In our modern world there is so much to choose that we are inclined to want everything. If you live in a country where there is nothing to choose, you have to start thinking about what you would like. A country like Gambia is such a country where there is little to choose. And that is what makes this country so special. The dreams of these people are so small in our eyes, so simple. A simple dream can keep a Gambian busy their whole life. Step by step, stone by stone, they try to reach their goal.
Who lives in the tourist part of Gambia has some luck. Every Gambian on the tourist coast is either a taxi driver or a guide. And so they try to earn a little money. Whether tourists like it or not. With a friendly smile and an outstretched hand you will be welcomed in their country. And they sincerely believe that. They are happy that you are there. They want nothing more than to show their beautiful country to you. Because Gambia is a beautiful country with beautiful people. People who do their best to please you. For a small compensation. That again. And you canít blame them.
For the children there are 2 things to choose. A ball or a lollipop. These 2 products are plentiful there and the intention is that you, as a tourist, buy this for them. They donít make a secret of that. "By me a ball" is what you hear on the street all day or when they are running in groups behind the car. All children will appeal to you. First with "Hello, how are you" and then with the request for sweets or a ball. The little ones are already participating in this. Every child that can walk a little, goes with his or her bigger brothers, sisters, nieces to talk with the tourists. Sometimes with a distance, sometimes bold. They learn this from their parents, because they do it too. Be it in a different form. Incidentally, most animals do this too. The behavior is copied into the animal world. They do not know better and are not used to anything else. If you want something here, you will have to ask for it, otherwise you will not get anything.
Do you have to attract yourself to this? That is a difficult issue. One is sensitive to it, the other goes through without blushing. The fact is that you can not meet all children in Gambia or all Gambians to their wishes. In their eyes we are wealthy Westerners and they have no idea that we also just have to work hard for our money and have to pay a lot of taxes.
During our short stay in Gambia, we had some nice meetings with the local population. Some which are debatable, others in a very nice and honest way.
On our first day we were approached during our walk through the village by a man who told us to be the teacher of a group of young children. They were all orphans and he taught them. We were both caught by a small child's hand and taken to their "house". Grandfather takes care of the children and would never ask for money. We were simply invited to come and see without obligation. You can counter this, but you can also let it happen. And that is what we have done. We ended up in an outdoor area with more children and a number of adults. We got a rickety chair to sit on, have a drink and there was a lot of information about the "orphanage". Eventually a notebook was pushed into my hands where some names and money amounts were written. Funnily enough all in the same handwriting. These were supposedly gifts from other visitors and we were kindly asked what our contribution would be for food for the children. I looked at Richard once and he got up. I thought: "Oh, we have an issue", but Richard said casually: "Ok, that's good". "We do not give money, but we buy a bag of rice for them". And so we did. Together with the teacher and a whole group of children we walked to the corner shop and bought a bag of 50 kg of rice for 20 euros.
Was this really an orphanage, or have we been sounded? We will never know. In any case, we are sure that these children have a month to eat. For us 20 euros is a small amount, for the average Gambian almost a monthly salary.
Just a small part of our experiences in Gambia. The next time I will tell you about the Dutch Marisse who is married in Gambia and with her fresh ideas tries to increase the return from the gardens of her husband, our cheerful guide Buba who took us on an unforgettable journey to the slave island of Kunta Ketah and a few days later on a bird watch walk through the woods and along the rice fields. No less than 47 species of birds we have seen and a large part in the picture put. See the photos of Gambia Wildife on the index page. And about Abdul, who has been working since 2003 to build a restaurant on his piece of land.
About dreams that last endlessly, chances that sometimes never come and the ever present smile.
That is Gambia.