In my last few weeks, I compiled a list of the things I would not miss about The Gambia when I left. I also made a longer list of the things I would miss. However, each thing on the “Things I Won’t Miss” list has turned out to be false, aside from three items, which I listed last. My experience was so overwhelmingly positive that now, in hindsight, even the things I was bothered by while there are things I miss or long for in an almost nostalgic manner.
What I thought I wouldn’t miss and was wrong about:
– humidity- I had never experienced long-term humidity before, and as someone who is used to the dry heat of the Inland Empire and the cold wetness of the Richmond district, it took some getting used to. But now, back at school where it is 100 and not at all comfortable, I really miss the random moments of heavy ran alternating with the heat.
– french fries and bread- I love carbs as much as the next girl. While I was there, I always felt full and heavy. But looking back, feeling full in Africa is no burden. In a country as poor as The Gambia, it seems crazy to me that I was concerned with eating too much, an idea that seems almost shameful at this point. But now when my plates come or I enter a dining hall at school, I am secretly sometimes wondering where my giant pile of french fries or my over-sized sandwich bread is.
– 4 AM prayer during Ramadan- There was a mosque very close to my hostel, and during Ramadan, I was woken almost every day by the loud Quranic readings taking place at the mosque blaring from the speaker of this large building. However, something about this was so interesting and so thought provoking. I never knew what was being said, and it inspired a sort of mystery into my days.
– sand everywhere, always- You know that feeling where after you shower post-beach you can’t get rid of the last of the sand? Well I had that for 2 months. But the feeling of washing off sand? Glorious. I am one of those people who loves the satisfaction of visible results- checking things off of checklists for example. So washing off every last bit of sand from my body was just one of those small simple pleasures.
– stray dogs- I love dogs. Dogs sitting by the side of the road with injuries or visible cuts was not quite easy to watch, but it was nice to see them all the time. Especially being back at school without the presence of animals I seem to miss them, even the ones that all began to look the same after a while.
– not having a laundry machine- This is perhaps incredibly diva of me, but I wanted to include this because this bothered me way more than not having power, and about the same amount as my various periods of time without running water. I discovered I truly value feeling clean, and my washing skills are not up to par. However, it forced me to wash my clothes almost every day, something I did not even think about. I forgot about the feeling of not being able to wear something because it was dirty or because it was at the bottom of the laundry heap even if it hadn’t been worn.
– turning on my water- In order to turn on my water, I had to climb on top of the toilet, turn a knob on the wall, and then climb back down, after which it was almost impossible to control whether or not my shower and sink would turn on. However, this made me save water, as did the cold showers. The water use was an adventure and definitely reminded me of luxuries we deem simple or minute.
The three things I am sorry to say I do not miss:
– honking taxis- I have already expressed my feelings towards honking on this blog. I will never understand the need for constant noise on the road, and if I don’t flag you down for a taxi, it means I probably don’t want one. Thanks though, the honking really made me want to hop in your cab because you are probably not pushy at all.
– attention on the street- This is a tricky one. I loved people smiling and saying hello on the street. But when people would come up to me and expect a full conversation, ask me for my phone number, or even ask me if they could make me my wife, it was a little bit difficult to deal with. Going out for a pleasant afternoon walk alone was not an existent concept, because of the opportunity so many Gambian men see when they spot a clearly foreign woman.
– mosquitos- If you know me, you know I am a mosquito magnet. In Africa, this has greater consequences than California.