Some Advice and a few Presidents

7 06 2011

Class picture on the last day at WACD-TC

Since we arrived here we have been getting the typical tourist harassment from bumsters (locals who try to scam you for some money), so we quickly learned effective ways to deal with them. Although it has become less frequent as of late, the other day we found ourselves in one of these situation and once again we delivered the line we’ve been using since day one; ‘we’re not tourists, we’re students on internship… we’ve been here for over a month’. He then decided we weren’t worth his time and moved on, just as I realized our white lie was no longer untruthful; we actually have been here a month already. Wow, this first month in Africa has flown by… I guess it’s about time I share some of the things I’ve learned about living in Gambia:

1) Hot sauce is ALWAYS served with food here. No matter how similar it may look to ketchup at the time, smell it to confirm before bathing your meal in it.

             a. In the unfortunate case where you chose to take the risk, find some good reading material soon for your upcoming day at the toilet.

2) From awkwardly long and firm handshakes to their arm over your shoulder when walking in public, guys here are extremely friendly. This can be shocking at first, but it’s the norm here, people tend to become very touchy once you’ve been acquainted.

 3) Although the water where I am is supposedly safe to drink, stick to buying bags or bottles of water. If however these options are not available and you’re in too much of a rush to boil it, drinking the water will work but you may need to refer to 1a. shortly after.

 4) Negotiating at the market is not a skill acquired over night. The best bet is to respond shocked and appalled to their first price offer for any item. Once they know they’re not going to pull the wool over your eyes that easy, they should respond with ‘Okay, okay, I give you good Gambian price…’. From here, you should be able to cut this ‘good Gambian price’ in half if you try.

5) There is absolutely nothing a pair of ear plugs can do against the nightly sounds of mangos dropping on your tin roof, creatures fighting on the roof (thought to be rats or lizards… nobody can really know for sure), birds chirping or roosters cock-a-doodle-doo’ing. Combine this with the heat and you find out that a good night’s sleep is a luxury.

6) There is no effective way to let a honking cab know that you don’t want a ride. Any hand signal you think might shun them away will be taken as an attempted wave down, ignoring results in more honking and the driver slowing down and staring at you until you respond and a verbal dismissal will be taken as a language miscommunication and result in more honking. No matter how hard you try, and trust me… I’ve tried, you can’t win. Daily headaches are inevitable.

Presidents Pass By

 Upon leaving WACD-TC one day last week, we were lucky enough see two African presidents. The Mauritanian president was visiting the Gambia and what better way to celebrate this than by having the Gambian president escort him from the airport, through the major streets and back to his place in Banjul. For an event like this it is of course necessary to close down half of the road over this entire route leaving civilian traffic to funnel into one lane. Next it is essential that everyone line the streets (including kids pulled from school), arriving hours in advance and staying long after the pass. With armed police and military personal at every intersection, the festivities begin. A twenty car convoy consisting of police motorcycles, SUVs and fully equipped military jeeps escorted the president’s stretch Hummer through the crowded streets. Everyone applauded as the presidents stood out of the sunroof of the Hummer smiling and waving to the people. After the several hours of build up, the fleet passes in a matter of seconds and things slowly return to normal. Over the next hour or so, people will begin to wander back to their respective places and it will be another hour on top of that before the traffic is restored to its normal flow. Necessary? Not sure… but it was definitely an experience.

Well…that’s it for now,

 Thanks for reading.

 Jaama rek,





8 responses

8 06 2011
Natalie Quinlan

I love reading these John! Sounds like you’re experiencing a ton! Take care :o)

9 06 2011
John Sr.

I love the class pic.
Remember to avoid the mayo in those potato sandwiches unless you want to refer to 1a. once again.
Keep safe, love mom

9 06 2011

Get me some of that hot sauce hahaha and get back soon bud.

10 06 2011
John Iezzi

haha i got a bottle with your name on it homie!

9 06 2011

I think you have to recreate the photo that Prof. Keenan showed us of him with the crocs.

Sounds like you are all having an amazing time and I am unbelievably jealous. Love the posts, love the pictures.

Cant wait to talk to you about the trip when you get back

10 06 2011

Like father llike son, except your father does not need to eat “different” food! (refering to 1a) Love your pics and posts. BTW what kind of meat is in those pictures?
Play safe!

11 06 2011
John Iezzi

Thanks Marion!
The picture with the two dishes in it is fish with palm oil, eggplant, cassava and onions on rice. Not sure what the name of it was, but it was deeeelish!

10 06 2011
Jeff Day

Immodium is your friend John Tyler, it beats cleaning the hoop with a tooth brush every day ! Cheers and stay thirsty my friend !
Uncle Jeff

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