gambia!”. Somehow I can’t imagine that happening at Gatwick!

3. Our neighbour, who had kindly brought Lamin to collect me, puts my bags in his boot, then ties the lid down with rope attached to his tow-bar. I’ve know friends tie their bonnet lid the same way, which was fine until it flew up and blocked the view as we were driving along! A bit unnerving really….

4. The birds sitting on the telephone wires aren’t pigeons but blue-bellied rollers, and the ones perched on the pylons aren’t starlings but vultures. Gambia is famous for its beautiful birds and I never get tired of seeing them.

5. Instead of a fox or cat scampering across the road in front of us, it’s a troop of monkeys. Deforestation has caused a significant loss of habitat for the wildlife here, so it’s lovely to pass through an area of woodland and see that there are still monkeys around.

6. Women walk along the side of the road, carrying a variety of things on their heads. Bowls of food, containers filled with fruit or vegetables, things they’ve bought in the market, buckets of fish – the list is endless. I’ve tried balancing a plate on my head, which gave huge entertainment to the women watching! Needless to say, I was hopeless. Even small children can do better than me.

7. I sometimes think there’s competition to see how much you can squeeze onto a pushbike! Three or four children on their way to school is not unusual, and I’ve also seen people transporting multiple 20 litre oil containers, long planks of wood (sometime loaded sideways!), and even animals. This morning Lamin’s nephew arrived with a basket attached to the back of his bike – he was selling young chicks.

8. Instead of hearing traffic and emergency sirens in the night, we’re surrounded by noisy cicadas. Each one sounds as though it’s operating a miniature buzz saw! There’s also a bird that squawks all night long – the Long-Tailed Glossy Starling. And it’s an amazing feeling to wake up to the dawn chorus instead of an alarm clock.

9. The sky is literally full of stars – I can make out a few constellations, and the Milky Way is spread right across the sky. When it’s full moon, you don’t even need a torch at night – you can read your watch by moonlight.

10. You have to check the ‘al fresco’ shower for snakes before you get in (and in my case, spiders too). Snakes are more prevalent in the rainy season, as their holes quite often get flooded. We do see them occasionally, and Lamin has some hair-raising stories to tell about encounter with cobras, but so far I haven’t seen any.

So there you have it – ten ways you know you’re in The Gambia. Needless to say, I’m very happy to be back, although leaving friends and family behind is never easy. But now I’ve returned I hope to be updating the blog regularly, so if you haven’t signed up to get an email when I post something new, why not add your email address so you’re kept informed?

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One Response to “10 Ways You Know You’re Back in Gambia”

  1. Mike Seuters November 20, 2017 at 6:49 am #

    Nice blog Elizabeth , I can imagine all your points 😉
    I sent you a pm in FB…hope you’ll read it and reply 😉

    regards
    Mike

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