We arrived at Banjul International Airport on Thursday at 3:15pm local time, and we have already had an amazing experience!

We were met at the airport by our contact, Alpha, who then drove us to the Sunbird Lodge. The last students who went to The Gambia recommended this place to us. It is a pretty nice place and the owner, Alan, is easy-going and very friendly. After that Alpha took us to get some cash, a phone and some other essentials, like water (we’ve been told to not drink tap water or eat fresh vegetables as there may be harmful bacteria in the water that our bodies would not be used to). Alpha also took us to a local place to get some dinner. The food was good and cheap, as was the local beer, JulBrew, that we had with the meal.

The next morning we explored Fajara on our own (Fajara is the town where we are currently staying). It is quite the experience to even just walk down the road here. Taxis would be continually honking at us or pulling over in front of us to offer us a ride, and we would be approached by people trying to sell us things. The rules of the road are quite different from what we are used to in Canada… if you want to merge with traffic you have to be aggressive, and don’t be afraid to use your horn! In that sense driving is a lot more intense than in Canada, but on the other hand people will often stop their car on the road to say hi to someone they know and have a quick conversation.

After that we went to the beach for a bit…where John and I managed to get a couple of nice sunburns. The water was nice and refreshing though, probably around eighty degrees Fahrenheit. After this we met with Alpha, and he took us for a drive around the area, to Bakau and Kanifing. Bakau is the town most known for fishing, and Kanifing is more known for being industrial. Once we were in Kanifing, we stopped for dinner at a local place where we tried a few African dishes. I may have forgotten the names, but I believe they were called okra soup and plasas. One we poured over some rice, and the other had some fufu inside it (they were both mixtures containing vegetables, fish/meat and other things). Fufu is made from boiling starchy vegetables and pounding it until the desired consistency is reached. I enjoyed the one with rice (plasas I believe), but the one with fufu will take some getting used to.

Alpha also took us on a drive through the Serrekunda market. This is the biggest market in the country and driving through it was very slow going. It will be quite the adventure when we go there in the future on foot (see photo below).

When I imagined what it would be like in Africa, I pictured some kind of mixture between other places I’ve been, taking certain aspects from each one. For example, a hot and laid-back country like Australia, a developing country like Thailand, and rugged like my experiences camping in Canada. However, while there may be some similarities between these things and The Gambia, this place is so unique and different from my previous experiences. It so is much more real when you get here. I think I was also picturing something more developed in my mind, since I’ve heard that The Gambia is more developed than some of the other African countries. However, although The Gambia may be better off than some of the other African countries, poverty is still a real issue here. The dirt, dust and heat is also much more real when you are here than when I thought about it earlier. Next month when the rains come it will just get more humid and hotter.

Today we are planning to go buy some maps from a store called ‘TimBookToo’, then we are meeting with Alpha to do some language training.

Thanks for reading and I will keep you updated with what else is happening here! Feel free to leave a comment if you wish (I believe there is a comment button underneath the title of this post). I also have some photos on Flickr. The most recent four will be displayed on the left and you can click on one of them to go to the flickr site and see the rest.

Bye for now, Dan

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Hello, welcome to my blog! This is where I’ll be posting information about my experiences in The Gambia this summer. I’ll be making regular posts while I am there.

For anyone who doesn’t know yet, on May 4th I will be travelling to The Gambia with two other students (Danielle Ahadzie and John Iezzi) for an engineering internship. We are all Civil and International Development Engineering students at Western. As part of the program, we have the option to do a placement overseas in a developing country between third and fourth year. We are all very excited to about this opportunity to go to The Gambia this summer!

We will be working with Soil and Water Management Services (SWMS) for the three months that we are there (SWMS is a part of the Ministry of Agriculture). Two years ago students from Western also went to The Gambia with SWMS, so we will attempt to build on their work. SWMS works to help Gambian farmers increase and maintain productivity by reducing erosion and managing the available water for irrigation. These issues can become quite complex in The Gambia as much of the River Gambia’s water can become saline, especially during the dry season (up to 200km inland, see map image below, click to enlarge). Torrential downpours in the rainy season can also cause massive amounts of erosion. It is our hope that we will be able to help combat these issues as well as gain valuable engineering and international development experience.

On top of this we will be working with a Canadian company that is expanding to The Gambia. ‘Growing Necessity’ helps farmers make smart decisions; essentially which crops to grow and what kinds of fertilizers to use in order to maximize productivity, depending on the soil properties of their land. The company works by collecting soil samples and sending them to soil testing labs then relaying the results back to the farmers.

We will also be taking part in a three week course hosted by the West African Community Development Training Centre (WACD-TC) where we will learn about development in The Gambia and have the opportunity to interact with local community members.

Well there’s a bit of info on what I’ll be doing while I’m there! You’ll have to check back here every once in a while to stay up to date! I will try to make another post before flying out next Wednesday.

Thanks for reading!

Dan

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