My trip to The Gambia, part 1

Last summer I wrote about my sudden connection with The Gambia.

My Gambian boyfriend and I are still going strong, although cuurently he doesn’t live in Greece so we cannot see each other very often.

My wish to visit The Gambia was strong. My financial situation and the whole corona event hardly allowed it, but I had a mission so I had to go. The mission consisted of several parts:

1. getting to know my boyfriend’s homeland and its inhabitants;

2. visiting his children, his mother and other family;

3. a visit to Sotokoi, his home village that we support with the help of donations;

4. orientate myself on the possibility of organizing yoga trips for Frosch Sportreisen (the organization with whom I also work on Samos).

I am now back home and I can say: mission completed!

However, the travel itself was not entirely stress-free. Due to the omikron variant, Marocco Airport was closed and several of my flights have been cancelled. I still don’t have the money back that I paid for the tickets and I highly doubt that this will ever happen.

Also, during the trip the entry obligations changed everywhere and I had to undergo 3 PCR tests. Fortunately all negative, but waiting for the test result is nerve-wracking.

The first few days in The Gambia were mainly dominated by visiting the three children, the mother and the rest of my boyfriend’s family.

Immediately the first day I went out with Abdou, my taxi driver on the spot.

The children had just left school and were waiting for us, together with their mother.

Arriving at their compound I was greeted by many people. I had a bag full of stuff for the kids with me, mainly shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes. My friend had given me this, as this is quite expensive to buy in the country itself. In addition, I brought a tablet for the children.

After a short visit to this compound, we drove on to his mother’s compound. Same story: people were so excited about my arrival. It just made me shy.

Communication was sometimes difficult, because not everyone speaks English. The official language in The Gambia is English, but not every family can afford to send the children to school. This costs money and The Gambia is one of the poorest countries in Africa. In The Gambia a number of populations live together in harmony. Each population has its own language. My friend is from the Mandinka people. He and his family speak Mandinka (not an easy language to learn for an outsider).

A few days later I went out with the children and their mother: to the crocodile pool in Katchikally.

One of The Gambia’s most popular tourist attractions is this sacred site for locals. As crocodiles represent the power of fertility in Gambia, women who experience difficulties in conceiving often come here to pray and wash (any child called Kachikally tells of a successful prayer at the pool). The pool and its adjacent nature trail are home to dozens of Nile crocodiles that you can observe sunbathing on the bank.

If you dare, many are tame enough to be touched. The small museum contains traditional costumes, jujus (magical amulets to protect wearers from harm), drums and other cultural artefacts.

After visiting the crocodiles, we went to the fishing port of Bakau and saw that the boats were brought in.

Finally, we ate lunch at Leybato Beach Bar in Fajare. And then, with tears in my eyes, I already had to say goodbye to the children and their mother.

My boyfriend was very involved in every meeting. We (video-)called and shared videos.

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