With a convenient request from work not to work, I have scurried to make plans to return to the Gambia's smiling coast. It is never easy leaving home however, the onset of the "wet" coast winter and the anticipation of seeing my Gambian family help the transition. With just a few days to go I decided I should get some writing in as sort of an update as I once again travel coast to coast.
Big thank you goes out to the many who have given of their valuable time and resources to help with the coming trip. The scholarship benefit concert in September raised over 2k! Some of this money has already reached Gambia and is currently allowing students to continue with their education.
In addition to the concert, I've received numerous unexpected donations including a 50/50 draw put on by my co-workers. Further still, I have been continually encouraged by the many who have taken time to listen, encourage and pray for me and this vocation.
I've been blessed and it is humbling - thank you all for believing in this.
The pack rat
Less than a week to go and now my kitchen table has become a mosaic of meds, books, foreign currency and gadgets. Packing can be a bit of a crap-shoot, 20kg plus whatever you can convince the stewardess is "carry-on" (I have my tricks) but it all adds up quick. It typically ends with me doing a step routing on my work's shipping scale while I juggle things in and out of my pack.
A Custom Levi DD59A - not a typical item but those who understand my passion for music and my second favourite African pastime, know why this item is first of the list. If not check out the links page at www.gambiaproject.com.
A printed version of Mido Waawi Pular! - (I Speak Fula) this is a bit of a brick but may very well be my lifeline in my home community. The locals tend not to translate when it is just me around and so far this trip no one is planning on visiting. I'm both excited and overwhelmed with the thought of taking Fulani immersion.
Yellow Fever Immunization Card - You don't need it to go but you do need it to come home. No yellow fever card and you can spend your layovers and homecoming in isolation. (The shot itself is important too)
A USB hub turned charger - thanks life hacker, your brilliant idea will be changing all my USB devises (phones, lights, cameras) without the risk of exploding my fragile computer (power when you have it is a bit unstable in third world countries).
My NIrV Bible - I'm not just a fan for the grade 3 reading level but also enjoy that is a full 3 pounds lighter than my Grandpa's old study bible.
My Juice S2 - Simply a great friend, from cutting mangoes to fixing motor bikes - I just got to remember not to put it in my carry-on.
A bicycle helmet and bell - Well, my budget is a little tighter this trip - the motorcycle may be a little too expensive to operate so the plan is to ride a bicycle for my local errands and places taxis are often hard to find and expensive to hire.(it is that or donkey and donkey's are expensive)
My Kaftans - it is not often I get to wear them around these parts of the world. These styles keep me looking and feeling cool as I walk around Serekunda Market.
Not making the cut
this year Sunscreen, bug spray, hand sanitizers and water purification - not only are these items heavy but in most cases and seasons these are surprisingly trivial to life in West Africa so much so that from past trips I have years of stock pile already in country from my initial ignorance. Now before you write me off as a careless crazy (perhaps it is far too late), let me explain.
Sunscreen: In addition to the fact that the equator has an ozone layer without holes (for now) the diesel smog that exists in the city and the Sahara desert kick up enough dust and debris to act as a sunscreen for most daily sun explosures. Further yet you don't tend to spend much time in the sun. The sun is hot. Long pants, baggy shirts and plenty of time under the mango trees typically solicit the comments "Africa, right? Where is your tan?" when I come home.
Bug Spray: I can understand putting it on for exceptional circumstances however, living each day covered in deat seems more harmful than a few bits. Bug nets, a clean room and long clothing is again the way to go.
Hand sanitizer: My concern is generally not about my hands it is the 7-12 other right hands that are also eating out of my bowl. I'm glad I failed my 10 grade micro biology test because hand sanitizer just makes the food taste bad.
Water Purification: Many people ask "Do you drink the water?" the answer is yes. Really for one simple reason - to live and love in a culture so heavily based on hospitality there are some risks that must be taken. A refusal of a glass of water can be equated to the refusal of a person - for fear of a little bit of fuzzy stomach a simple refusal may be the most foolish decision of all.