The Gambia Experience

After being away from home for so long, you reminisce about your childhood days, going about life with so much innocence about the world around you. Then you grew up into a social culture where everybody knows everyone else and the stories of our daily encounters enthrall us.

Pirogues loading to cross the mouth of the river Gambia to Banjul

Memories around feasts and festivities leave you lonely on the other end of the world where the culture and view around such familiarities are completely different, if they exist at all. Longing to be back where you belong, even if for a brief period grows some more. The foods we grew up eating are not exactly the same with the improvised ingredients we have to contend with; the social gatherings under the shade of the neighborhood tree or the bantaba are distant memories that fill us up with nostalgia.

Then comes the day for the anticipated return home; being back to that familiar place, seeing those familiar faces that are not so familiar anymore. The anticipation and excitement is palpable. And then you arrive….

Home! It feels strange, it looks strange, so many changes, so many unfamiliar things. The exposure to a different clime and different realities opened your eyes to so much that your first thought become “how did I live this life all those years?”

With absolutely no attempt at condescension, a lot of things stand out as odd, out of place or plain wrong. You see them that way because you know it can be better, because you have seen better. There is an old adage that states that “if you cannot afford the cost of education, travel.” Like it or not, when you travel you learn new things. Looking at familiar things from that perspective of one who has seen and learnt new things we begin to notice the oddities that were once a very normal part of life.

It doesn’t matter if you are from the so called developing world or the developed world; culture shock sets in once you step into unfamiliar territory, even if that territory was once your back yard.

I am proud of my culture, and I long to be home every time I am away but can’t help but wish so many things were different; that they were better for the sake of the times we live in and for posterity’s sake. Subsequent posts over the next week or so will look at the issues that stand out through the eyes of a “native stranger”.

Please follow me through that journey, follow this blog to get updated about new posts.


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