On Friday we finished the WACD-TC course, and tomorrow we will be getting into our work with Soil and Water Management Services full time. The course was great and I feel like I learned a lot about how to work with people, particularly in development, and about the Gambian way of life (from interacting with people inside and outside of the course).

One thing I really like about this culture is how the people never seem to be in a rush. For people who know me, you know that I like to take things slow, so this suits me pretty well. I’m sure though that there will be times, especially when this happens at work, when some people’s disregard for time will get to me. I appreciate how time and productivity do not carry the same weight here as they do back home, and I think that is a lot healthier and helps us to be more alive (ie. Life is not all about work and being productive!), but I suppose one can only take that so far (we’ve all got to do something productive with our time!). That probably sounds funny coming from an engineer, since we are bred to be productive and efficient.

Another thing I like is how people here are so social. Like the time thing though, there are both positive and negatives aspects to this. If privacy is something you cherish, don’t come to The Gambia. People rarely let you mind your own business when you’re walking down the street, and we’ve been told that if we get the chance to live with a family, forget about privacy! That’s the negative side. But, on the other hand, talking to lots of different people is great, we can learn so much more that way (even if they are only talking to you so they can convince you to buy something from them!).

I guess both of these things are interrelated though, since being more social takes more time, people will often be late because they ran into someone they knew on their way to work, etc.

Presidents: Earlier this week the Mauritanian president (Abdel Aziz) visited The Gambia. It was an interesting event to watch as the police closed half of the main road, and police and other emergency vehicles sped towards the airport to meet the president. A few hours later, Abdel Aziz, along with the Gambian president, Yahyah Jammeh, and an escort of around 20 vehicles, came rushing by, sirens blaring. The people, along with the kids they pulled out of school to welcome the president, all cheered. After they passed, things returned to normal. This is apparently a common occurrence, since it happens when ‘important people’ visit the country or the president is driving down the road. He also likes to throw packs of biscuits to people as he drives by. While it was exciting for us since it was our first time seeing this kind of commotion, I can’t imagine that the general public enjoys this experience very much (except the odd person who catches some biscuits!), especially the kids who get pulled out of school to stand in the hot sun and wave. As one disgruntled Gambian man around my age said “They close the road for eight hours whenever the president goes anywhere, when they only need to close it for half an hour.”

Gambian church: This morning I had the opportunity to attend a church service at an Evangelical Church. The service was great and it was definitely African: loud drums and everyone was singing their heart out during the musical part of the service. That’s at least what I imagined an African church to be like. It was neat to see some of the similarities and differences to what I’m used to back home.

I also uploaded a song by a well-known Gambian Kora player, Jaliba Kuyateh, which you can find here.

That’s all for now! I’ll let you know how our first week went soon!

Jaama Rek,