The Gambia is a very different country from others I have visited. I have never felt so welcomed being a foreigner. That was something I was a bit nervous about before arriving. I have traveled before and some countries aren’t fond of Americans, so I didn’t know what to expect. Our first full day, all of the students walked to “Safeway” to collect some items like water, soap, towels etc. throughout the walk the locals clearly knew we weren’t from there, but many said, “Your welcome here in The Gambia.” I’ve never felt such a warm and genuine feeling from the locals in my traveling before, this speaks volumes to me in terms of how much pride they have in their country.
I had my first real taste of study abroad the first two days in being in The Gambia. My light in my bathroom didn’t work, my fridge didn’t work, and an outlet was busted. I could be upset and frustrated but I really didn’t feel that way. Not sure why but my attitude was very relaxed because I didn’t mentally prepare for it so to say before leaving home. I didn’t feel an urge to have anything immediately fixed, I think it was maybe the mentality that not everything should be so easily assessable and quick fixes won’t happen. That being said, on Monday I took a cold shower in the pitch black of the morning. I really didn’t mind, it was actually quite relaxing, I was only playing roulette with which was shampoo or conditioner! It was a humbling experience.
Our first weekend in Gambia my classmates and I visited the Kachikally museum and crocodile pool. It was so surprising as soon as you walk in there is crocodiles within feet of you! I was definitely on edge being around a reptile that is considered very dangerous, but they were surprisingly docile. We were allowed to touch them my classmates and I were apprehensive, but we knew we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. The texture was so interesting, and the crocodile didn’t even flinch when I touched him, I didn’t waste any time when my turn was over to move away quick! The fact that they don’t mind we are there and are just roaming around without a care is fascinating to me, we learned that there are at least 100 crocodiles that reside in the pool. After the museum and pool we explored a nearby market where locals sell their unique craft. I was most impressed with a man named Sam who weaved blankets, bags, outfits, and many other things right next to his stall. I have never seen someone weave in person it was hard work and he had such a passion for what he does! I already know in my short amount of time I have been in The Gambia that I will miss it so much. It isn’t called “The smiling coast of Africa” for nothing!
Be sure to check back for my next blog post!