Nanga def,

Well, we’ve been here for about a week now, and I thought I would make the theme of this post about some of the lessons we’ve learned so far. I probably wouldn’t be able to fit them all in one post, but here are just a few of them.

Going to the Market

When going to the market, bartering is a must, or else expect to pay at least three times the actual value of the item. Since we are obviously not locals, market stall operators will often up the price even more, hoping that we either don’t know the actual value of the item (which is usually the case!) or that we have money to blow (which is not the case for us!). So far we’ve been taking our time buying things, since we have three months to get souvenirs etc, and trying to shop around a bit before making a purchase. This whole bartering thing is a bit overwhelming at first but we are starting to enjoy it now. We’ve only been to a few of the markets so far, and have not yet ventured to the Serekunda market, which is the most intense and crowded one in the country.

Bush Taxis

There are essentially three types of taxis from what we’ve seen in The Gambia: private taxis (small green cars, most expensive), bush taxis (small yellow cars with a green stripe) and mini-buses (beat-up old vans of any colour, least expensive). The mini-buses are usually crammed with people, so getting a spot on them can be hard. So far we’ve only ridden in the bush taxis. They drive up and down their designated stretch of road, honking at potential customers. Basically when you need one, you wave it down, get in, and it will drop you off anywhere along its route for a set fee (usually D7 or about 25 cents). Getting a taxi usually isn’t hard because they are constantly honking and trying to get you to get in their car…while this is sometimes convenient it can also be annoying when you don’t need a taxi and are just out for a stroll.

(see Kairaba Avenue photo on flickr for a picture of Bush Taxis)

Dealing with Bumsters

Bumsters are essentially scammers who are after your money. I’m sure they can come in various shapes and sizes, but the ones we’ve run into so far usually have certain things in common. A very common occurrence is when they approach us, being all friendly and nice, and then eventually ask us why we don’t recognize them. They say, “my name is so-and-so, I am the gardener/cleaner/guard at your hotel! You didn’t recognize me?!? Where were you yesterday? I got married, and I came by the hotel but you weren’t there! Please, I want you to meet my new wife, come say hi to her before we leave for our honeymoon. We are leaving tomorrow and she is just over there around the corner!” A lot of times they will pull out a “guest list” of people who attended the wedding and donated money, and will pressure you into giving some too. The first time this happened to us, we bought most of it, because we still didn’t know who worked at our place. We did become wary though when the guy asked us to come with him to see his wife. Since then we’ve heard the “wedding story” around five times. There are also other similar stories used but the bumsters, but they all have a similar outline.

After going through a couple experiences like that we can now usually recognize the bumsters right away, and we try to have some fun with it. These people are also only in the tourist areas so it is possible to avoid them too.

Be careful where you take photos

We had an incident where taking a camera out at the wrong time caused us a bit of a hassle…although everything turned out fine. We learned when not to pull out your camera, even if your intended picture is innocent, and that certain people can get very angry if they think their picture is being taken.

Also

Don’t be alarmed if you see men in camouflage, armed with AK Assault Rifles, running towards the road shouting and taking cover behind bushes on the Atlantic Road between Fajara and Bakau. Chances are they are only training. This happened to us. We were unsure of what to do so we just kept walking. There were other soldiers on the road watching the trainees, and they thought this was pretty funny as we nervously walked past.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading! I also posted some new photos on flickr, so feel free to check them out (http://www.flickr.com/photos/62626435@N08/).

Jaama rek,

Dan

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