So I have been in The Gambia for about 36 hours now. Flight and travel was easy, and I was picked up at the airport by Poncelet, my boss for the summer. He took us to the YMCA, where the building I am living in and the building I will be teaching in are less than a soccer field’s distance from each other, and we were greeted by Malang, the night manager, who I have yet to see without a smile on his face. My room is on an upper floor, and has a fan, a closet, a table, a bed, and a bathroom. Everyone was incredibly friendly to us from the start (us being myself and Marquis, another volunteer traveling from San Francisco), and the next day we were welcomed into the YMCA staff.
I am working with a young group- Ponce is our leader, and then Umi, Annette and Kebah (leave room for error on the spelling here) are all in their early twenties and working for his Computer Training Center. Upstairs is Adriana, the head of his digital studio, a woman from Spain who lives here permanently. We are about 10-15 kilometers outside of the actual city of Banjul, but it’s a pretty populated area, with lots of elementary schools and taxis and buses everywhere.
After meeting with the staff yesterday, I was invited to Poncelet’s house for lunch, where his wife made us traditional Gambian fish and rice dish, and then taken to his club- The Banjul Reform Club- the oldest private club in West Africa, since 1911. The building is a large indoor auditorium with an outside patio, and his friends met us there to have drinks and chat. Two of his friends were very familiar with the US, one a graphic designer who studied at art school in LA, and the other who lived in Texas for 9 years. The best part of my day was listening to them discuss the various accents, foods, and experiences they found to be so strange in the US.
After each of them had finished about 6 or 7 drinks and an entire pack of Marlboro’s each, I walked back to the Y which is less than a city block away. A few hours later, Malang informed me Ponce was outside waiting for me, ready to take me to his usual Friday night hangout, a karaoke bar called Churchill’s, filled with locals and British retirees who I can only assume live at the beach nearby.
Today, I have been helping to administer a TOEFL test- Testing of English as a Second Language, an exam required to go to universities or colleges in the UK.
Pretty tired and out of it,a little shocked at how far from home I am, but excited for the adventures to come.