Although Ilana and I went there only for a week holiday, traveling to West Africa gave us a wonderful opportunity to take some photos in one of the most amazing place. It wasn’t until we got there that we realized where we were: Africa. What a place… I mean, I’m not talking about the most touristy area where we spent quite a bit of time relaxing by the pool or on the beach (lucky us!) but about the trip to the village called Gunjur.
Gunjur is a little village, about 35Km south from Banjul, where we landed. No running electricity (well, actually, there is, in a couple places), no running water except for a few wells and lots of kids everywhere.
Our host was Ogis, who we met at our hotel on the second day of our trip.
He was there with Emily, Djandjang and Domingo.
He told us about the place where he lives, the compound his grandfather owned before he passed away, and where all of his family lives. He told us about the choir he is part of, teaching the kids gospel songs to sing in church. And so when he invited us, we could not resist the opportunity.
Aziz, our guide, took us by car. We bought some biscuits and sweets for the kids. And we arrived, just like in the movies, with a bunch of children running after the car, laughing and chanting to welcome us. It’s not that often that they have visitors from Europe. Even if, well, The Gambia being a former English colony, you can see a lot of British people on holiday enjoying the sun…
We started with a tour of the compound. Ogis’ grandfather’s grave in the back of the garden. The trees (mango tree, grapefruit tree, cashew nut tree, Jackfruit tree and so on) and then the well. The goats, the chickens and the pigs. The toilets, or I should say the hole on the floor! The place where they pound the rice after the harvest…
We then headed to the other side of the road, where Emily and her family live. They proudly showed us how, all of them together do their craft. There was the making of the palm oil by the women of the camp (just above). But also basket making. And Cashew nut fruit juice, in the bark of a tree carved for the very purpose. We saw how everything they have is made of what’s available to them. Like their house for example, made of mud bricks they make themselves. The roofs made of palm tree leafs. They offered us Cashew nuts, roasted just for us! And believe me when I say they do not taste the same as the industrial stuff we buy here in Europe!
I mean isn’t this crazy to us lot, living in big cities such as London? And i’m fairly aware of what kind of lifestyle I could expect to find there. But still, It was just life changing. I realized, We realized, Ilana and I, how much we take for granted the things we have. And we have such a preconception, it’s crazy. And very humbling. We are just plain lucky…
After the tour of the village, we started walking towards the sea. Ogis showed us the fields where they sowed the food they are about to harvest before the rain season starts. He took us to his mum’s plantation.
And he explained about the beliefs that are part of everyday life in his culture. Like Magic. Or what they call Jujus! These things, made by “the witch doctor”, to protect their harvest from thieves for example (see the little bottle hanging??).
And finally, we arrived at the beach. This wild, untouched bit of sand, with a strong yet beautiful ocean, rumbling and telling us to be careful. We played with the kids, took some photos… before heading back to the camp.
For some reason, after such a day, we felt compelled to leave some sort of souvenir. Something that we would probably not miss but that would show them how much we appreciated the fact they took us into their life without ever hesitating. Opening their hearts to the strangers that we were.I left a couple of my own t-shirts, and ilana gave away some earrings that she made herself. Ilana sang her song, I Choose Life – With all the kids singing along to the chorus, broad smiles on their faces, adding a whole new dimension to the song.
Here is a little taster:
And Now I am proud to say that we are friends! Real friends. We speak often on emails, and care about each other a lot. For that, I wanna thank you Ogis. You made Ilana and I two very very happy and humbled people. So for that, THANK YOU!