Our world cruise has been an experience in every way, and I know it isn’t over yet. The inequality in the world is striking. Here’s an example:
When we were in Abu Dhabi for our dinner at the Emirates Hotel – in all its splendor – we noticed a machine (like an ATM) in the lobby that had gold bars in it that people exchanged for money. And here in Gambia, we visited a school that has no electricity.
Our day started out with dancers and drummers on the pier, most of the African ports did this and they were all just a bit different. Here is a shot of today’s group – lots of energy here! Banjul is the capital of Gambia and is on St. Mary’s Island where the Gambia River enters the Atlantic Ocean. The island is connected to the mainland via bridges and there is also a ferry that crosses, we noticed hundreds of people and cars getting on as we pulled into port.
We then boarded these 4 wheel drive trucks for our excursion – “off the beaten track”. We drove on fairly decent roads first, through the biggest town, Serrakunda. There were lots of roadside vendors selling almost anything you could imagine, and lots of the colorful clothing we have seen in all of West Africa.
We made our way into rural Gambia where the roads were dirt and very bumpy. Everywhere we went, children came out to wave to us.
Our first visit was to the Banyaka Lower Basic School where we were entertained by the children. English is the language of this country and they all speak it quite well. We met with the Head teacher, Jerrah Manneh and learned about the educational system here. The teachers are very dedicated and they have so little to work with. We made a donation to the school. There is a “computer room” where the aged computer sits on the floor because there is no electricity to the school. We asked about whether there are plans to bring electricity and he sadly shook his head and said it would probably be a long time coming. They have one solar panel that powers the pump to get the rainwater collection down to the small patch of banana trees they are trying to grow to teach the children about agriculture. It is dry season now and the small trees wouldn’t survive without this water. Rainy season is from July – October with August being the rainiest.
The children here also loved having their pictures taken and loved the iPhone. Wherever I went, they followed begging me to take their pictures. We were told before our visit to not give anything directly to the children, but to give any candy, pens, etc, to the teachers to distribute.
After our visit to the school, we traveled to a local village and visited a family “compound”. Gambia is 90% Moslem and the men area allowed to have 4 wives. Our guide, Saikou 2Ray, said that some have up to 6, which is a violation of their religion but they do it anyway. He has one,and said that is all he can handle.
The man of this house has 3 wives, the youngest is 17. 33 people live in this house, each wife must have her own room. They never put their elders in nursing homes or anything like that, they are cared for in the extended family. So in this home, there were grandparents, aunts, uncles, the wives and all of the children. Saikou said that they are very happy, they don’t pay taxes or “watch Fox news!”
We started our tour after 12 noon, so by about 4 it was time for “lunch” at a beachside restaurant. As always, we had some African specialties (and they always also seem to have french fries!) the African beer and the ladyfish were delicious. We were entertained by dancers. One of them got up close and personal with this snake!
I think I want one of those aroma pots. They seem to be good for everything!
Our last stop in our 7 hour tour was the Tanji Nature Trail and museum where we saw various aspects of the Gambian culture, including the wildlife, weaving, etc. The weaver invited me to sit and try it. They are very fast at it, I can’t say the same about me!
It was a long day but an interesting one. We arrived back at about 7 PM and I have to say we were happy to be back “home” to the ship for a refreshing shower. And I had just had the delicious ice cream since the 4 PM meal was really enough for dinner.