I wanted to take some pictures and give you some details about my day to day life in Banjul. Partly because it is a big part of my time here, but also because a friends husband told her off for sending me some Molton Brown body lotion saying “She is working in a city for goodness sake, not the middle of nowhere.” I urgently need to dispel any myths that the streets are lined with shops that stock anything remotely close to Molton Brown…..they are not!!!!
I’ve talked before about getting the geli geli to work. It takes about 30 mins. They are a bit hot and sweaty but cheap and generally quite reliable (by Gambian standards). I’m getting so much better at it now that I hardly notice any pushing or shoving and the other week I even got off by climbing out of the window to save everyone from moving out of my way. Even the locals were amazed and laughed at me.
Each morning I buy tapalapa and nyebe for breakfast (In fact I generally buy enough for breakfast and lunch – total cost about 30p!). I normally go to the same bitiko each day and buy the nyebe from the same lady each day. It’s quite nice to have habits like that, you are much less likely to get ripped off and they take the trouble to be friendly and so on. Bitikos exist everywhere in the Gambia. They are wee corner shops that sell everything. You go to buy food, batteries, phone cards, gas bottles for hobs…. Much like a tardis, they are often so tiny there is hardly room to go in them.
Many of the main streets in Banjul are at least tarmac but often in a terrible state of disrepair. Along the sides of the streets large lorries are parked up and under these you will find chickens, goats, dogs and men, all sleeping or hiding from the sun. Many pavements are blocked by men sitting having attaya (a revolting, strong, sweet tea), ladies selling cashew nuts or mangos, some beggars (not too many though) and kids playing. It means that in many areas you simply have to walk along the roads. As Banjul is busy it can be a bit hairy at times…still, so far so good!
The streets are busy during the day. Lots of African women with babies on their backs and carrying things on their heads, traders selling things (anything!), children everywhere (40% of the population here is under 10 years), loads of unhealthy looking animals and plenty of insects.
There is a great market in Banjul if you are feeling full of beans. It takes a considerable amount of energy to cope with the heat, the ‘bumsters’ (a general issue everywhere for ‘toubabs’) and haggling for everything. I tend not to go to the main market but do often buy material in Banjul from the small stores at the edge of the market. You can buy enough material for a little top for 20-50p sometimes.
I work in Banjul with 3 other VSO volunteers. Alison, (who works in the office above me), and Justin and Andrew who work in another office in town. We meet for lunch once or twice a week. I hope the photos will keep you in the picture….it’s not Ceaser salad and a glass of merlot at All Bar One, I can assure you. (That said, I actually don’t like All Bar One and the food here is good so long as you are not too fussy. And again, it’s cheap!) When I first arrived I didn’t think I’d ever try to a stuffed meat pie (fried pie, split open and then stuffed with chips, chopped tomatoes and mayonnaise!) but last week I did…and I enjoyed it. I’ve been losing weight over here but I suspect this addition to my diet has had something to do with a recent little weight gain! One place we go for lunch even overlook the sea so you get quite a nice view of the ferry to the south bank (and the fishing boats which will take you across more quickly but chances of survival are considerably slimmer!)
There are fewer whites or toubabs in Banjul than in Kombos. I have no idea about the ratio all I do know is that if I see another white face I am always surprised if I dont know them. I’ve become used to people staring and shouting at you in the street but I don’t think it ever becomes easy being targeted because of the colour of your skin. You have to harden up to people asking for money or you would be broke before starting work each day.
And then my walk home, which I may have explained includes going through the rubbish tip. I know that some of you may think its just a few cans on the side of the road, but it’s not. The pictures on this blog are small but look closely and you can see the numerous vultures feasting on the junk! What a way to end each day.
Finally a quick update from me re day to day life.
More soon …..x