Gambia Stories and Tips

Sasu Jatta

Sasu Jatta is the African name given to me by the Gambian family I have stayed with on several occasions as part of the Tujereng/Hertfordshire Link. I approached my first visit with fear of the unknown. I worried about the insects and the darkness, wondered whether I would like the food, and also how I would cope with the climate. I had a wonderful time and seemed so settled that my host thought I'd been to Africa before! And I'm someone who has to put sun block on to go shopping in the English summer!

The journey from Banjul to Tujereng was the most amazing I have ever made. The road surface was orange sand and full of pot holes and bumps. Drivers just drove wherever the surface was smoothest. This resulted in vehicles heading towards each other on the same side of the road and then one of them having to move out of the way.

The welcome that greeted us on arrival in Tujereng was completely overwhelming and I was so emotional that I had tears in my eyes. We were greeted by women and children banging sticks, cans, etc. and chanting "Welcome, welcome!" My toilet was a hole in the ground and my "bath" was a bucket of cold water from the well.

I only had one problem with the food--there was too much of it! For the first few days, I had my meals brought to me on an oval plate about the size of a carving dish. This was full of food and I just couldn't eat it all. I eventually managed to negotiate portion control (well almost!) I usually ate porridge (made by pounding rice and nuts together) for breakfast, fruit and bread for lunch, and for dinner I would eat rice with fish and vegetables bought from the village market. I told my host that I don't eat meat and I think the family thought this very strange!

I loved the children and babies, although one small child was terrified of me and hid every time she saw me. Every time I stepped out of my compound there were at least half a dozen children wanting to hold my hand or carry something for me. The youngest girl in my family just adored me and would stroke my skin and hair in amazement.

It was the most humbling and fulfilling experience I have ever had.

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