Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Alieu, friend & Lamin in Kortiteh outfits
As I am sure you aware we have just completed the month of Ramadan and being a predominantly Muslim country, The Gambia was fasting. I fasted for a couple of days and just managed it. It was for not the lack of food that I struggled with, that didn’t bother me. It was being unable to drink anything, not even water. Having to fast for 30 days in this heat is ‘not easy’ as many a Gambian would say. When Gambians break fast, it is traditionally with a cup of sugary tea and bread followed by their meal. Even though they are eating less meals during Ramadan, their spending on food goes up as they like to eat nice food when breaking fast. In West Africa the celebration is called Koriteh. In the morning, I went with Alieu and Lamin to the prayer ground along with the rest of Mansajang, for community prayers. Essentially it was a piece of ground weeded and stripped for the community to come together to pray. I found it very spiritual the way everyone came together to pray, a whole community at one. Men, women and children. Afterwards, we went home and helped Mariama cook the feast. The afternoon was dedicated to Salibo. Sailbo is celebrated over two days. Groups of children in brand new clothes go visiting different compounds looking for money from people. It reminded me of Hallowe’en back in the UK, except without the fancy dress or jokes. I am told the same thing happens at Tobaski in October. Next time will make sure I have plenty of Dalasi coins to give out.

Mansajang Prayers
Salibo group...too cool for school!

Last week, two other volunteers and I visited Senegal for a week’s holiday. We spent a few days in Dakar and St Louis. What a contrast to The Gambia and Banjul. They are miles ahead by far and we felt like we were in Europe rather than Africa. Dakar is so much more developed than Banjul. We spent a lovely time eating good food, not to mention the wine! Forgot what red wine tasted like it’s been that long! There is so much to do in Dakar, 3 days was not really long enough. We spent a day on a little island called N’Gor which had a lovely little beach where we spent the day. It is only reached by pirogue so has no cars on it and is very peaceful. The next day we dove headlong into the mayhem of Dakar and its Marche HLM. This is Dakar’s material market, with all sorts of beautiful and colourful fabrics for sale. If you every visit Dakar, this is one place to visit.
St Louis is further north and is a lovely place with lots of nice galleries to wander in and out of. It was the first French settlement in Africa and was at one time capital of French West Africa, before usurped by Dakar. It straddles the main land, and island and peninsula. It is very easy to get round and we mostly stayed on the island as there was lots to do and see. The peninsula is home to the fishing fleet of colourful pirogues, but unfortunately this has led to a very dirty beach full of rubbish, but this does not deter the local children from enjoying the surf. We had a very enjoyable time in St Louis and Dakar. Thankfully, I remembered enough French to get by as very few people speak English here.

( Sorry no photos of Senegal as took me over an hour to upload the 3 Koriteh ones!)

Now what to do with the rest of the holidays, just been told that they have been extended to the 17th September and some rumours have it as the 23rd! And they complain about the loss of contact hours!

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